Thursday, November 7, 2013


You just never know what you're going to find when you are looking for a missing person.

More to come, pending final analysis.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


In December 2005, 22-year-old Mary Comiskey, mother of two young children, disappeared suddenly in the vicinity of the small town of Parachute, Colorado.

In July 2013, human remains were found by hikers, along the Colorado River along County Road 309, a few miles east of Parachute. Details are a little sketchy, but CR 309 parallels the Colorado River between Parachute and Rulison.  It is not reported whether the remains were closer to the road or closer to the river. DNA testing on the remains confirms that they are the remains of Mary Comiskey.  Her remains were found less than a mile-and-a-half from where she was last seen and just a couple of hundred yards from where Mary's jacket was found back in 2008.

Remains of Mary Comiskey, missing since 2005, found- Denver Post 7/18/13
Human Remains Discovered Along Colorado River ID’d As Woman Who Disappeared In 2005- CBS4, Denver 7/18/13

Kirk Mitchell of the Denver Post's Cold Case Blog profiled the case back in February 2010.

"Shortly after Mary Comiskey, then 22, was seen sitting in a white minivan outside a ranch house in rural Garfield County several miles from Parachute on Dec. 17, 2005, she vanished."

"Her half sister Michelle Loudy, 38, who was last seen with her, said she may have fallen down a ravine in a snowstorm and been carried away by wild animals or gotten in a car with someone and taken off for a new life."

According to the Denver Post 2010 report, Mary Comiskey had become involved with a group of friends who were admittedly heavy methamphetamine users.  This group included her half-sister and Mary's boyfriend at the time, a transient former oil rig worker from Louisiana named Bill Sonnier, who was some 20 years older than Mary.

Mary's jacket was found a few days after she disappeared, in an apple orchard not far from where she was last seen by her half-sister. Now, eight years later, her remains have been found within a few hundred yards of where the jacket was found.

Cause of death has not been publicly released.  I think it is safe to speculate that contrary to the statement of Michelle Loudy, Mary did not "take off for a new life".  Instead, she met an untimely death. Prayers are sent out today on behalf of Mary Comiskey's two young children.

Rest in Peace
Mary Comiskey
d. ~12/17/2005


Time eats away at the shallow dirt graves in which murderers try to hide the physical evidence of their crimes.   Time also eats away at the shallow dirty souls in which they try to hide the guilty knowledge of their evil actions.  Either way, the truth eventually comes to light. To the murderer of Mary Comiskey, as well as to the murderer of Jack Gordon, I say "tick-tock, tick-tock..."

Monday, July 22, 2013


I've got nothing new or interesting.  Dead bodies everywhere you look, it seems like.  But, I did see this recent post by John Lilyea over at This Ain't Hell (But You Can See It From Here) blog that is worth a read.  Check it out.  John has a good blog, mostly dealing with Stolen Valor, but also touching on other relevant current issues.

What about the criminals’ “duty to retreat”? I have no way to escape someone who has forcibly gained entrance to my residence because I can barely walk. So if a criminal doesn’t want to be shot, he should depart as soon as the Glock 30 comes off my night table, because it’s his duty to stop in the commission of his crime. I’m not going to shoot someone in the back who is making his escape from the ten rounds of .45 caliber ammunition. So, why is it my duty to retreat, something I’m physically incapable of doing anyway? 

You know the old saying, "God made man,  Samuel Colt made them equal."**   Jack Gordon was 77 years old and not physically suited for a fistfight.  He did not carry a firearm, by choice, even in the remote and sometimes lawless reaches of the Sangre de Cristo ranches.  I like to think that Jack 'Stood His Ground' to the best of his ability that day.  Who knows if it would have made a difference that day in 2008 if he had been armed? 

**(Actually, according to the Colt Mfg. Co. the original saying was, "Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.")

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


     The Durango Herald has reported (June 27) that searchers have located skeletal remains and personal effects of young Dylan Redwine along Middle Mountain Road, north of Vallecito Reservoir near Durango, CO.  Dylan's case was profiled on this site previously (Part 1 and Part 2).  

