The Death of a Gun Owner

On September 11th, 2008 Meleanie Hain went to her child’s soccer game with a Glock pistol in a holster strapped to her hip.

This was in the vicinity of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. To her and presumably others, it may have been an act of patriotism. I suspect it was an explicitly anti-Obama act given the ado about his remark during the primaries. But I could be wrong. The Lebanon County Sheriff very appropriately thought it was inappropriate for a gun owner to bring an overtly displayed dangerous weapon to a children’s soccer game, so he revoked her permit. Hain managed to get the permit restored, but sued the sheriff anyway, for one million dollars.

She complained that she felt ostracized by society for her act of hubris, carrying around her gun (which she apparently did quite frequently). She claimed “The way people look at me sometimes when I am out running errands, I feel as if I am wearing a scarlet letter, and really it’s a Glock 26.”

Yesterday, Hain and her husband were shot to death in their home, while their children, who were not hurt, were in the house.

It was not a home invasion, a robbery gone bad, or an accident. It was a murder suicide. Neighbors say Hain and her husband had been having marital troubles for the last couple of weeks.

I’m not saying anything specific about Hain or her husband. But I will assert that humans in general should not be routinely trusted with these deadly weapons.

source

Hat tip Javier

Comments

  1. #1 John
    October 9, 2009

    I would have to assert differently. Tragic as the situation was and as nutty as the woman no doubt was, I take security in having a gun in my house. I believe very much in gun safety and “common sense” approaches.

    I never leave a round in the chamber and if more than 30 seconds has gone by since I last picked the weapon up I take out the clip and check the chamber. If I chose to get a concealed carry permit I would not use a gun as a license to act tough or shoot my mouth off. I was taught to “draw to shoot, shoot to kill” and therefore would only use a gun as a last recourse. Guns are a responsibility but not beyond the level of the average citizen. I think the average citizen of a modern country can own and even carry a firearm without being a moron about it.

    I would also remind people that not everyone is an urbanite. I bought a gun when I lived in the middle of nowhere in rural Mississippi. If someone attempted to harm me, I would have had little recourse.

  2. #2 G.D.
    October 9, 2009

    “Guns are a responsibility but not beyond the level of the average citizen. I think the average citizen of a modern country can own and even carry a firearm without being a moron about it.”

    Probably true, but completely missing Greg’s point. Seems that much hinges on the “average”-qualifier in your assertion here, John. And that seems to be exactly what is at stake. You also seem to assert that you, as opposed to the crazies, are a responsible gun owner. I suspect most people who actually end up killing someone with their guns say the same thing. Leaving it up to the individual to assess his or her own ability to handle their firearms responsibly sounds to me like the ultimate catch-22.

  3. #3 Boz
    October 9, 2009

    “But I will assert that humans in general should not be routinely trusted with these deadly weapons.”

    Is this some kind of logical fallacy, that involves generalising an anecdotal incident?

  4. #4 Ian
    October 9, 2009

    I really don’t know the literature well enough to judge the statistics that get touted, but I’m willing to assume that having a gun in the house reduces the risk of being shot in the event of a home invasion. But it also increases the risk of someone (you, your spouse, the neighbour’s kid) getting shot accidentally.

    The risk of being murdered in a home invasion is small. It’s considerably smaller than the risk of being the victim of a home invasion. It’s also context specific. If you’re growing marijuana in your basement, or have a stash of uncut diamonds in your fish tank, it’s rather larger than it is for a suburbanite in a low-crime neighbourhood.

    It seems pretty obvious that reducing the probability of being the victim of a home invasion is going to reduce the likelihood of being shot in one. Not growing weed in your basement is one option. Installing more secure doors and windows in another. Installing a security system is a third option. Is it really appropriate to compare “owns a gun” with “doesn’t bother to lock the doors”? Or “owns a gun” versus “has made other efforts to secure one’s home”? So what’s the actual increase in the likelihood of dying in a home invasion if you have a gun, relative to not having one?

