TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Murder in Paducah. My Neighbor is Dead.

Don't Shoot, By Miles Tebbutt

There is a house across the street that is full of people. It's a problem house. Dogs run around without a leash, scaring the postal worker and kids walking by, fights break out between the tenants and other neighbors, and there is just a sense of chaos around that place. Last night it escalated into real violence, ending up with the death of one of them. My relationship with them has centered on frustration around their lack of dog control as they cross the street and provoke mine, who are fenced, into a frenzy.

At 4AM last night, a loud bang woke me up and my dogs went out of control with their barking. The noise sounded about the same as when the electrical terminals exploded during the Ice Storm we had in February, so I thought another one had shorted out. When I opened the door, I found that there was a firetruck, ambulance and around ten cop cars out front. There was a lot of action on the front porch on that house across the street. I watched for about an hour, knowing that I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep. There was a lot of screaming and crying. I saw the medics go to the back of the house and come back with a body on a stretcher. I finally went back to bed and had nightmares for the rest of the night.

In the morning, the cops were still there. One of the tenants crossed the street and told me what had happened. Some girlfriend of some guy who didn't live there was at the house, the boyfriend came and when one of the guys opened the door to him, he was shot in the chest with a shotgun. Dead. Gone. I kept having images in my head of him playing with his dog, joking around. He was very sweet in his own way.

I moved to Kentucky four years ago from Chicago. Big city to small town, USA. Lots of differences, but all of the same social problems, although there is less organized gang violence here. Still, there is plenty of good and bad in both places. I was in the heart of the inner city in Chicago and had seen my share of bad stuff. I was at a pastor's house once and we ducked as a bullet came in through the kitchen window. I saw a teenager walking around with an ouzi. My apartment was broken into twice and once I nabbed the burglar. He slipped out of my grasp and jumped out of the window and ran, duh, TOWARDS the police station a block away. They caught him with my camera and boombox in hand. When I first moved to Chicago in 1984, I made a decision that I would not live in fear. I would try not to be stupid, but I knew that I was not the probable target and that if I were sensible, I'd probably be OK. Same thing here.

But, when I first arrived in Paducah, I had a part-time job at Hancock's of Paducah, one of the largest suppliers of specialty quilt fabrics in the world. As I cut fabric, I enjoyed the stories told by the sweet women who worked there. Repeatedly, they warned me that if someone broke into my house, I was to make sure to kill, not injure. Apparently, a thief can sue you if they come on to your property and your dog bites them. Later, I kenneled my dogs when I went out of town with this tiny, little, blond woman who had a bunch of horses, labs, and birds. When I picked them up, I told them that I was going to take the dogs to a forest preserve, Land Between the Lakes, so they could go swimming. She said she never goes there without her gun, but I should be OK with four dogs to protect me. It's a very strange thing to move from a place where the criminals have guns to another one where the citizens also subscribe to being armed. Feels like what my friend Abdul describes in Afghanistan, where everyone has rifles hanging from their kitchen ceilings.

Like most things in my life, I have contradictory feelings about all of this. I have no interest in owning a gun, I know that I would never defend myself that way, and I believe that the argument for owning these weapons are flawed and unconvincing. We live in a violent society which has violence on a pedestal. I'm part of it, too. I love well-done war movies, I listen to murder mysteries all the time, and I understand the need people have to feel like they need protection. Without my dogs, I would feel terribly vulnerable here. Yet, anyone with a gun could come in and shoot us all down in a few seconds. It's all a very sad and hopeless state of affairs. Friends report on the escalation of violence in large cities in South America where homes are now protected with high walls and topped off with electrical fences. They say it feels like one is a prisoner in their own home. I really don't see how we can change all of this except to choose peace and conflict resolution in our own small circles and hope that it will become contagious. I know that the law of the land here will never support gun control as it is in other industrialized nations, so I just have to hope that when a bullet comes my way, I can duck fast enough... By the way, the cops here in Paducah are really great. I have seen them deal with several crises and they are always calm, cool, collected and they get their job done. They caught the suspect!

Shotgun Chair by Alex Reh of Texas

The following facts are from the
Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence:

FACT: In 2006, there were 30,896 gun deaths in the U.S: 12,791 homicides (41% of total deaths), 16,883 suicides (55% of total deaths), 642 unintentional shootings (2% of total deaths), 360 from legal intervention (1.2% of total deaths) and 220 from undetermined intent (.8% of total deaths).

(Numbers obtained from CDC National Center for Health Statistics mortality report online, 2009.)

"Standard Issue Smith & Wesson," by Stephanie Syjuco

FACT: Suicide is still the leading cause of firearm death in the U.S., representing 54.6% of total 2006 gun deaths nationwide. In 2006, the U.S. firearm suicide total was 16,883, a decrease from 2005 total of 17,002 gun suicides. Total gun suicides in Illinois for 2006 were 372, a decrease of 12% from the 2005 number 424. Over half of suicides in the U.S. are committed with firearms.

