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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.”
from Downstate woman became concealed carry icon by Dahleen Glanton