He Didn’t Use a Gun. Do You Feel Better?


If you’re in Amarillo, the weekend’s sensational tabloid-esque story du jour was all about the murder of “troubled” real estate developer Paul Gillette’s wife Sherri, at the hands of Gillette himself. First reports trickling out had Gillette shooting his wife, possibly in front of his kids, and police discovering her body as the kids tried to revive her, with Gillette sitting nearby, waiting for the cops. Some of this is inaccurate, according to revised reports in the local rags.

This, of course, is the problem with news. When deadlines loom, rumor can pass as hard news.

The latest info out there (which in and of itself is not guaranteed accurate) is that Sherri Gillette was on the phone with a friend. The call was abruptly disconnected. Said friend, whether by the content or context of the call, suspected that Sherri was being assaulted, presumably by her estranged husband. Said friend immediately called the police.

The police obtained a search warrant (I’m not a cop, but wouldn’t this tip count as probable cause and allow them entry without a warrant?) and entered the family home(s) on the property. Finding no fighting spouses, they broke down the door of the (huge) detached garage and found Sherri in one of their cars.

Paul Gillette was nearby, again presumably waiting for the cops to arrive. EMS personnel attempted to revive Sherri, but were unable to do so. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and Paul was arrested, arraigned on one million dollars bond, and stuck in the local jail, awaiting a hearing.

News outlets now report that Sherri Gillette was beaten to death.

Putting my personal feelings aside for a bit, let’s think about this in purely clinical terms as it relates to domestic violence and gun issues. I’ll make the following observations:

  • Why did initial reports claim this was a gun crime?
  • Does everybody jump to the conclusion that guns must be involved, if the crime is a domestic abuse situation?
  • Do you feel any better now, knowing the guns weren’t involved?
  • Do you realize that the victim is still dead, and how she died does not affect the final outcome?
  • Did you stop to think that the victim went to the police, but were unable to convince them that her estranged husband represented a danger to her?
  • Do you realize that, even had she obtained a restraining order, restraining orders only work on people that obey the law?
  • Did you stop to think that, perhaps if SHE’d had a gun, the outcome might have been vastly different?

Interestingly, one financial tidbit has come out regarding possible motive, this morning. The Gillettes were in the middle of a contentious divorce. Paul Gillette was embroiled in the aftermath of a civil fraud trial, where he had been ordered/forced to sell several homes in his housing development, in order to satisfy the judgement.

Instead, he opted to file for bankruptcy protection, temporarily halting the sale. But his filings indicate that he would be counting on income derived from profits earned from his insurance agency in order to satisfy his payment plan under reorganization. This is where it gets sticky.

You see, in Texas at least, you can’t be a convicted felon and hold a license to sell insurance. When Gillette was convicted for violating Federal bank regulations, Sherri applied for and received a license to sell insurance, so they would not lose the agency. Paul had to relinquish the agency to someone, and since he either had purchased or was in the process of paying off the purchase of the agency from Sherri’s father, transferring the agency to Sherri made sense.

Apparently, her attorneys presented evidence in court that Sherri was the sole owner of the agency, once Paul was incarcerated. Paul was apparently dragging his feet on finalizing the divorce, because he wanted money from the agency in order to satisfy his bankruptcy payment plan. Sherri resisted. And she evidently paid for it with her life.

Paul Gillette is in jail as I write this. I hope that he never sees another day as a free man. Texas justice, I’m sure, will deal with him appropriately. But the question that interests me within the context of TTAG is this: does it make any difference that this bastard used his fists instead of a gun?

To Sherri, her family and their kids, I doubt it. But to those that would have you believe that eliminating the private ownership of guns would stop domestic violence, I think the answer would be “Yes!”

Keep in mind, as a convicted felon, fresh from a recent stay at a Federal Prison, Gillette could not legally own a gun, much less qualify for a concealed handgun license. So if he HAD used a gun, by default, he would have had to have obtained it illegally. (So much for a change in gun laws helping here.)

Of course, the flip side of the argument does have some merit – had Sherri Gillette armed herself with, say, a .380 pocket pistol, she might have been able to defend herself from Paul’s murderous wrath, thus avoiding her own, tragic fate.

But the anti-gun guys won’t talk about that. Their stock-in-trade line is that gun-free homes will reduce or eliminate domestic violence, because disarming people will automatically turn down the temperature of any argument. (Tell that to Sherri Gillette’s grieving parents and see how it goes over.)

So while you think about guns, self defense, domestic violence, and the sad fate of the Gillette family, ask yourself this question: Do you really think that guns are the problem, the solution, or simply a tool, which like any other tool, can be used for good, or for evil?