Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Survivor Story: Liz Hjelmseth

Today we have a guest post from Liz Hjelmseth, who, as a child, survived being shot by her brother.  Below is her survivor story and how the event has changed her life.  She now works to help prevent other such shootings as an organizer for her local Moms Demand Action chapter.

Liz Hjelmseth as a child
I was 8 years old the Halloween my brother shot me in a fight over my cat. As I hopped off to the bathroom to die in the bathtub, thinking it would be easier for my Mom to clean up, he followed behind me apologizing and telling me he didn’t mean to do it. That was the very last time words were ever passed between us about the shooting. 

We went into shock together but luckily my sister was home and she knew what to do. Miracles happened that day, living through it was the one I cherish the most. Me living through it, my brother living through it and my family living through it. All of those miracles were not a given the moment my teenaged brother, who was not thinking straight because of a flash of anger, went to another room got a gun that was improperly stored, lifted it in anger, pointed it hastily and pulled the trigger.

Extraordinary measures were taken to keep me alive. I slept through most of that. I woke days later to hear the story of my shooting, the story that would be repeated over and over, the one my brother and I knew was not true. The story was my brother was playing with a gun he didn’t know was loaded, it accidentally went off, striking me. So to the world it was playing and accidental, something we can all have a good laugh about and a shrug of the shoulder and go on. Playing is fun right? Accidents are not worthy of our scrutiny because they are no one’s fault they are unpreventable. No one ever asked me what my version of the story was and I didn’t offer it.

That story most likely held us together as a family and for that I will be forever thankful. The story did have consequences though. I think about the little me going off to bed every night, never able to sleep very well, always afraid someone was going to kill me. My parents would repeat over and over, “No one is going to kill you Lizzy. Why would you think that?” Maybe because every night I had to go to bed knowing the person sleeping in the room next to mine did try to kill me, but we never spoke those words. During the day I could live the story but at night, when your brain leaves you open to truths, I could not keep faithful to the story and so I stayed awake, holding vigil. I held vigil for 22 years until I couldn’t do it any longer. I gave my version of the shooting at age 30 to my family. The healing started and it continues today. The shooting has been re-categorized as a terrible thing that happened, still with very little fault.

What I have come to realize is accidents don’t happen with guns. Guns have one purpose, to kill, and so if you pick one up and handle it carelessly and it does exactly what it is designed to do there is no accident. If you are an adult that leaves guns lying around and a child gets one and shoots themselves or someone else that is no accident, you are at fault.

Next time you hear the news anchor say these words, “A child was accidentally shot today…” know there are no accidents. There is a story that child and family will live but that story is no accident.

Monday, August 3, 2015

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Yet Another Gun Shop Owner)

The NRA says that carrying guns makes us safer and scares away the "bad guys with guns."  With that philosophy, shouldn't gun stores be the safest places in the U.S.?

And yet, here is yet another case (like THIS ONE and THIS ONE) where that simply wasn't true.

Jon Bieker and his wife Becky were in the gun store that they own, called the cutesy name "She's A Pistol" (which targets women as customers) in Shawnee, Kansas, both of them were armed with loaded handguns, when a "customer," came up to the counter to talk to Becky about a handgun.  Then three more people came in, armed. According to one of the suspects, the plan was for them to grab a handgun and then make a run for it, stealing it.  But that's now how things went down.

One of the four robbers leaped over the counter and punched Becky in the face, but then Jon, hearing the commotion, came out of a back room and opened fire.

What followed was a massive shootout which left two of the robbers injured and Jon Bieker injured and dying, surrounded by hundreds of his guns.  

Bieker later died in the hospital.  The suspects were captured after they tried to knock on the back door of a woman's home and the woman called 911 (instead of trying to shoot them, I'll add).

From an article:

Jon Bieker was killed and the man who allegedly shot him was placed in a medically induced coma following the Jan. 9 shootout. Three other suspects are in jail on first-degree murder charges while Becky Bieker is preparing to reopen her business, which specializes in offering personal protection options to females.
Yet the irony is that they can't protect themselves!