Dylan Redwine's remains found- Durango Herald

Middle Mountain is north of Vallecito Reservoir. The search area ranges from 8,000 to 11,000 feet in elevation and consists of deep canyons and dense forest. Searchers found “articles” they thought might be linked to the case Sunday. At first they were uncertain if they found human or animal remains, Bender said. They spent four more days combing the area to be sure they retrieved all possible pieces of evidence.

Public announcement of a cause of death has not yet been made, pending results of a forensic examination. 

     Dylan had flown from Colorado Springs to the Durango area for a holiday visit at Thanksgiving time 2012.  The next morning he left his father's house, ostensibly to meet up with some local friends.  He did not return to the house and was reported missing later that day.  Dylan's parents had been divorced the previous year and his mother had relocated from the Four Corners region to the Front Range. 

     There have been accusations and counter-accusations about possible parental involvement in the disappearance.  It does seem possible to me that Dylan, a young teenager who was reportedly resentful of being at his father's house (as indicated by a text message he sent his mother the evening he arrived in Durango), deliberately ran away.  He could have hiked up Middle Mountain Road and fallen victim to environmental exposure.  Autopsy results will be crucial in differentiating this possible theory from a theory of possible murder.  It may be that the hardest part of this case for the family still lies ahead, as more revelations are made.

Rest In Peace


     On a general note, as we see time and time again, it is remarkable how well human bones are preserved after a body has been exposed to the elements, even for many years (here, here, here and here).  It gives me hope that Jack Gordon's remains will one day be found.

Friday, June 21, 2013


UPDATE:   Here are some photos from this afternoon from our place.  This is the smoke from the West Fork fire near Pagosa Springs, about 60 miles west of us.  The smoke started building in around 4:30 to 5:00.  That red dot in the first picture is the sun, which was completely blocked out within a few minutes.


This has been a month of large fires in Colorado.  Closest to us here in Costilla County is the East Spanish Peak fire, which broke out within the last couple of days and has rapidly expanded to more than 9,000 acres, according to latest from the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

Report as of 2:24 pm June 21:

The East Peak Fire continues to grow in size with zero % containment. The fire broke out Wednesday, June 19, at 5:10p.m. The fire located near LaVeta, Colorado, in Huerfano County is now at 9,100 acres. Winds are expected out of the SW at 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Hot, dry and windy conditions will likely create critical fire weather. The smoke plume is expected to rise considerably by midday.

The Spanish Peaks, also known as the Twin Sisters, are a pair of peaks nearly 14,000 feet above sea level with a uniquely symmetric appearance.  The two jutting prominences (which are set apart somewhat from the nearby Sangre de Cristo range and thrown into more stark relief as a result) are said to by some to resemble a pair of woman's breasts.

On Wednesday, during the early stages of the East Peak fire it approached a Boy Scout camp.  The scouts were given short notice to pack up and get out, and all were evacuated safely.  The fire later engulfed and destroyed the camp.

From the Denver Post, June 20:

A wildfire burning in southern Colorado has forced widespread evacuations, including 178 Boy Scouts who were camping in the mountains of the Spanish Peaks.

The Colorado Office of Emergency Management reports:

The fire has destroyed nine structures and four outbuildings on Boy Scout Ranch near Walsenburg, CO and it is threatening the Spanish Peak Hospital and dozens of commercial structures to include infrastructure, utilities, equipment and watersheds in the area

We drove across La Veta Pass and got these photos of the fire engulfing the entire northeastern slopes of East Spanish Peak late yesterday evening (Thursday June 20). 

The Spanish Peaks or Twin Sisters, as viewed from Old La Veta Pass looking southeast. 
East Spanish Peak viewed from scenic overlook just outside of the town of LaVeta, looking southeast.

More wildfire resources can be found at this site with interactive maps, satellite images and brief summarys arranged by incident:

Prayers for safety of all in the path of these dangerous fires.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


As an update to a post from a couple of days ago.  FBI agents initially widened their search of a suburban Detroit field based on a tip from an elderly gangster according to Reuters.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters on Tuesday the search of the 40- to 50-square-yard (33- to 40-square meter) area would continue at least another 48 hours. He said police and FBI officials remain optimistic but that nothing had been sent for lab analysis so far. The FBI brought in forensic anthropologists from Michigan State University and a cadaver-sniffing dog from Michigan state police to help search a half-acre (0.20 hectare) of the site.

