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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Damaged Humans Kill--Not Guns--My Story

   As the country debates the stricter gun laws that are largely a consequence of the tragic shootings in Sandy Hook, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of not just feeling compelled to defend the 2nd Amendment while people are still grieving...but also feeling compelled to share a very personal loss of my own, involving a gun. I can't delay because our governments, federal and state, have either had a knee-jerk reaction to tragedy, or God forbid, they are using tragedy to promote an anti-gun agenda. The president has issued 23 executive orders aimed at stricter gun controls, and many states have followed his lead and are introducing legislation that infringes on our 2nd Amendment rights. There is no time to waste.
   I am of the belief that the 2nd Amendment asserts, not gives, the right of every law abiding, mentally stable American to own the gun or guns of their choice. I do not think that it has anything to do with hunting. I believe it has everything to do with the God-given natural right to protect yourself...not only against a life-threatening person, but more specifically our government. The Constitution is not a document meant to protect the government from the people, but rather the people from the government. Our government and the Liberal media are conducting a propaganda campaign to convince the masses that guns are evil, and that if we could rid the country of guns there would be no more murder. I don't buy it and statistics do not support it. I'm writing this because I want people to know that I support the 2nd Amendment, and defend it, even after my only sister was shot and killed in 1993.  
   I am acquainted with the deepest darkest grief a human being can experience when losing someone that they love, suddenly and tragically, in an act of violence. When you get that phone call and your breath escapes you and you crumble to the floor, life is never the same after that moment. You are never the same. So I don't take this lightly. I am not just some right-wing zealot pounding my chest and making proclamations. I know what I'm talking about. I've paid some dues.
   My sister was assassinated in her own home by a damaged, angry, anti-social, man driven by  hate and jealousy...and he used a shot gun. It wasn't the so-called assault weapon and it wasn't a hand gun. It was a shot gun that is typically used for hunting. The NRA did not fail my sister. There is a lot of blame to go around, and I include myself, but the NRA and the gun manufacturer don't even make the list. 
  Her killer was her "estranged husband" who was a Vietnam veteran who came home with a raging case of post-traumatic stress syndrome. When my sister met him there were people who warned her that "he wasn't all there" because of the war. Some said that he was known to get into fights at the local bar and fight so violently that he was feared. Of course she asked him about it, and he admitted that when he first came home he had some problems. He said that he had it so bad that he could be driving on a highway and he would suddenly think he was under fire back in Vietnam...but that he was fine now. He seemed fine to her, and besides it was 1980 when they met. He had to be over it by then, right? Was the Veterans Administration aware of his condition? If they were, did they follow up? Or did he just disappear into the population, into my family, with a ticking time bomb inside of him? Incidentally, Hollywood, his favorite movie was "Rambo" and he watched it and all of the sequels many, many times. Hollywood, you made the list.
    He was quite socially awkward and stuttered. He seemed oblivious to social cues even one-on-one, but in a group he was lost. He would talk too much or too loud. He would say things that seemed out of context and odd.  He shared that he had been emotionally tormented by his father and felt damaged by it. My sister had two small children when he moved in with her, and about a year later she married him. She truly grew to love and accept him unconditionally. I am not exaggerating when I say that she seemed to be the only one who "got him." Most people thought something just wasn't right about him. I knew he wasn't "normal." I told my sister when I met him that I wasn't comfortable with him around her children.  Was that enough? Shouldn't someone, anyone, me...have been able to do something to get him help? 
     As the years went by I also just accepted his quirkiness, and he had become family to me. They had been married almost 10 years and the children were preteens. The usual teenager-related problems developed in the house. My sister had a new baby, making them a blended family.  I was surprised to find out that they were seeking family counseling  At first she said it was mostly for and about  the teenagers, but one day it slipped out that he was going for anger issues. I thought that was odd because in the almost 10 years that I knew him, I had never known him to show any signs of anger or abuse towards her or the kids. He was learning to control his anger with biofeedback. I started noticing at family gatherings that he was having a hard time controlling his anger towards her son. Little things seem to enrage him and he seemed to be fighting to control himself. Why didn't I see the danger brewing? Shouldn't the counselor have been able to perceive the dangerous rage and taken steps to protect this family?
   When I think back at the final year and a half of her life, after they had legally separated, there were so many signs that she was in danger. By now I lived in another state, but we talked often. He was living with another woman, but when he learned that she was dating someone he lost it. He began to stalk her relentlessly. She saw him watching everywhere that she went. He found a way inside her apartment once, and was waiting inside when she got home just to show her that he could. He found a way into her fiance's house, and was waiting inside when they came home one night. She reported everything to the police, but no one would help her. He threw acid on her new car. The police said there weren't any witnesses. One day he slapped her when he came to pick up their daughter for visitation. The police said they didn't see it. There was nothing that they could do. He broke into their house that was up for sale, and he destroyed the walls on one floor of the house in a fit of rage. No witnesses. Shouldn't law enforcement have been able to protect her?
   She reported to Social Services that she didn't think that he was fit to have unsupervised visitation of their child. This led to countless interviews with social workers and psychiatric evaluations, and the lawyers were kept busy filing all of the paperwork. I know because I found mounds of paper describing the legal battle along with reports from social workers and psychiatrists. Shouldn't the social workers, the psychiatrists, or the lawyers have been able to perceive the danger and do something to protect this family?
   It finally came to a horrible tragic ending on Father's Day in 1993. I am told that he told the guys at work (who thought that he was strange) that he was going home to kill his family. He came to her house to pick up their child for visitation, and brought the gun into the house in a box. He shot and killed my sister and her fiance. He shot and wounded her teenage daughter, who pretended to be dead so that he wouldn't shoot her again. He then took his own life. 
   There was evidence that he had been planning to do this for some time. He had his mind made up long before he did it. It wasn't a matter of if he would do it. It was just a matter of when. Men like him, who are determined to kill, will get a gun. The government could confiscate every gun in the land, but a man with a mind to kill will get a gun. 
   I only wish that when she could get no help and no protection from anyone that she would have purchased a gun for her protection. I wish that her fiance had a gun for their protection. Maybe no one would have been killed that day except for him. I have to believe that at least fewer would have been killed or wounded. 
   That tragedy could have been avoided somewhere along the way if he had only gotten the psychiatric help that he needed before Vietnam, after the war, during family counselling, or  through the interactions with social workers, psychiatrists, and lawyers. If only his employer or fellow employees had reported his threatening behavior, or if family and friends could have intervened, maybe it would have had a better ending. 
   My sister was killed by a damaged, angry, anti-social, man driven by  hate and jealousy...and he used a gun. 

Join the Hagerstown TEA Party for a Western Maryland Day of Resistance on February 23, 2013. Click on the link below for more information.

Western Maryland Day of Resistance

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