The irony is increased considering Becky's comments a few years ago:
In 2013, Becky Bieker explained why she is in business during an interview with KCTV. 
"People understand now that they can't rely on someone else or something else to protect them. They have to do it themselves," she said.

If Bieker hadn't opened fire, there's a good chance that no one would have died and the only problems would have been a stolen gun and Becky's bruised face.  Instead there was a shootout.  Jon's guns and all of his training didn't save him.

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself.... Oh, Wait.... (Open Carry Idiot)

William Coleman III had just purchased his brand new Walder P22 handgun and was walking down the street in Gresham, Oregon, proudly exercising his "Second Amendment right" to openly-carry the gun on his hip.

That's when he was approached by a man who said he wanted a cigarette, but when he saw Coleman's gun, he said, "I like your gun. Give it to me," and flashed a concealed handgun of his own.

Coleman then meekly handed over the gun, and the man fled.  

It's just that easy.

From an article:

Coleman, 21, was talking to his cousin in the 17200 block of NE Glisan St., after purchasing the handgun earlier that day, when a young man asked him for a cigarette, police said. 
The man then asked about the gun, pulled a gun from his own waistband and said “”I like your gun. Give it to me.” 
Coleman handed over the gun and the man fled on foot.
But, but...  the NRA says this shouldn't happen.  That simply seeing the gun openly-carried should scare away the bad guys, right??  Instead, it was merely an invitation for a free gun.  

Thankfully, Coleman handed it over instead of getting into a shootout, and no one had to die.  But that's not the fantasy ending that the gun guys dream about, is it?  Remember when Charlton Heston held up a rifle and shouted "from my cold dead hands"??

But there's nothing to keep Coleman from trying this stupidity again, is there?  And now there's one more illegal gun on the market.

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Another Gun Shop Owner)

61-year-old Scott Maxie was in the gun shop that he owned in Indianapolis, Indiana, called Muscatatuck Outdoors, when three men entered.  

Despite being surrounded by his lethal weapons, Mr. Maxie was shot to death by the men:

Monday night, Dejaun Worthen, 23; Darion Harris, 20; and Darryl Worthen, 24, were taken into custody at an Indianapolis home. Maj. Jerry Shepherd of the Jennings County Sheriff's Office said all three men are being held without bond in the Jennings County Jail on charges of murder and robbery.
The suspects were arrested in connection to the slaying of 61-year-old Scott Maxie, Shepherd said. Maxie was found shot in the head Sunday night at his gun shop near the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.
The men then stole 47 guns from the store.  Only four of those guns were recovered.  One of the suspects, Worthen, was a FedEx driver who stopped by the store on his route.

How is this possible?  The NRA has suggested many times that having a loaded gun will protect you from the "bad guys with guns," (remember the ridiculous post-Sandy Hook statement by Wayne LaPierre?).  And yet, time after time (as I have chronicled), this has failed to protect people -- including highly-trained gun owners with guns at the ready.

This isn't the first time a gun shop owner, surrounded by his lethal weapons, was killed by shooters.  HERE is another example.

Just goes to show you that, despite the NRA rhetoric, guns don't make you safer.

Friday, July 31, 2015

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (The Packing Priest)

Rev. Joseph Terra was in the rectory of the Mother of Mercy Mission in Phoenix, Arizona, when he heard a suspicious sound outside in the courtyard.  Instead of calling police, he decided to investigate the sound himself and opened the kitchen door to the outside.

That's when a Gary Michael Moran, 54, an "ex-convict with a history of violence and drug abuse" and "a career criminal, a violent felony offender," pushed his way inside and started beating Terra with a metal rod.  If only Terra had had a gun to defend himself, as recommended by the NRA!  Oh wait, he did!  From an article:

Badly injured, Terra made it to his bedroom and retrieved his .357-caliber gun but was unable to fire before the attacker grabbed it, forced the priest to his knees and demanded money, according to court records.

Terra then blacked out.

When another priest, Rev. Kenneth Walker, came to investigate what was happening, Moran then shot Walker to death with Terra's gun. 

Moran then stole a number of items, including a car, and fled the scene.

