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December 15, 2008

Forgot Something?

Today’s “Ordinary People” blog features two stories that involve curious episodes of memory loss.

The first story involves a concealed carry permit holder who was shopping at a Wal-Mart in Steubenville, Ohio, on December 3. When he departed the store that day, he had his purchases in hand, but not his firearm. His .40 caliber Glock handgun was left sitting in his shopping cart, conveniently marked down for a five-finger discount.

Authorities are now searching for a “man driving a red Dodge Ram pickup truck” who apparently found the gun later in the day and drove off with it. Hardly comforting, but better than the real possibility of a child finding the gun at the popular family store… Apparently, this permit holder forgot not just his gun, but one of the National Rifle Association’s cardinal rules of gun safety: “Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.”

Our second tale comes from the state of Tennessee, where authorities recently reported that 200 hundred state residents who have permits to carry concealed handguns might have their permits revoked or suspended because they have active restraining orders against them. Apparently, several counties in the state were failing to inform the Tennessee Department of Safety of such orders of protection. The Department of Safety did not realize this oversight through their own investigation-they were alerted to it by a Nashville television station.

Restraining orders are typically issued to protect spouses in abusive relationships. Charlotte Boatwright, President of the Coalition Against Domestic and Community Violence of Greater Chattanooga, commented, “We do know that there is a direct correlation between having weapons available in the home and lethality.”

Hopefully, the Tennessee Department of Safety will act quickly to revoke the permits of the 200 individuals in question. Public safety will also be better served if they remember in the future to audit their permit holder database to screen out potentially dangerous individuals who are prohibited under state statue from carrying concealed weapons.

December 1, 2008

"I blew her away."

Richard Peters’ cavalier attitude towards the safe handing and storage of firearms caused a tragedy on November 16 in Marysville, Washington, when he shot and killed his six-year-old daughter while cleaning a firearm.

That night, Peters asked his daughter, Stormy, to retrieve a Colt Double Eagle .45-caliber handgun from a nightstand in his bedroom. The accident occurred when Peters removed the magazine from the weapon to prepare it for cleaning and pulled the trigger. Peters, who was apparently unaware that a live round was in the chamber, told detectives responding to the accident, “I blew her away.” He is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail while under investigation for first-degree manslaughter.

Peters, who is a concealed carry permit holder, told investigators that prior to the fatal shooting he drank up to five double shots of vodka and believed that he would have been too intoxicated to drive a car. He also revealed to investigators that he regularly allowed all three of his children (ages 3, 6 and 8) to handle his firearms, including the .45-caliber handgun with a “hair trigger” involved in the fatal accident. Child Protective Services took custody of Peters’ two surviving children and investigators have recovered a “large” number of firearms from his residence.

The fatal shooting wasn’t Peters’ only accident involving a firearm. As recently as November 1, he accidentally discharged a shotgun that was handed to him while shooting pumpkins. Thankfully, no one was harmed in that incident.

Peters told deputies responding to the shooting of his daughter that he was "very proficient" with firearms. His pattern of irresponsible behavior, however, demonstrates that nothing could be further from the truth. Peters broke almost every rule in the book related to gun safety. He handled firearms while drinking alcohol. He pulled the trigger on a gun on multiple occasions without inspecting the weapon’s chamber to make sure it was clear of ammunition. He allowed his children—one as young as three years old—to handle firearms without direct adult supervision. He even violated the cardinal rule of gun safety—ALWAYS KEEP A FIREARM POINTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION.

Rather than being an unpreventable or unexpected tragedy, the death of Peters’ daughter was foreshadowed by his reckless attitude towards guns.