Saturday, February 17, 2018
Public safety

Shootings in Hernando County show guns do kill people

Michael Challis, 34, started the argument in May and made it worse — yelling at Christopher Asciolla and his father about their dog, banging on the door of the Asciollas' house in Spring Hill.

The Asciollas armed themselves and walked outside. Challis took a gun from the father, and Asciolla, 28, shot and killed Challis.

Even in this version of events — which, of course, lacks any input from the victim — you can see that nobody had to die.

Asciolla didn't have to get a gun, didn't have to leave the house. Saving a life, in this case, could have been as simple as dialing 911.

As Times staffer Tony Marrero wrote last week, 2013 was deadly in Hernando County. Nine people were killed by other people — one of the highest one-year totals in recent memory — seven of them by gunshots.

Did all of them die because of guns? Of course not. And trying to state exactly what would have happened in these situations without guns is tricky, if not impossible.

But look at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office descriptions of these shootings and you see that guns were available, that in most cases these weapons did little to protect the owners or the people they loved, that they seemed to facilitate a lot more violence than they prevented.

Most of us would feel foolish if we engaged in a shouting match over a matter as petty as a dirty soup can.

It became a lethal issue because George Avedissian, 68 — who had argued about the soup can with a 24-year-old man who was renting a room from him — got a rifle.

After Avedissian shot at the renter, the younger man took the rifle and shot and killed Avedissian.

The matter of a husband abusing a wife is, unlike a mess in the kitchen, very serious. We don't know how violent Shawn Moore had been to his wife, Jeanne, or what violence he was threatening at their home east of Brooksville the day after Christmas.

We do know that, rather than call the Sheriff's Office, she shot and killed him. We know that she and her family will have to live with this decision for the rest of their lives.

Kenny Schreffler, 43, was in a lot of fights in his life, and in November, it seems, he was about to get in a bad one with Juan Francisco Perez, 29.

Schreffler had a bat, so somebody may have ended up badly hurt and, yes, possibly even dead. That became pretty much a certainty, though, because Perez had a gun. He injured Schreffler's girlfriend and shot and killed Schreffler.

Are there any examples from last year that counter these, in which residents with weapons kept home invaders or potential rapists at bay or brought them to justice?

Well, you can't search a computer for crimes thwarted, so nobody can say for sure, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney. But she did ask around, and no deputy she talked to could remember such a case.

Even so, Sheriff Al Nienhuis told me, he believes in the right to bear arms and produced a lot of the usual arguments in favor of that position.

I didn't expect anything different. Talking about the dangers of gun violence is for big city police chiefs, not sheriffs in strongly progun counties.

Still, Nienhuis could have stated the obvious: that it's best to leave the handling of guns to people trained and paid for that purpose — his deputies, the pros.

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