But today brings this news from NBC News Los Angeles (warning- video autoplay):

Federal authorities have ended their search of a suburban Detroit field for Jimmy Hoffa's body after several days of digging turned up no remains, officials said.  Special Agent in Charge Bob Foley said Wednesday that a "diligent" search yielded no additional evidence in the decades-old mystery, and that the operation would be shut down. 

Well, I guess Mr. Hoffa's case goes back on the backlog of curious disappearances, status- unsolved.


It seems this mountain lion had a hankering for that good old American classic, the weiner dog.

Mountain lion euthanized.

Remnants of the Dachshund

"the animal was euthanized and sent to Fort Collins for a necropsy, where remnants of the Daschund were discovered in the stomach contents."

I suppose next we will hear that it had traces of apple pie in the small intestine.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


     Jimmy Hoffa, one-time Teamsters Union boss is one of the most famous missing body cases of all time.  Every so often over the last four decades, an announcement of a break in the case hits the news.  We mentioned one of these here on this site back in September 2012.  Now there is another breathless announcement that authorities know where Hoffa's body is.  Here is the latest from Reuters:

FBI to resume hunt for Jimmy Hoffa's body on Tuesday
An Oakland County sheriff's deputy said digging would resume at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in Oakland Township about 20 miles north of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, where Hoffa was last seen.

Apparently the tip came from an elderly mobster:

       Law enforcement officials decided to comb the lot after reputed mobster Anthony Zerilli, 85, told the FBI Hoffa was buried there. When Hoffa disappeared, the property was owned by a man Zerilli said was Zerilli's first cousin. Zerilli is the son of former Detroit mob boss Joseph Zerilli.

       Zerilli's attorney, David Chasnick, told reporters the FBI spoke with his client over the past seven or eight months and the agency believes "100 percent" Hoffa is buried there. Anthony Zerilli was in prison when the union leader went missing.
       "This was a guy who was intimately involved with some of the players who would be well informed as to where the body would be placed," Chasnick said.

 Of course, this could all be just another publicity-seeking stunt or red herring, as dozens of other Hoffa "revelations" have been.  The jury is still out.  I will keep you informed.

If Jack Gordon's skeletal remains are to be uncovered in Costilla County, it seems we need one of two things.  Either somebody intimately familiar with or involved in the case will need to come forward with a tip.  Or we will need to start a rumor that Jimmy Hoffa is buried in the vicinity of Luke Road.

Friday, May 17, 2013


(News tip from regular commenter Dean0- thanks)

A surprising bit of news emerged from western Colorado this past week.  A hiker near the small town of Gateway stumbled upon a partially buried car.  Inside were the skeletal remains of Mr. Ronald Vasey.

Skeletal remains near Gateway linked to 26-year-old case
Mesa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Matt Lewis told The Daily Sentinel a man hiking alone along steep terrain off John Brown Canyon Road called 911 around 6 p.m. Thursday to report the discovery of a human skeleton inside a vehicle, which was down a cliff roughly 100 feet off the roadway. The hiker found a “very old station wagon” with no license plates, Lewis said. The vehicle was partially obscured by rocks and various sediment, he said.

Reports go on to speculate that Mr. Vasey, who was 65 years old at the time of his disappearance and had been in poor health, probably committed suicide by driving off the cliff in the rugged canyon. 

Coroner identifies skeleton found near Gateway
The Mesa County Coroner Dean Havlik says the skeleton found last Thursday in John Brown Canyon is that of Ronald Vasey, who disappeared in 1987 when he was 65-years-old.

 The condition of the skeleton has not been released to the public, but the remains were sufficient for a positive identification, when taken in conjunction with personal effects found at the scene.  Once again, this case points up the fact that skeletal remains can last for a VERY, VERY long time, especially in very arid climates.  Something to keep in mind for all of you who are hiding or contemplating hiding a body.

