Thursday, April 19, 2018
Public safety

Dan DeWitt: As Reeves case shows, gun owners might not know as much as they think they do

Really, there's no doubt about it: To buy a gun is to invite trouble or death.

Suicide. Accidental shootings. The killing of domestic partners, especially wives and girlfriends.

These are all far more common among people who own firearms, says David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and author of a 2006 book on this subject, Private Guns, Public Health.

"In a home with a gun, the overwhelming evidence is that it is more likely to be used in the killing of someone who shouldn't be killed," Hemenway told me last week.

That leads us to the central irony of gun ownership, and from there to the central conceit of gun owners.

People think guns make them safer, with personal protection being far and away the leading reason given for buying guns in a 2013 Gallup poll.

That means gun owners have to ignore the research or tell themselves that it doesn't apply to them.

They have to tell themselves that they're different — well-trained and responsible.

They have to believe that, unlike the lowlifes and criminals who cause all those unfortunate, unexpected gun deaths, they know what they are doing.

Then, along came Curtis Reeves Jr., who not only blew away a guy for — according to deputies — throwing a bag of popcorn at him in a Pasco County movie theater; he also blew away this silly illusion.

Because no matter how much you think you know about guns, I'll bet you don't know as much as this guy.

Reeves, as we've all heard many times by now, is a retired Tampa police captain.

He not only received extensive training with guns, but probably conducted it as the department's firearms coordinator in the 1980s.

He also helped found the department's SWAT team, which means that he must have shown exceptional judgment about how and when to use firearms; it's hard to imagine a job that demands more of it.

After retiring from the department, he served as director of security at Busch Gardens, where he was so sure of his ability to handle firearms that he clamped down on staffers bringing guns to work and reserved that right for himself and his guards.

"This man has lived with a gun forever," said Dave Cock of Brooksville, who was assistant curator of the bird garden at Busch Gardens during Reeves' first five years there.

So what does it say that Reeves lost control, making him the latest national poster child for, in Hemenway's words, "killing someone who shouldn't be killed?"

Does it say that something similar is bound to happen to everyone who is less of an expert than Reeves?

Of course not. Lots of people manage to live safely with guns. Lots of them are responsible and knowledgeable.

The problem is — as shown by the shooting of the popcorn thrower in Pasco and several recent, especially pointless gun deaths in Hernando County — that there are so many gun owners in this country, about 50 million. At least some of them won't be careful, at least occasionally. A lot of them won't really know what they're doing.

You're not one of them, I'm sure you're thinking, if you're a gun owner.

You got your training. You respect the power of a firearm. You aren't about to do anything stupid.

Yeah? I bet Reeves thought that, too.

Comments
Child, 19 months, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

Child, 19 months, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 19-month-old child was transported to a local hospital Thursday after being found unattended in a pond, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said they were dispatched to a pond behind a home in the 4700 block of...
Updated: 2 hours ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver from Pinellas Park walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevy Camero along Interstate 275 around 11:10 a.m. when he lo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputies: Schwettman student charged in threat on River Ridge High

Deputies: Schwettman student charged in threat on River Ridge High

NEW PORT RICHEY—A Schwettman Education Center student was arrested Wednesday after he threatened an attack on River Ridge High School, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The student, 15, is facing a charge of falsely reporting a bomb or f...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Teen, 16, struck by motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

Teen, 16, struck by motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

A 16-year-old was injured Thursday morning after being struck by a motorcycle on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Around 6 a.m., Saul Paulino walked into the path of the motorcycle driven by Austin Montgomery, 23, in the outermo...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Deputies: Seminole man burglarizes house, then sets it on fire

Deputies: Seminole man burglarizes house, then sets it on fire

SEMINOLE — A Seminole man was arrested Wednesday night after detectives linked him to the burglary of a house that was later set on fire.Homeowner Lance Clipper, 52, reported the burglary when he arrived at his house, 8350 Flame Vine Ave., around 2:4...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

BROOKSVILLE — A 16-year-old boy was killed and a 17-year-old boy critically injured after their car was struck by a pick-up truck at the intersection of U.S. 19 and Country Road on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The cras...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

LARGO — The Pasco-Pinellas state attorney cleared a Largo police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old man last month.The letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Officer Matthew Steiner was "in imminent fear for his life" during the March 23 e...
Published: 04/18/18
Six children hurt as school bus overturns in Hernando crash

Six children hurt as school bus overturns in Hernando crash

Alexander Segovia, 33, of Ocala, was hauling toilet paper in the 2017 truck south on I-75 and exited at S.R. 50, the FHP said. He was driving in the west outside lane, trooper said, when he failed to make a full stop at a red light, partially entered...
Published: 04/18/18
Deputies find $480,000 worth of marijuana in Valrico homes

Deputies find $480,000 worth of marijuana in Valrico homes

VALRICO — Five people were arrested Tuesday after Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies said they found $480,000 worth of marijuana in their homes.Deputies obtained search warrants for those locations and found 44 marijuana plants and six pounds of process...
Published: 04/18/18
Skydiver seriously injured at Zephyrhills’ Skydive City

Skydiver seriously injured at Zephyrhills’ Skydive City

ZEPHYRHILLS — A skydiver was reported to be in critical condition after an incident at Skydive City, according to Pasco County Fire Rescue.The injured person was found near a pond and was flown to a hospital for medical treatment, the agency said.MOR...
Published: 04/18/18