One should not speak ill of the dead. Luckily, I’m writing. And if someone who knew Mr. Papendick wants to criticize TTAG for his inclusion in this series—as friends and family of named individual have before—I’l tell them the same thing I’ve told the others: we must learn from the mistakes made by those less fortunate than ourselves. When firearms-related mistakes lead to tragedy, it’s even more important for us to take account of what went wrong so that we can avoid a similar fate. In this case, the lesson is simple enough: don’t show off your guns . . .
David Jeffery told homicide detectives that he went to Karl Papendick’s North Philadelphia home, in an old warehouse near the Kensington and Fishtown borders, to unload some wood the day after Christmas 2008.
As Papendick, 37, showed him some guns he legally owned and collected, Jeffery said he pulled the slide of a semiautomatic back and forth and the gun went off, hitting a kneeling Papendick in the back of the head as the victim was retrieving more guns from a safe.
Jeffery told police he then “took another Xanax, I chugged a beer, then I left.”
He said he took two guns, including the weapon that killed Papendick, and threw them into a sewer, but he told detectives he didn’t mean to kill him.
According to philly.com, PA prosecutors reckon Jeffrey killed Papendick for his guns. And yet there’s no mention of any attempt to fence said firearms. I guess they’ll argue that Jeffrey freaked after executing Papendick.
Papendick, a painter, sculptor and photographer, graduated in 1996 from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he majored in painting. He made his living repairing computers from his home, on Howard Street near Palmer. Jeffery told homicide detectives he met Papendick in a park, where their dogs played.
So not only did Papendick reveal the fact that he collected guns to a relative stranger, he invited his fellow dog walker (a substance abuser) to his house. Alone. Obviously, it was a fatal mistake. It was also highly irresponsible.
Gun owners have a responsibility to keep their guns out of the hands of criminals. To do that, you have to start with an understanding that criminals want your guns. The vast majority of guns used by criminals are stolen from private owners. So d’uh. You’re a target.
To prevent your guns from falling into the wrong hands, you have to lock ’em up. As Mr. Papendick did. But you also have to shut up. Which Mr. Papendick didn’t.
I know: I’m one to talk. I run a website devoted to guns. It’s a risk I take to do the work I do; just like the police, only nowhere near as beneficial to society. In my defense, I’ve raised my security consciousness to take account of that danger. Loose lips sink ships, but some ships are more vulnerable than others. If you know what I mean.
There’s another, equally important security layer: access. In other words, you need to decide who gets to see the things. To prevent gun crime, that should be as small a circle as possible. From a safety and security point of view, the less people who handle your guns, the better.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure it’s possible to be both a firearms enthusiast and a social gadfly. But there has to be a line between the two. A distinction between people you know and people you trust enough to view your guns. And another distinction between people who can look at your firearms and people you trust enough to handle one (never mind a loaded gun).
Personally, I don’t trust anyone around firearms. Never have. Never will. I don’t see the point. But a more gregarious gun owner (i.e. anyone else) should at least be aware that handing a gun to anyone involves a large amount of risk. Both at that moment and later, when your best bud’s smoking a bone with their dope dealer.
As for Mr. Papendick, his death is a great loss. I was aware of his Maine photographs before Jeffrey took his life. Now, in retrospect, I sense Papendick’s psychological isolation. Don’t let yours be your undoing.