Ronald Vasey

Sunday, April 28, 2013


     Yesterday I outlined The Curious Disappearance of Dylan Redwine, a young teenager who disappeared in the vicinity of Bayfield, CO in November 2012.  Despite a vigorous search effort, including forensics analysis of Dylan's father's property, Dylan was never located. The most promising lead seemed to be search dogs finding a scent at the Vallecito Reservoir, a local lake. Preliminary searches of the lake by sonar and divers in December did not uncover any further traces of Dylan. With the deepening winter, the reservoir soon froze over, prohibiting further search.  It has only been within the last couple of weeks that the ice has receded far enough that authorities can resume the search of the reservoir.

From the Durango Herald on April 24, 2013:

Investigators with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office failed to discover new leads in the Dylan Redwine case after searching part of Vallecito Reservoir Tuesday and Wednesday.  Search dogs picked up a scent a few days ago at various points along the reservoir shoreline below Middle Mountain Campground, and dogs’ hits prompted the two-day search.

     The searchers constructed a temporary dyke extending out into that portion of the lake and pumped out the water in a confined area as part of the search this past week.


     Although the physical search was hampered by the cold winter weather, the Redwine case did take a rather bizarre twist during early 2013. In an effort to "get the word out" about Dylan, the family reached out to news organizations and television.  The good news is that they received an invitation to appear on a nationally syndicated television progrsm.  The bizarre news is that the invitation was from Dr. Phil McGraw, host of 'Dr. Phil', a pop-psychiatry spin-off of Oprah Winfrey.  The feature aired as a two-part segment in February 2013. 

     As reported in the Durango Herald, during the first segment, Dylan's divorced parents Mark and Elaine squared off with Dr. Phil as moderator.  The estranged parents soon exchanged accusations of blame.

During the televised interview, Elaine repeatedly insisted that Mark had something to do with their son’s disappearance, and Mark – when he was not on the defensive – stated his unsubstantiated but strong belief that his wife was involved.

“I believe that his mom could have something to do with this,” said Mark, before noting he had no evidence to corroborate this hunch. “She was very quick from the beginning to start pointing fingers at me ... there’s a possibility that she could be keeping him from me.”

Also reported in the Durango Herald, during the second segment, Dr. Phil challenged Mark Redwine to take a polygraph test administered by Dr. Phil's world renowned polygraph experts [ed.=who knew Dr. Phil had polygraph experts?].  Mark had already participated in a polygraph test administered back in Colorado and there were no apparent concerns raised by that test.  Dr. Phil proceeded to badger Mark about his refusal to take another polygraph test in that venue. During the session this exchange occurred:

At one point, Dr. Phil made this offer to Mark: “If you have your son stashed somewhere, or if, God forbid, you flew into a rage and you hurt him accidentally and he's dead, if something has happened, I will help you deal with it now, and we will go recover that young man right now. … But my offer has a shelf life.”

Mark declined.

“Just know that I offered,” said Dr. Phil.

“I'm not involved in this no matter how I come across. I'm not involved,” said Mark Redwine

     I can understand the dilemma faced by the family, wanting to help spread the word in the hope that somebody somewhere knows that one critical piece of information thaat will help them find their loved one. The sad fact of the matter is that there are thousands of missing persons stories, and unless there is a salacious or scandalous 'hook' the national media just does not have an interest in covering them  (e.g.- Natalee Holloway and Paige Birgfeld).  The producers on 'Dr. Phil' did not promote the story as a distraught family seeking the public's help in locating their lost son.  Instead they ran a promotional spot titled, "Who's To Blame", and then Dr. Phil tried to bait Mark Redwine into revealing something incriminating.  I would not be surprised if Dr. Phil was hoping for a flat out confession.  Imagine the ratings boost if that had happened.  I hope Dylan's parents both took a cleansing hot bath with lots of soap after appearing in that venue. 

Here is a little taste of Dr. Phil's style.

     The Curious Disappearance of Dylan Redwine remains unsolved and his official status is still "Missing".  If you have any information related to this case, please contact the La Plata County Sheriff's office at (970) 385-2900 

Saturday, April 27, 2013


     Late in 2012, Colorado had another high-profile disappearance. 13 years old at the time, Dylan Redwine went missing in the vicinity of Bayfield, CO, in the Four Corners region of the state.  The Durango Herald has been following the story closely.  A slideshow and video timeline of the case can be found here.  Other early news reports of Dylan's disappearance are here and here.

