With these killings, a pattern is developing. Somebody loses his temper, and a loaded gun is within reach. In the first murder, a motorist outside Memphis grabbed his pistol and blazed away at another man during an argument over how close their SUVs were parked. When the legislature set up this handgun permit system, critics warned it would turn Tennessee into the Wild West, with shoot-'em-ups on the streets. That wasn't much of an exaggeration.
What should we do? Should we limit the number of people who may carry handguns? Or should we pass new laws to let trigger-happy gunmen go armed in honky tonks and parks and all sorts of other new places? Oh wait, our legislature already has decided that question.
Gun proponents live a blissfully fact-free existence. As the crime reports stack up, they insist permit holders have never caused any trouble. It's a Big Lie. According to the Safety Department, 706 permits were suspended, revoked or denied in '08, the last year for which any stats are available. There were 263 for felony convictions, 97 for felony arrests and 297 because somebody took out an order of protection against them.
Nationwide, the Violence Policy Center reports more than 100 people have been killed by holders of handgun-carry permits since 2007, including nine law enforcement officers. "They shoot each other over parking spaces, at football games and at family events," says the center's Kristin Rand. "The idea that you're making any place safer by injecting more guns is just completely contradicted by the facts."
A friend of the latest victim says, "I just feel so sad. You're just kind of in a state of shock. You think of people dying at 70-something of a heart attack, but not something like that."