    But that’s only half of the calculation. The other half of the calculation is what’s the increased risk of an accidental shooting if there’s a gun in the house. Again, it’s the change in likelihood that matters. Then add to that the increase in likelihood of being killed by an enraged spouse (or something of the sort) if you have a gun in the house? Now compare the increase in safety with the increase in risk. That’s the only number that matters.

    All of this is context-specific. People in the southern US are more likely to be killed by someone they know. People in the north are more likely to be killed by strangers.

  5. #5 John
    October 9, 2009

    I don’t expect crazy people to admit that they shouldn’t have a gun. This is why guns should be regulated and why concealed carry permits have such restrictions. I have no problem with the state deciding an individual shouldn’t have a gun; in fact, that IS what the state does. If you have a history of mental illness or are a felon, you don’t get to have a gun (or your rights are severely limited).

    To be perfectly honest, I see nothing legally wrong with carrying a firearm in public. I think it’s a bit coarse and goes against our culture, but that isn’t what the law is about. Gun control is a nuanced issue requiring a pragmatic and realistic view from both sides. I just roll my eyes, though, when someone rolls out a tragic story and simply goes right into “people shouldn’t be allowed to have guns”.

  6. #6 Lincoln
    October 9, 2009

    No offence, but you Americans are a crazy lot. Down here, not even the police routinely carry guns.

  7. #7 John
    October 9, 2009

    We’re crazy because we’re different is your ENTIRE argument. I guess we’re also arrogant and impose our cultural norms on others without backing them up with reason or evidence. *rollseyes*

  8. #8 Aaron
    October 9, 2009

    I’m wondering if gun control is the wrong approach for the US. Every time you look for the slightest amount the entire right rises up in arms and nothing gets done.

    At the end of the day the problem is that the US has a gun culture and I think the goal has to be to change that culture. When you try to change the law first they just react by digging in harder.

  9. #9 Jeremy
    October 9, 2009

    The argument that responsible people should be allowed to carry guns reminds me a lot of a survey I read recently (I forget where, sorry, but I think it may have been in “Afluenza” by Clive Hamilton) that found that 80% of people think they have above average abilities.

    The best argument I can see for not carrying a gun is that people who carry guns are more likely to be shot, and in the vast majority of household gun shootings end up with either the gun owner or a family member being shot.

    In fact I would argue that owning a gun for self protection is a sign of paranoia, which is a symptom of mental illness and indicates that the person isn’t mentally stable enough to carry a gun. Thinking that you’re a responsible member of society doesn’t make you one.

    That said, I live in Australia, and we have almost no guns or gun deaths here.

  10. #10 FraserH
    October 9, 2009

    Um John, the US does tend to impose its cultural norms on others without backing or reason. Or rather, assume other countries’ cultural norms should be the same as the US’s. I think that some of them are admirable, and may share them. My attitude towards guns however, is pretty much along the lines of Greg’s and Jeremy’s.
    I’m away for the weekend (I’m also in Fiji so almost a full day ahead of the US). I won’t be on the internet as want some time away from the laptop so apologise for the drive by nature of this posting, but wanted to add my very lightweight two cents.

  11. #11 Lincoln
    October 9, 2009

    Actually John, I didn’t put forward an argument.

  12. #12 NewEnglandBob
    October 9, 2009

    See? Guns bring out the nuts. Example: John.

  13. #13 Jason Thibeault
    October 9, 2009

    In fact I would argue that owning a gun for self protection is a sign of paranoia, which is a symptom of mental illness and indicates that the person isn’t mentally stable enough to carry a gun. Thinking that you’re a responsible member of society doesn’t make you one.

    I couldn’t agree more, Jeremy @9. It’s a vicious Catch-22, and the result of some very poorly worded rules in a constitution written when “arms” meant rifles that take a minute to reload, and the rule was provided so people could protect themselves from British invasion in absence of a proper military and, subsequently, could protect themselves in absence of a proper police service.

    And yeah, I’m speaking from a position of privilege as well — I’m a Canuck. It’s only in the past year or two that gang violence in Toronto and Halifax has popped out of pretty well nowhere.