Here's a brief re-cap of the story. 

Dylan Redwine had lived in the Bayfield area until his parents divorced earlier in 2012.  During the summer of that year his mother moved to Colorado Springs with Dylan and an older brother. A ruling by the judge in his parents' divorce case granted Dylan's father visitation rights over the Thanksgiving holiday. 

On November 18, 2012, Dylan flew from Colorado Springs to the Durango-Bayfield airport where he was met by his father. They stopped by the WalMart and McDonalds in Durango before heading out to Mr. Redwine's house north of Vallecito Reservoir. Pictures of Dylan were captured on security footage both at the airport and at WalMart.

Dylan Redwine at Durango airport 11/18/2012

Dylan Redwine at Durango WalMart 11/18/2012

Dylan sent a text message to his mother indicating that he had arrived at his father's, and signed off with a frowny-face emoticon.  According to some former school friends of Dylan, he was supposed to meet them at about 6:30 the next morning, but he did not show up. Dylan's father left the house about 7:30 to go to Durango on some errands. That is the last he saw Dylan. When Mr. Redwine returned home about 11:30, Dylan was not at the house. By about 3 or 4 in the afternoon he was worried enough that he called Dylan's mother to see if she had heard from him. She then reported Dylan missing to the Sheriff's office about 6:30 p.m.  The search was on.  Eventually it would include the local sheriff's department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, along with several hundred volunteer searchers.

Some early possible sightings of Dylan either alone or with another youth were later discounted as being someone else. As the early days of the search went on, search dogs were brought in and apparently got a scent response along the dam at Vallecito Reservoir.  The reservoir was searched by sonar and with a dive team but no body was located. 

The story has taken a few twists and turns in the months since then, which I will look at in a future post.  The Curious Disappearance of Dylan Redwine remains unsolved and his official status is still "Missing".  If you have any information related to this case, please contact the La Plata County Sheriff's office at (970) 385-2900

Sunday, April 14, 2013


     When a person goes missing, family and law enforcement try to get the word out early and widely disseminated.  We've all seen the letter sized posters on the window of the local grocery store or convenience store.  When Jack Gordon disappeared in a remote area of southern Colorado the family relied largely on posters and word of mouth in the small community because there is no local television station. 

     But do posters placed in prominent public sites near the site of the person's disappearance really help? Here is an interesting experiment carried out by Sade Malloy a Fox TV News reporter in Colorado Springs.

     I put together my own experiment with a mock missing poster and placed our missing child right in front of it.

     I covered the front doors of a local big box retailer with our mock posters. They had bold letters that read "missing," a picture of our missing child, T.J. Helton, and a detailed description of his last known whereabouts.
     One by one people walked by the posters, some taking a moment to analyze them, others just breezed by.
     Forty minutes went by before one person, Chris Adams, realized our missing child was next to him.

     There are many possible explanations for this phenomenon.  The seeming frequency of missing persons alerts may have resulted in a sort of numbness in the population.  If you aren't aware of the fact that someone has recently gone missing it is probably easy to walk right by a poster without it registering in you conscious mind. I think if you recognize the face, it might draw your attention if only briefly.  There may be only a small subset of the general population that notices such posters.  Then again, it only takes one.

     I think there may be more benefit to actually talking to the store owners or clerks in the locations where you are placing your posters, because they are in a position to see a lot of people coming and going.  Putting your missing persons face in the local sheriff's office may also trigger subconscious awareness in the law enforcement officers who are actually out on the roads encountering folks. I always did wonder, though, whether those posters ever helped. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013


     Regarding Sandy Hook Elementary School and the gun control issue, there have been millions of words from all sides of the issue.  I would like to pose this simple question and analyze it.

"Can we prevent another Sandy Hook, and if so, how?" 

Simply stated, there are three necessary ingredients for a Sandy Hook type event, a depraved state of mind in the perpetrator, a choice of murderous implement and a target of opportunity.

