The Fatal Difference

at 12:35 AM

On January 25, my 96-year-old father was shot twice in the head by a deeply disturbed 23-year-old. The killer and his wife had been living with Dad, providing caretaking and handyman services. Apparently, it was easy for him to locate the gun Dad kept for "self defense" -- perhaps at some point he was even told where to find it.

For years, my brothers and I had a running argument about gun ownership. They defended the absolute right of Americans to own guns, and derided published findings showing that individuals who possess a gun are much more likely to be shot in an assault than those who don't own guns. They scoffed at stories from personal acquaintances whose gun possession had led to terrible tragedies. "The plural of anecdote is not evidence," they would say. They always finished the argument by saying, "All gun owners shouldn't be penalized because some gun owners are idiots or irresponsible."

There was more to my father's story. Just prior to shooting Dad, and fueled by a potent mix of drugs and alcohol, the killer sneaked up on my niece who was housecleaning in another room. He bludgeoned her at least a dozen times with a crowbar. Yet despite the advantage of surprise and size, he wasn't able to finish her off. She escaped without permanent damage and ran to the neighbors. But with the gun he'd found in a cupboard, the killer was able to execute my father coldly and efficiently. The gun made the fatal difference and Dad might be alive today if he hadn't kept one for self defense.

Some friends and family members still cling to the belief that having a gun will make them safer. They still believe "responsible gun owners" can easily keep those weapons out of the hands of killers.

I wonder what it will take to convince them.

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With a Perspective, I'm Hatti Hamlin.

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Hatti Hamlin is a Bay Area public relations and marketing consultant.

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