Monday, April 28, 2014

Asked why she wants to carry a gun: “I tell them that I don't want to be a victim again” —Mary Shepard

(Photograph of Mary Shepard)

 “...[Mary Shepard] acquired concealed carry licenses from Pennsylvania and Florida, which had reciprocal agreements that allowed her to travel with her firearms in 32 states. Shepard knew exactly what to do if an intruder broke into her house. But in Illinois, carrying a weapon outside the home was a felony [in 2009]. And when the time came that a gun might have saved her from grievous harm, she was at church...

“There had been a half-dozen church break-ins around Union County in the summer of 2009. But the horrendous attack at the Anna First Baptist Church on Sept. 28 left everyone on edge. Residents of Cobden, a community of about 1,000, wondered how something so vicious could happen just 5 miles away. They were shocked to learn the victims included one of their own.

“It was near the end of the workday when church custodian Leona Mount, then 76, came into [Mary] Shepard's office to empty the trash. She said she was going home after emptying the trash. I said, 'OK, Leona.' And that's the last thing I remember,’ Shepard said.

“The assailant had entered through an unlocked door. According to authorities, he beat the two women mercilessly, fracturing Shepard's skull in four places and breaking both cheekbones. She suffered a concussion, shattered teeth and severe damage to her neck, shoulders and back. Mount also survived but suffered a broken nose, a broken jaw and other facial fractures. 

“The robber took two envelopes of money from Shepard's desk and the cash in her purse — less than $300 total. Then he fled, leaving the two elderly women unconscious and bleeding. The Rev. Tony Foeller, then the senior pastor, was in his office a few feet away, but with the door closed and the air conditioner running, he couldn't hear the ruckus.

“‘At 10 minutes till 4, I woke up on the floor and there was blood on the floor,’ said Shepard. ‘I remember looking at my purse and thinking, 'How did my purse get upset?' I picked it up, not noticing that my hand was bloody.

“‘I managed to get up and walk to the end of the hall. Then I collapsed. My bloody handprints were all along the wall. I had on a pale blue shirt, and it was covered with bloody footprints where he had stomped me repeatedly.’

“Foeller discovered the women and called 911. During the first seven days in the hospital, Shepard's family didn't know whether she would live. A week after the attack, police arrested 45-year-old Willis Bates of Anna in a motel 25 miles away in Marion. Bates, who had a criminal history, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

“During the next two years, Shepard underwent four operations: extensive reconstructive surgery on her upper arm, surgeries on her rotator cuffs and surgical implants in the vertebrae of her neck. She endured months of physical therapy. Her bright smile reveals a mouthful of new teeth. She still has pain in her head every morning when she wakes up. And she has completely lost hearing in her left ear.

“It used to be easy for her to get in her car and drive six hours to Chicago to visit relatives. Now she can't do that. She even sold her John Deere riding mower because she can't exert herself cutting grass. But the thing she missed most was not being able the shoot for two years. Though she has returned to the range, the weakness in her arm makes it difficult to fire heavy guns like the Taurus.

“‘I don't remember the actual assault, but I do remember the pain, the suffering, the doctor visits and the changes in my life,’ said Shepard. ‘It goes to show, you never know what can happen. I walked into the church that Monday morning thinking it was the safest place in the world.’

“The face of a movement: As Shepard recovered at home, Illinois became ground zero in the heated battle over gun rights. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court forced Chicago to abandon its 28-year ban on handguns…

“In the summer of 2011, Mary E. Shepard and the Illinois State Rifle Association v. Lisa M. Madigan, et al., was filed in U.S. District Court in Benton, Ill…

“The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [struck] down the Illinois statute in December 2012. Rather than have the state appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the General Assembly voted in July 2013 to allow concealed carry in Illinois… 

“There are plenty of people who don't believe that carrying a gun makes anyone safer. They argue that guns increase the potential for a confrontation to escalate, putting more people in danger. So far, Shepard said she hasn't run into anyone in public who has challenged her. The most they will do, she said, is ask why she wants to carry a gun. Her answer is straight and simple:

“‘I tell them that I don't want to be a victim again,’ she said.”


  1. Individual stories can be used to make any point. Last week, a nine year old shot a four year old. Who's the victim there?

  2. Richard,

    I have always advocated secure firearm safety and storage in the home. The issue in the above story is something I have witnessed.

    When I worked as a reserve police officer, a few of my experiences weren't very pleasant. I concluded a long time ago that by the time the police arrive, it's usually too late.

  3. Well, she will have her gun soon enough, and get to hide it from her fellow citizens too! Let's hope she uses it wisely. If she gets spooked or makes an error and kills a fellow citizen, it will be too late as well.

    I am opposed to private ownership of fire arms. But at the very least, should I know who around me is armed? I'm no criminal, but I bet a few heated arguments will now end in tragedy

  4. If you want to know who is armed around you, there are several states that allow "open carry": Vermont, Arizona, Alaska, Virginia, Montana, Kentucky, to name a few.