(Numbers obtained from CDC National Center for Health Statistics mortality report online, 2009; and the American Association of Suicidology.)

FACT: While handguns account for only one-third of all firearms owned in the United States, they account for more than two-thirds of all firearm-related deaths each year. A gun in the home is 4 times more likely to be involved in an unintentional shooting, 7 times more likely to be used to commit a criminal assault or homicide, and 11 times more likely to be used to attempt or commit suicide than to be used in self-defense.

(A Kellerman, et al. Journal of Trauma, August 1998; Kellerman AL, Lee RK, Mercy JA, et al. “The Epidemiological Basis for the Prevention of Firearm Injuries.” Annu.Rev Public Health. 1991; 12:17-40.)

pistol own skin 2004 by Joanneke Meester, Netherlands

FACT: 59% of students in grades six through twelve know where to get a gun if they want one, and two thirds of these students say they can acquire a firearm within 24 hours. (Harvard School of Public Health.)

FACT: As of 1994, 44 million Americans owned more than 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Although there were enough guns to have provided every U.S. adult with one, only 25% of adults owned firearms. Seventy-four percent (74%) of gun owners possessed two or more firearms.

- National Institute of Justice, May 1997

Precita Park memorial bench. Made with 130 melted guns in honor of a young couple gunned down by an unstable relative. Guns into Art.

FACT: Every two years more Americans die from firearm injuries than the total number of American soldiers killed during the 8-year Vietnam War. In 2003, the total number of people killed by guns in the United States was 30,136.

- Based on data from CDC National Center for Health Statistics WISQARS online data collection system, 2006.

And, this one is from the American Bar Association:

"The overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children younger than 15 years of age is nearly 12 times higher than among children in 25 other industrialized countries combined."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 1997;46:101-105.

"He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."
-Isaiah 2:4




  1. "The official number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States is motor vehicle accidents, accounting for about 43,600 deaths. The next three causes, poisoning, firearms, and falls account for 90,000 deaths." Injuryboard.com

    Cars kill many more people than guns, yet we give children $30K pieces of heavy equipment every day...those same children who can't take care of $20 worth of their own stuff.

    I am sorry, but the statistics you cite, while good, are meaningless without looking at the whole picture. It is like looking at red fabric without knowing how it reacts to the surrounding quilt. If you won't do one, why do the other?

    I spent time on the CDC website, but couldn't find your citation. The above was the best I could find. CDC listed 2006 as their only final.

    All unintentional injury deaths

    * Number of deaths: 121,599
    * Deaths per 100,000 population: 40.6
    * Cause of death rank: 5

    Unintentional fall deaths

    * Number of deaths: 20,823
    * Deaths per 100,000 population: 7.0

    Motor vehicle traffic deaths

    * Number of deaths: 43,664
    * Deaths per 100,000 population: 14.6

    Unintentional poisoning deaths

    * Number of deaths: 27,531
    * Deaths per 100,000 population: 9.2

    Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2006, tables B, 18"

    Table B lists firearms at 30,896, including 16,883 suicides. Motor Vehicle is at 43,464, Poisoning at 37,286 (6,109 suicides), Falls at 31,647 (725 suicides).

  2. Oh, Rayela, how horrible for you. Hang in there. I am glad that you have chosen not to change your stance about guns. My brother is NYPD, and I had a long conversation with a friend about why I feel that he should not be able to carry the gun for which he is licensed in NYC across state lines. If we're all packing, how do you tell the good guys from the bad ones? There was an interesting experiment I saw on TV recently. This answered the question about whether VA tech students would have been safer armed. They gave the college students laser guns to carry, and surprised them with an attack. The outcome was that none of the attackers were shot, most of the gun carrying students were fatally shot, and one student accidentally shot another. Normal citizens are not trained to respond with firearms, the same way we are not trained to fight fires. Could we if we had to? Certainly. But I'd not like to live in a world where having to was a daily thing.

  3. RJ, sure we have many, many social problems and highlighting one does not negate the whole picture. I try to remember that for every nut that is out there, the balance of good people is overwhelming. I've had many, many instances in my life where I have depended on the "goodness of strangers" and that gives me a great deal of hope.

    Arlee, that was an interesting experiment. I must say that I am grateful for police officers, especially those who seek to diffuse situations where anger can escalate into even greater violence. But, I've often wondered why we do not use tranquilizer guns instead of bullet ones. We have the science to knock people out without having to kill them. I know that that's what tazer guns were supposedly for, but there have been too many reports of how they have been abused, too.

    I took a peace and violence class in college that looked at both from a micro (individual) and macro (national) perspective. It was taught jointly by a religion and philosophy professor, male and female. Fascinating. In the end, each of us makes a contribution to the whole, and I for one, choose not to have guns in my life.

  4. I'm sorry that you have had to confront this right in your own neighborhood, but I do thank you for this well-thought-out post. I also come down close to where you are on this issue.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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