Blogging about guns can be something of an academic exercise. Most of the time I’m sitting here, surfing the net for stories and videos. Some of the time, I’m out at the American Firearms School, The Providence Revolver Club, The Sig Sauer Academy and other reputable proving grounds, testing weapons and techniques, learning how much I don’t know about guns. My life is nothing like the lives of the people who live in high crime areas; people who see gun crime on a regular basis. Many of whom have a keen understanding that the Second Amendment—or its subversion by local laws—can be the difference between life and death. My life is even less like that of the criminals who plague these low income community . . .
And yet it’s important to have a feel for what goes down at the sharp end of the gun “debate.” Otherwise, opinions about “the gun show loophole” and other gun issues put philosophy and stats ahead of . . . reality. To that end, I speak with as many gun-involved people as possible who don’t surf the web for a living. And I read leagle.com, whose trail transcripts are the real deal. In their own way.
All of which is a preamble to a real life example of what can happen with a gun bought at a gun show. As John Lott will tell you, anecdotal evidence does not good public policy make. But I reckon it helps keep it real . . .
Several fact witnesses had criminal histories. Dean testified that he had prior convictions for burglary, delivery of illegal drugs, family violence, and attempted burglary. At the time of trial, Turner was serving a federal prison sentence for conspiracy and intent to deliver a controlled substance, and Celestine was serving a state-jail sentence for manufacture and delivery of cocaine. Celestine admitted two prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance. Alexander had prior convictions for both possession and delivery of controlled substances. Giles testified that he had a prior felony conviction for which he spent five years in prison . . .
On August 21, 2005, Alexander, Dean, and Harris went to a gun show. Dean testified that Harris left his .40-caliber gun in the truck. At the gun show, Harris bought a Kel-Tec 9-mm semiautomatic gun (“Baby Nine”) and bullets. Dean loaded the gun at Harris’s request. After the gun show, they went to a townhouse where they met Celestine, Turner, and Giles. Dean testified that Celestine let them into the townhouse because the burglar bars were locked and Harris did not have a key . . .
According to Celestine, that afternoon he and Giles smoked marijuana which had been enhanced with embalming fluid, known as “hydro” or “wet.” Giles agreed that he smoked marijuana with Celestine, but he denied that it was “wet” or “hydro.” Giles also admitted that he had cocaine in his pocket that afternoon. Celestine said that he sold marijuana to Turner that day and that Turner’s presence made Giles agitated and suspicious. Turner testified that he used only codeine syrup that day . . .
Celestine testified that they were listening to music and hanging out. He recounted that Giles became upset and began crying after talking to his girlfriend on the telephone. According to Celestine, Giles’s foot was resting on a gun that Harris had previously left at the townhouse. This was not the .40-caliber gun that Harris was known to carry. To prevent the gun from inadvertently firing, Celestine moved it, hiding it under the couch.
What happened after Harris, Dean, and Alexander arrived at the townhouse was disputed at trial. Dean, Celestine, Alexander, and Turner all testified that Harris was showing off his new gun and passing it around while the men stood near or in the kitchen. According to each of those four witnesses, Harris asked Giles to return the gun, and in response, without provocation, Giles began to shoot Harris with it.
The same witnesses testified that Giles continued firing until no bullets remained in the gun. In addition to hitting Harris, Giles’s gunfire also hit Dean and Celestine. Celestine grabbed the gun he had previously hidden under the couch and shot back at Giles. Dean, Celestine, Alexander, and Turner testified that they were trapped inside the townhouse because the front burglar bars were locked and that they eventually found the keys and left through the back, carrying Harris with them. Celestine testified that he hid in a closet and called 9-1-1. When they left, Dean, Celestine, Turner, and Harris got into a maroon Ford Expedition and drove a few hundred feet before meeting the ambulance which had just arrived. The ambulance took Harris to the hospital, and he died approximately two days later.
In contrast, Giles testified that Harris had told him that he would have to transport drugs to Alabama to compensate for the burglary losses. According to Giles, when he refused, Harris pulled out his .40-caliber gun and shot him first. He then grabbed the new gun from Turner and returned fire. Giles said that he was shot three or four times and that he called 9-1-1. He took his knife and left the townhouse after the others had left.
Make of that what you will.