    I agree: let us hope with all her training and self-restraint, she will handle her weapon "wisely." I would be more worried about mentally-ill felons rather than law-abiding citizens who conceal carry.

    Indeed, when a "heated argument" erupts between a violent criminal and others, it usually "ends in tragedy." It will also end quite differently between rational individuals.

  5. The line between sanity and insanity is well-defined. Gun control legislation that mandates prohibitions on concealed weapons and possession of any firearms by felons or the mentally-deranged is necessary. Gun control legislation that mandates prohibitions on concealed weapons and possession of firearms for law-abiding citizens will not deter a deranged murderer like Lanza from obtaining weapons.

    We can imagine how impossible it is to predict who will become the next terrorist. I prefer to be armed when protecting my family...

    It's a choice, Richard, as it should be: you have the right not to own a weapon and conceal carry. Other law-abiding citizens should also have the constitutional right to own a weapon and conceal carry for sport and self-defense.

  6. The young man who committed the atrocities at Virginia Tech was clearly mentally ill and had been diagnosed as such but we have no national central data base of gun purchasers to check against the lists of the mentally ill, thanks to the NRA.

    The man who shot up the movie theater in Aurora Colorado was able to buy all his guns completely legally. This last gentlemen was also able to buy SIX THOUSAND ROUNDS OF AMMUNITION without it raising a red flag. He had a clip to shoot 100 bullets at a time, again thanks to the NRA. (You can't buy six thousand tablets of cold medication without having to explain yourself, given the meth epidemic.)

    Nancy Lanza, merge mother of Adam from Newtown, was the poster child for NRA gun ownership (an otherwise "defenseless" law abiding white woman heavily arming herself against some sort home intrusion from marauding criminals). She was able to construct a small arsenal without anyone thinking to ask if she lived with a mentally ill person (she was, her own son) and demanding what precautions she might take to make sure the weapon didn't fall into the wrong hands, thanks again to the NRA. And twenty four teachers and children paid the price.

    I do not believe private citizens should own guns. A moment of anger and thoughtlessness is just too possible for all of us . . .

    That's not possible to achieve in America. But I do believe that every gun owner everywhere should have to a license (just like driving a car), earned only after a background check and demonstrated competency. They should have to register their weapon upon purchase (just like their car), and every bullet and gun purchase be kept in a database, checked daily against a list of people who have criminal backgrounds, who are mentally ill and whom mental health workers tag as danger to themselves and others. And people who are stockpiling guns and ammo ought to be brought to law enforcement's attention.

    Many current gun control measures DO WORK. For example, fully automatic machine guns (such as the military use) are strictly controlled and, given the stiff penalties for ownership of them, only the most demented career criminal tries to get one. The five-day waiting period for a handgun must have prevented at least a few (and possibly many) angry people from picking up a gun and settling a score. The problem is I can't show you all the people who didn't die - that statistic is impossible to ascertain.

    In Canada, you need two people to vouch for you before you can get a hand gun permit. Imagine that.

    In Japan in 2008, only 11 people died from gun homicides. Imagine that here. It would mean only 25 people adjusting for our size.

    1. I cannot verify whether the statistic you offer about Japan is valid; however, let me offer you a quotation regarding a comparison between the U.S. and Japan from a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University:

      "The two nations differ enormously on almost all hypothesized determinants of homicide rates, including degree of social solidarity, cultural and ethnic homogeneity, history of racial conflict, hierarchical rigidity, obedience to authority, and subjective sense of unjust deprivation. Further, most of these differences are not currently measured, making it impossible to empirically disentangle effects of these variables from effects of gun levels on homicide" (Kleck, Gary (2006). Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction).

  7. Indeed, guns and a plethora of ammunition are in the hands of the mentally impaired. Unfortunately, there's nothing you or I can do to change their depraved genetic pre-dispositions, or the unfortunate environmental influences of mentally-ill people.

    I have written prior that “gun control legislation [that mandates] prohibitions on concealed weapons and possession of firearms by felons and the mentally-deranged, and laws imposing conditions and qualifications on a [specific] commercial sale of arms [are essential]…” (District of Columbia v. Heller – Case Brief Summary).

    Gun control legislation for law-abiding citizens will never deter the everyday robber or the potentially-deranged terrorist from obtaining illegal weapons, despite the government's feeble attempt to require states to automate a list of past felons and other mentally-disturbed individuals in the federal database since the carnage at Virginia Tech.

    It is impossible to predict who will become the next assassin. It is impossible to repossess the millions of weapons that are in our world.

    Therefore, I believe the 2nd amendment's declaration that “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is a guaranteed constitutional right of the State as well as an assured right of an individual for protection against the mentally impaired (the borderline deficient, morons, imbeciles, and idiots); the substance-induced (alcoholics and drug addicts); the schizophrenic, psychotic, paranoid, delusional, depressive, anti-social, and other disturbed personalities.

  8. Dear Richard,

    I appreciate your sincerity and your passionate belief in gun control. I wish we both could live in a better world, one without inexplicable and unreasonable violence, suffering and death.