  14. #14 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    October 9, 2009

    A major problem with keepig the gun in the home for protection is that if you are startled by an intruder and wake up, your eyes take time to adjust to the light. The intruder’s eyes all ready are at their optimum dilation for the existing light, so they have an invasion. Considering the dicturm that if you shoot, you shoot to kill and considering how precise of a shot you need in order to kill a person, you are at a disadvantage.

    Keep that in mind as you hold up your gun and the invader takes it from you after you shoot wildly. There’s a big difference between a cardboard cutout target in a shooting range and a mobile bad person in your living room.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    October 9, 2009

    Oh, and I should point out, in the case of my neighbor, it appears that the kids had no trouble going into this guys house. He did not have secured doors, maybe even not locked. The gun was not there because he was afraid. The gun was there because he expected an unwanted entry.

  16. #16 Rick Pikul
    October 9, 2009

    It’s only in the past year or two that gang violence in Toronto and Halifax has popped out of pretty well nowhere.

    While the media often likes to act like it’s this new big problem, it isn’t either.

    Gangs, and gang violence, in Canadian cities has been around for decades at a relatively low level. This level has been trending downward since the early 1990s, and even then was nowhere near the levels of decades past. You see some local increases, but that’s combined with local decreases and are due to both action against gangs and normal churn.

    What happens is that either a new group gets involved/noticed or a cluster of violence occurs and the press starts acting as if this is totally new and that they hadn’t been freaking out about something similar every other year.

  17. #17 Jason
    October 9, 2009

    See? Guns bring out the nuts. Example: John.
    Posted by: NewEnglandBob | October 9, 2009 6:13 AM

    I am ambivalent about guns, I don’t own one and I would be willing to forgo the right to have one if the verifiable benefit to society is established (which it probably has, my ignorance notwithstanding). But in the above discussion, John seems to be the most rational. No, the anecdote may be tragic or ironic, but you all certainly know better than to draw conclusions from anecdotes. Referring to Americans as crazy because we allow guns may not be an argument but it is arrogant and also not particularly informative (and is not excused because some other Americans are also rude and arrogant).

  18. #18 Rob
    October 9, 2009

    re: Jeremy… here’s a copy of one of those studies. It’s called Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. It basically points out that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to realize your own limitations.
    http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf
    It seems to me that the last person to judge any individual on their gun skills would be themselves

  19. #19 jj
    October 9, 2009

    Read about this one yesterday. One thing that I thought was odd – after she got her permit taken away and sued, it seemed she was claiming damage because other people were looking at her weird. What does that have to do with your permit begin revoked? Wasn’t it the flashing of your piece at a youth soccor game that did that?

    Tragic story

  20. #20 Kate from Iowa
    October 9, 2009

    I’m just still having trouble with the common assumption that openly carrying a lethal instrument everywhere you go (and no quibbling, people, the only purpose of a gun is to kill things, you don’t slice bread or change a tire with them, you kill things) should be considered completely normal and go without comment or looks askance.

    “The way people look at me sometimes when I am out running errands, I feel as if I am wearing a scarlet letter, and really it’s a Glock 26.” is what she said for herself…it never gave her pause that people eyed her as if she were dangerous, or at the least undesirable? She never considered that her behaviour might be inappropriate and might cause others to fear for her safety? She never in any way asked herself WHY people looked at her and her gun funny?

    Yes, for certain people in this country, it is necessary to carry a gun, for certain of them it is necessary to carry it openly, but even they do not openly carry a loaded firearm as part of a recreational activity. HOw many off duty and out of work police officers have a holstered gun in plain view on thier hip while shopping for peanut butter with thier wives, or microwaves with thier husbands, or prom dresses with thier daughters or trumpets with thier sons? There’s a good damned reason that they don’t.

    Part of the problem with looking like a menace is that eventually so many people are looking at you funny that you can’t sort the ones who mean you harm just because from the ones that mean you harm because you freak them the hell out and they want you to go away from the ones that you just plain freak the hell out. If your actions are what’s causing your problems, you’ve absolutely right to bitch and moan to the rest of us about them.