     These three ingredients occur in a roughly linear progression. The murderer reaches the state of mind, selects his implement of destruction and then selects his target.  To prevent similar tragedies interdiction at any of these three stages is fair game for discussion.

1. THE PERPETRATOR- The reason these rare events are so shocking is that we lack the ability to recognize utter depravity before it reaches the point of mass murder.  If we had that capability, preventing another Sandy Hook would be a simple matter. But we don't, so are left with the final two steps in the murderous triptych.

2. THE IMPLEMENT-  In the currently raging schism, we are largely focused on firearms.   The political left chooses to step outside this linear progression (state of mind → implement → target) by preventing law-abiding, non-murderous citizens from possessing firearms on the dubious theory that restricting availability of firearms to law-abiding citizens will eventually limit firearm availability to non-law-abiding folks. This is analogous to outlawing automobiles for everybody because some weirdo plows his SUV into the local farmers' market. The only difference is that the right to possess firearms is specifically delineated in the Bill of Rights.  It also neglects the idea that mass murderers can (and will) choose implements other than firearms (automobiles, flammables and machetes to name just three).

3. THE TARGET- In an ostensibly free society, it comes down to being prepared to protect innocent lives at the point of attack. Citizens as first responders prevented flight 92 from reaching D.C. on 9/11. Hardening cockpit doors and random air marshall presence has kept hijackers out of cockpits since then. We can do the same for our schools. We either are willing to do it or we are not. How will we choose?

Sunday, March 31, 2013


August 9, 2010 in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

"An extensive search for a missing Carbondale man ended Saturday after four days of searching challenging terrain near Redstone, the small town south of Carbondale on Highway 133."

This past week I was out shopping for an ATV.  I was talking to one of the salesmen and the subject of Search and Rescue teams came up.  I mentioned the curious disappearance of Jack Gordon.  The salesman related a story of a friend of his who disappeared near Redstone in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado a couple of years ago.  Here is the story of William Worley.

Worley, 61, (originally identified as a Redstone resident) was reported missing Friday, July 30 [2010].  A search began Wednesday, Aug. 4, after his car was found at the East Creek trailhead near Redstone the prior evening.
Here is a description of the East Creek Trail.
A challenging day hike to the Avalanche Creek divide or a backpack to Avalanche Creek. This little-known trail climbs high over the valley wall above the Crystal River to provide access into the Avalanche Creek drainage. Though steep and challenging, it rewards visitors with fine vistas of the high, granite peaks that make up the western end of the Elk Mountains.

The search soon focused on an area about of about two square miles, comprising extremely steep hillsides with very heavy vegetation.  No trace of Mr. Worley was ever found.

The man who told me about Mr. Worley was involved in the search and described the terrain as incredibly dense and steep.  He thought it very likely that Worley had slipped or fallen from the trail, down a steep hillside and was in such a location as to be undiscoverable.  Friends and authorities all seem to agree that foul play was not a consideration.  They do not consider it at all credible that he went off to "start another life" somewhere.  Worley was reportedly an experienced outdoorsman who hiked and cross country skiied frequently and knew the area very well.

Interestingly, after the initial four-day search was called off there was a hiatus of a couple weeks and then suddenly the search was re-started.  The renewed interest in the search was prompted by some heavy rains that resulted in mudslides in the hills above Redstone.  A water rescue team searched along a stretch of the Crystal River without any results. 

To this day a final determination has not been made in the case of William Worley.  Those close to the case consider it most likely that he is deceased, of accidental causes.  Anyone with information related to the disappearance of William Worley is encouraged to call the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office at (970) 920-5300.


Sunday, March 24, 2013


In the San Luis Valley, there are certainly wild creatures, some of whom have been known to prey on humans, at least occasionally, including lions, bears and even alligators.  This fine young mountain lion paid us a visit in 2009.

Pretty as this cat is however, even if a mountain lion had killed Jack, it would not have dragged his carcass very far afterwards, seeing as how Jack weight well over 200 pounds.  So, the mountain lion as culprit will have to remain in the "What if..." category.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


       Periodically, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation updates its list of the 100 Most Wanted Sex Offenders in Colorado.   The latest listing from November 2012 shows that Jack Gordon's former neighbor John Robert Fureigh is holding steady at #60.  He has not moved up or down in these latest rankings.  What does a felony sex offender have to do to get any recognition for his accomplishments around here?  You surely shouldn't have to kill someone.  Should you?  This is a travesty.

