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Association News: February 2001

By Larry Pratt

This month’s “Anti-Gun Nut” is actor Martin Sheen.

In a TV commercial for Handgun Control, Inc., a grim-faced Sheen, with an American flag behind him, asks, among other things, if the next President of our country should be a person who has “signed a bill that allows hidden handguns in churches, hospitals and amusement parks?”

Sounds pretty scary, huh? Hidden handguns. But, the truth is that making it legal to carry concealed weapons in these places is not as crazy as Sheen and his anti-Second Amendment, gun-grabbing friends at Handgun Control, Inc. would like us to believe. Consider the following examples:

* Churches: In September of 1999, Larry Gene Ashbrook walked into the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, with two guns. He murdered seven people, injured seven others and then killed himself. Two video tapes showed Ashbrook calmly firing his guns. The Acting Police Chief of Ft. Worth, Ralph Mendoza, says these tapes show this cold-blooded murderer committing his massacre in a “methodical manner,” standing there where he “fired shot after shot after shot,” pacing back and forth.

But, of course, Ashbrook was able to carry out his slaughter at a leisurely pace. Why? Because none of his victims, or anybody else in the church at that time, were armed. Thus, they were sitting ducks and never had a chance. Had even one person had a weapon, and knew how to use it, he or she could have shot Ashbrook and saved many lives.

And there are many other examples where a person with a “hidden” handgun in a church could have saved lives.

A Washington Post story (7/15/2000) reports how in 1993 the Rev. Michael R. Duesterhaus, a Roman Catholic priest at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, Virginia, woke up at 3 a.m. to the sound of someone breaking into his study. The priest took out a 9mm pistol, flipped on a light and ordered the intruder to freeze and lie on the floor. The intruder stopped and then reached for his belt. Deusterhaus fired. The man paused, apparently wounded, then ran into the hall.

The priest pursued him and fired again, at his feet. The priest fired a third time, deliberately wide of his target. The man ran out the side door escaping with a small amount of cash. The Post says this incident “contrasts sharply” with the June, 2000, “brutal slaying” of Monsignor Thomas Wells at the Mother Seaton Catholic Church in Germantown, Maryland, who died after being repeatedly stabbed. The difference between these two events is that Monsignor Wells was unarmed.

In March of 1999, in Gonzales, Louisiana, Shon Miller, Jr. entered the New St. John Fellowship Church, fired two rounds into the ceiling, and 17 more shots, murdering his son, his wife, a deacon and injuring four others. You guessed it. None of Miller’s victims or anyone around them were armed.

In Columbia, Tennessee, on New Year’s Eve of 1999, two men were shot in the parking lot of the First Freewill Baptist Church. One died, one did not. Jamie Edward Thompson was charged in these shootings. Again, no victim was armed.

In Trotwood, Ohio, at the Christ Temple Apostolic Faith Church, in September of 1998, Pastor Andrew Lofton was fatally shot. Once again, only the murderer was armed.

In Salmon, Idaho, in March of 1997, the Rev. Wilfred Keele, retired pastor of the Faith Bible Church, was shot to death, in his church as he and his wife visited with members of the congregation after the morning service. And yes, once again, nobody was armed but the killer.

* Hospitals: A Washington Post story (10/2/2000) reports that in Ventura, California, at the Community Memorial Hospital, “a man stabbed three staff members in a hospital waiting room, then was shot and killed by police.” None of those attacked were armed.

In April of 2000, in Waterville, Maine, a man with a .357 magnum abducted his estranged wife at gunpoint inside a local hospital. He fired a bullet into the floor outside the door of a dialysis unit. Nobody in this hospital was armed but the man with the .357 magnum.

In March of 1999, at the Mt. Zion Medical Center in San Francisco, three nurses risked their lives when they dashed to the waiting room to rescue a bleeding man who had just been shot in the hospital lobby by his son. When they lifted the shooter on to a gurney, the gunman stood waving a gun in one hand and an ammunition clip in the other. The son died. None of these nurses were armed.

* Amusement Parks: The Bergen, New Jersey Record newspaper (10/12/93) reports that metal detectors at the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park netted 62 guns confiscated, twice as many as in past years. Also seized were knives, brass knuckles, throwing stars and nunchakus.

And the Los Angeles Times (6/12/90) reports that Nathan Nicholas Tripp was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1988 killings of two Universal Studios guards. These guards were murdered, shot to death, when they turned Tripp away from this amusement park gate. Oh, and these guards were unarmed.

So, yes, Mr. Sheen, the answer to your question, sir, is that we should definitely elect a President who, among other things, favors the right of our citizens to carry concealed weapons in churches, hospitals, and amusement parks. If this is allowed, a lot of lives can be saved and crime will be reduced.

As John Lott documents in his excellent book More Guns, Less Crime, laws that allow concealed handguns have reduced the murder rate by 8.5 percent, rape by 5 percent and severe assault by 7 percent. And had such laws prevailed throughout the country, there would have been 1,600 fewer murders, 4,200 fewer rapes and 60,000 fewer assaults.

Larry Pratt is Executive Director of Gun Owners of America located at 8001 Forbes Place, Springfield, VA 22151 and at: on the web.


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