  21. #21 Jim Bob Cooter
    October 9, 2009

    I’ve got to agree with John and Jason. I’m not a gun owner and I don’t particularly want to be one. But as far as I can tell from these studies, the people who get hurt by guns are overwhelmingly their owners and the owner’s family members.
    This is obviously not a good thing, but to try to outlaw guns because they hurt the people who choose to have them around is insane. This is the same argument for outlawing cigarettes. In fact, you could make the same argument for outlawing religion. It harms the people who are closest to it (and some innocent bystanders, of course). But the fact is that not allowing people to smoke, or praise Jebus, or keep a handgun in a lockbox, is impinging on a freedom that they have. Cars are dangerous to the people who use them too; should we get rid of those? No one is making that argument, because the people who drive cars are in the majority and cars are more useful than guns.

    I would rather live in a semi-dangerous world where I can do what I want – and other people can do what they want – than a super-safe one where I have to do whatever someone else tells me. I know this is a tired old argument, and maybe it’s even an irrational one, but it appeals to me on a basal level.

    Finally, I make a great deal of my arguments from the moral authority of the Constitution, and I don’t think I have the right to pick and choose which parts of that document I like and don’t like. If I’m going to stand here daring anyone to pry my first amendment rights from my cold, dead hands, then I certainly expect others to do the same for the second amendment (now that I think of it – words are dangerous too! They can get you in a lot of trouble. Let’s outlaw those). People obviously have a right to petition the government to change the Constitution, but from where I’m standing I don’t see a lot of things that warrant that sort of extreme action. I reserve the right to petition against those people.

    PS, Lincoln, a strong assertion like that certainly falls under my definition of an argument. A statement doesn’t have to be aggressive to be argumentative – arguing civilly is a wonderful thing.

  22. #22 Jim Bob Cooter
    October 9, 2009

    That was long, sorry.

    /diatribe

  23. #23 Always Armed
    October 9, 2009

    “poorly worded rules in a constitution written when “arms” meant rifles that take a minute to reload, and the rule was provided so people could protect themselves from British invasion”

    Jason, your statement is only half true…the second amendment was written so that the citizenry would have the means of self defense against any threat and especially against governmental tyranny, foreign or domestic.

    Reading the constitution and the writings of the framers of the constitution can only lead to this conclusion. Anyone who says ohterwise is attempting obfuscation.

    And for those who argue that only police should have guns, the perpetrator of this crime was in law enforcement.

    And for those of you that argue the ineffectiveness of weapons in home invasions, I beg to differ. It is a very rare individual that will continue an attack on an armed homeowner even if the homeowners shots are wild and miss. The more widespread ownership of firearms in the home is, the more secure everyone’s home is whether they actually own one or not. Ask any burglar why he prefers an empty house to an occupied one! Then ask yourself why burglars in England do not display the same fear.

  24. #24 Irene
    October 9, 2009

    @23: “Reading the constitution and the writings of the framers of the constitution can only lead to this conclusion. Anyone who says ohterwise is attempting obfuscation.”

    =

    “Reading the constitution in any way other than what I say is …. is… . is DISAGREEING WITH ME!!!!11!! How Dare They! And I’m Always Armed so Don’t Fuck with Me!!!

    … typical gun nut.

  25. #25 Helene from Canada
    October 9, 2009

    I feel I should point out the utter futility of trying to use a gun to defend yourself from another human being outside of a war-zone. A moving target leaves your sight a lot faster the closer it is, and for any instances of assault that I can think of, your attacker is going to be in your face before you even get the thing out of its holster. At that point, you’d be better off bonking him/her over the head with it than fiddling with the safety, so why keep it loaded if, as mentioned, it’s all a show of patriotism?

  26. #26 davem
    October 9, 2009

    When I hear the gun argument, I’m reminded of the aggressive dog argument. Here in the UK, a dangerous dogs law was passed to stop the breeding of overly-aggressive dogs, which were being used as weapons for people with some sort of penis deficiency. Rather like gun owners, in fact.