When Terra woke up, he found Rev. Walker and performed last rites on him.

Moran was eventually apprehended after tips from people he had bragged to, and DNA evidence:

During the investigation, Terra was only able to provide a limited description of the suspect, but detectives said they were later able to link Moran to the crime scene through DNA. 
Witnesses also helped authorities identify Moran. 
On Sunday, a man came to the police station to report that he had heard Moran "was bragging about beating a priest and robbing him," according to court records. 
A day later, a woman told police Moran had given her a black bag that contained the priest's camera.
Too bad Terra had a gun.  Rev. Walker might be alive otherwise.  Beatings with blunt force objects, such as metal rods, only have a death rate less than 5%, whereas being shot has a death rate up around 85%.

And in case you were wondering why a priest would have a gun, particularly in a church called "Mother of Mercy," the article had this to say:
Police confirmed that Terra's gun was used to shoot Walker. 
Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted said over the weekend that the question of gun ownership among priests has not been a topic of discussion and isn't prohibited by the church. 
"There are some priests that go hunting for javelina, and for deer and for elk," Olmsted said. "So there would be some (gun owners), but it's not a question that I generally ask priests."
But it wasn't a rifle that Terra had in his room.  It was a handgun -- as in for self-defense.  Having a gun around to kill someone doesn't sound very "godly" to me.  Others have questioned the validity of priests having guns, as a result of this case.

Just another example of how owning a gun does not guarantee your safety and can actually increase your chances of dying.

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Like Father Like Son)

James Johnson was at the funeral home he owns in North Carolina when his son, Garcia Johnson, arrived, armed with a handgun, and the two had a confrontation.  The argument, apparently over who would perform a funeral, escalated into a shootout with multiple shots fired.  The father was shot multiple times and wasn't expected to survive at first.

The son eventually turned himself in.

Too bad the father wasn't armed with a gun, too, as the NRA says it would have protected him.  Oh wait...  he was!  From an article and news video:

WFMY News 2 has learned James Johnson was armed when he was shot. Rockingham County District Attorney Craig Blitzer says police took a gun out of the father's hand when they got to the shooting scene Friday.
Additionally, since the father was armed, the son isn't being charged with attempted murder, but rather a lesser charge, as well as a lower bail bond:

After speaking with Johnson's attorneys, Blitzer agreed to a lowered bond of $200,000 [from $1-million]. Johnson must also wear a GPS monitoring device.
The main reason why Blitzer says he agreed to a lower bond is because Garcia's father also had a gun. He says that fact is also the reason why Garcia is not charged with attempted murder. He is charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Kill.
"If there was no firearm in the father's hand, there would have been an Attempted Murder charge," said Craig Blitzer, Rockingham County District Attorney.

Guns don't solve problems, and having a gun on you doesn't mean you are safer.  In fact, it may escalate the situation from an argument to a shootout.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait .... (Pastor And Former Policeman)

69-year old Don Frazier, a pastor and former policeman in Harris County, Texas, was in bed with his wife on the Fourth of July when he heard a suspicious noise downstairs.

Instead of calling police, Don decided to get his loaded handgun and go downstairs to investigate.

That's when he encountered the unarmed burglar, Daniel Durham.  The two fought, and Durham took the gun from the pastor, made him beg for his life, then shot him dead and fled the scene.

From an article:
Sheriff s deputies said the preacher and his wife heard a noise downstairs in their garage it was the sound of their generator turning on. Deputies said when the preacher went down to investigate, somehow Durham managed to take the homeowner s gun.
Deputies said Durham told them the pastor was on the floor begging for his life and that s when Durham pulled the trigger and shot Frazier in the head.
Frazier s wife heard the shooting and called 911 as Durham fled.
Area residents heard the gunshots, but some said they thought they were fireworks.
Every life is precious, and Mr. Frazier did not deserve to die.  But it makes me wonder what would have happened if he had called the police instead of confronting the burglar.  And if Frazier hadn't been armed with a gun, would the burglar have still killed him?

One thing is certain, though:  having a loaded gun did not help him that night.