    You then get the case of the ‘family dog’ quite literally eating the face off one of the children. This is then inevitably followed by the bleating of its owner ‘But he was such a gentle dog; he loved children’. It’s the same case, and the same mentality – the weapon turned around.

    Like the gun, the dog had but one purpose – to kill. When you buy one, you should know that if it ever is used for its purpose, that someone it kills or maims is more likely to be a friend than a foe. If you believe that having one around makes you safer, then you are delusional.

  27. #27 calvert
    October 9, 2009

    Always Armed; I don’t see anyone arguing that having guns in your home ready to shoot the intruder is not effective when it comes to stopping the intruders. I think people are arguing that having guns in the home is dangerous. Most people who are shot by homeowners who own guns to keep out intruders are not intruders

  28. #28 Helene from Canada
    October 9, 2009

    Oh, and Always Armed: A dog works as a better deterent for home invasions, as a gun doesn’t bark or snarl when your thief is casing the place to begin with.

  29. #29 Helene from Canada
    October 9, 2009

    Ah, #26 posted while I was writing my last: I should point out that ‘dog’ in my case does not refer to something specifically bred for killing: the barking is generally sufficient to warn off criminals, even when said dog is well-mannered.

  30. #30 Always Armed
    October 9, 2009

    Calvert, I disagree with that assertion. It may seem that wasy because it gets splashed across media headlines.

    Bottom line is in general society (outside of war) guns protect far more individuals than they harm.

  31. #31 Jim Bob Cooter
    October 9, 2009

    @ Always Armed

    I’d like to see you cite your source in, I assume, the Journal of Bottom Lines before I’ll believe some BS like that.
    Let’s all make wild assertions with no supporting evidence and pretend that we’re making valid, convincing arguments! All Rottweilers are homosexual! It’s snowing in Mexico! 90% of all people are above average! Wheee!

  32. #32 Ben Zvan
    October 9, 2009

    I own guns. I use them for hunting and punching holes in sheets of paper. I keep them locked up and out of sight. I live in not-the-best neighborhood and I have never had a home invasion. Clearly the guns are working for me as home protection.

  33. #33 calvert
    October 9, 2009

    Always Armed: No they don’t.

  34. #34 Irene
    October 9, 2009

    Ben: Is that because when you do go hunting, it is primarily for squirrels in your front yard? That would leave an impression on any potential home invaders.

  35. #35 Ben Zvan
    October 9, 2009

    #34 Irene: I can’t express the number of times I’ve wanted to do that. I figure I could probably get away with it with a .22 and a(n illegal) silencer. Friggin’ squirrels.

  36. #36 Always Armed
    October 9, 2009

    Jim Bob Touche, I would also ask for your sources that they don’t

  37. #37 The Science Pundit
    October 9, 2009

    @Helene from Canada

    My mother lives in south Florida and has four dogs. Since that part of the world is prone to hurricane attacks, many residents have gasoline powered generators on their property in case of a power outage. My mom is no exception.

    A few years ago, my mom was rudely awakened in the dead of night by the incessant barking of the dogs. She was not amused! So in the colorful language that she’s prone to using in such situations, she shouted at the top of her lungs “I’M GOING TO STRANGLE EVERY FUCKING LAST ONE OF YOU!!!!” I’m not sure how effective this was against the barking, but the dogs did eventually stop.

    The next day she discovered that thieves had stolen the gasoline tanks (for the generator) from every house on the block–except her’s.

    ps—She doesn’t own a gun, but several of her neighbors do.

  38. #38 Greg Laden
    October 9, 2009

    Aaannndddd …. If shooting did break out, think of the tracer bullets penetrating all those gasoline cans….

    I’m actually a trained community something – or – nuther as part of the Minneapolis SAFE program. (I’m sure my training has expired.) If you ask cops how to best protect your home, they’ll tell you lots of things about lights, exterior design, locks, and so on. If you say “OK, what ONE thing works best” they do not hesitate to say “a dog.”

  39. #39 Jim Bob Cooter
    October 9, 2009

    AA, I never said that they don’t. I’m not the one going around making wild statements and pretending they are fact without any sort of empirical support. Except the Rottweiler thing, that’s totally true.

  40. #40 Jim Bob Cooter
    October 9, 2009

    Aaannndddd …. If shooting did break out, think of the tracer bullets penetrating all those gasoline cans UMiami football players….

  41. #41 Neil B ♪
    October 9, 2009

    Greg, the issue is whether we have a right to have guns, not whether you can be sure we’re always going to use them the right way. I affirm the former, even sympathizing with the latter.

  42. #42 MikeB
    October 9, 2009

    Always armed – ‘Burglars in England’ are afraid of pretty much the same thing as burglars everywhere: getting caught. They don’t like dogs,people at home, locked windows, spiky fences, etc, either, but basically getting caught is the main one.
    There may be the occasional gun or two here in the UK, especially on farms, but a gun is not really a deterrent to a burglar, unless they know your behind the door with one.

    The idea of stopping a ‘home invasion’ with a gun always seems to me to be a bit like the argument that if only someone was carrying a gun, then a mad shooter taking out a school/university/shop/McDonalds would be stopped in their tracks. You hardly ever hear it happening. A couple of posters have already pointed out that if you wake up and hear a noise downstairs, you’ve got to find the gun, load it, and quietly go and find the burglar. Of course you are half asleep, while the guy stealing your stuff is wide-awake, possibly has pretty good night vision, and isn’t a stationary target. And he might have a gun….

    In reality, you are more likely to miss the target (easy to do with a handgun), and in the long term, more likely to injure or kill someone in the house.

    Guns don’t really protect, they just give the appearance of protection. Especially when you look at the US v UK murder rate, or even burglary rates which seem to be not dissimilar from a quick Google search. Certainly having a gun in the house (and on show), did nothing to protect this poor woman or her husband. I have no problem with properly regulated guns for hunting or sport, but its difficult to see what a Glock really did for her other than to provide a handy weapon for a tragedy.

  43. #43 Borlaug
    October 9, 2009

    Best argument against gun control I’ve heard in awhile.

  44. #44 John
    October 9, 2009

    First I’d like to say I don’t think I’m a “nut”. I’m a center left person myself who tends to be moderate. I would include anti-radicalism as one of many tenets I subscribe to. I understand that I am not the best judge of myself, though.

    I don’t support the idea of a person judging their own fitness to own guns. If a person does something to show they are unable to properly own a gun, they should be stripped of their right by the government. I would have no problem if a person had to first get a license before owning a gun, nor do I have a problem with wait times.

    I think it is also silly how people differentiate between good “sport” guns and evil “killing” guns. The only difference between an AR15 (a civilian M16) and a hunting rifle is the aesthetics. This is called the case of the “scary black rifle”. Two guns that fire the same round, at the same semi-auto speed can be pronounced “evil” if it is black composite plastic stock and “good” if it is a woodgrain stock.

    I would like to address the argument that guns are ineffective defense. “First you have to find the gun, then load it, and you’re sleepy”. This is fallacious. Simply grab the gun, pull the slide back, and you’re ready. Again, I’m all for responsibility and regulation, just not outright banning.

  45. #45 Serius
    October 11, 2009

    Quoting a poster here:

    I’d like to see you cite your source in, I assume, the Journal of Bottom Lines before I’ll believe some BS like that.
    Let’s all make wild assertions with no supporting evidence and pretend that we’re making valid, convincing arguments! All Rottweilers are homosexual! It’s snowing in Mexico! 90% of all people are above average! Wheee!

    John R.Lott, Jr. “More Guns, Less Crime” (2nd Edition) University of Chicago Press (2000).

    If anyone on this blog actually cares about data, this is the only respectable enpirical study that exists on the questions about which everyone here seems to have already reached unshakable conclusions.

  46. #46 Greg Laden
    October 11, 2009

    Serius: Actually, if you look at the other two recent posts on this topic on this blog you’ll see a number of empirical studies referenced. As far as “does anybody care about the data,” of course we care, that sort of snark is not productive. Not that being unproductive stops anybody from being snarky around here.

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