     Well, we're pulling for you John.  Maybe next year you can crack the top 50.  Number 42 with a bullet, as they say. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


     Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak tells rape victim who desires to defend herself by legally carrying a concealed handgun on campus that statistics are not on her side.

Linked from Dana Loesch Radio:   I encourage you to listen to the whole thing and read Dana's post.

“I just want to say, statistics are not on your side, even if you had had a gun. You said that you were a martial arts student, I mean person, experience in taekwondo, and yet because this individual was so large and was able to overcome you even with your skills, and chances are that if you had had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you …”

 Ms. Hudak goes on to stumble her way through a citation of statistics, saying
"The Colorado Coalition against Gun Violence said, 'for every one woman who used a handgun to kill someone in self-defense, 83 were murdered by them.'"

     I could not find a direct link to the "Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence" or any publications by them, but I was able to track down the source of the "one to 83" statistic.  The Violence Policy Center in a post entitled A Deadly Myth Women, Handguns, and Self-Defense  reviews a series of FBI statistics from 1998, with the thrust being a comparison between the number of times a woman used a gun to kill an assailant and the number of times an assailant killed a woman.  When all assailants were considered the relationship was one assailant killed by a woman for every 302 women killed by an assailant.  

     When the assailant was an "intimate acquaintance" of the woman (boyfriend, husband, ex-), there was one assailant killed for every 83 women killed.  So, what does this so-called statistic tell us about the effectiveness of a woman carrying a firearm for self defense?  In isolation it tells us absolutely nothing, because there is nothing to compare to. 

I have two observations:

  1. If 83 women are killed for every one assailant, shouldn't we be arming MORE women, not FEWER?  I suspect that if we made that ratio more like, oh say, one to one, there would be a lot fewer assaults on women in general.  I say, "Give women a fighting chance."
  2. The cited statistic says nothing about how many times a woman successfully used a firearm to scare off an attacker or hold him at bay until help arrived.  Therefore, this statistic is meaningless when applied to an assessment of whether having a firearm is an effective self-defense strategy for a woman. 

     Why do we put the responsibility for passing sensible gun legislation in the hands of people who have no demonstrable understanding of 1) guns, 2) self-defense, 3) statistics or 4) the Constitution? (rhetorical question)

     It sounds like Colorado Democrat Senator Evie Hudak would rather that victims of violent crime subject themselves to the depradations of their assailant rather than stand up to them.  So ladies and gentlemen, I ask you- are you going to throw yourself on the mercy of a murderer, mugger, rapist?  Or are you going to stand up to them and say, "Not only no, but HELL NO!"  (and by 'them', I mean rapists, murderers AND legislators who seek to disarm law-abiding citizens preferentially over criminals.)



UPDATE (3/07/2013)  from The Denver Post  "Colorado Sen. Evie Hudak's concealed carry stats don't apply in case" by Ryan Parker (3/6/13- 05:43:30 MST)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Okay folks, time to get a little wonky regarding self-defense against violence.  Unless you have been living under a rock (or perhaps hiding out from the law after killing your neighbor) you are aware about the current hotly debated struggle between Second Amendment advocates and Gun Control zealots.

     In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics cited some statistics.  You can read the entire testimony (7 page PDF) here

          "Individuals possessing a firearm are more than four times more likely to be shot during an assault than those who do not own one."
     This is stated as if it is an unequivocal fact.  So, let's dig into this a little deeper.  Tracking this statement back to the source, we find that the AAP first refers to their own Policy Statement on gun violence, entitled Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population. in which they state:

          "Evidence from Philadelphia suggests that firearm possession increases the risk of being shot in an assault. In a carefully conducted case-control study, Branas and colleagues found that people possessing a gun were more than 4 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession of a firearm."
     Here it is stated with seemingly less confidence.  Let's dig a little deeper.  If we track this back to the cited article we find a 2009 study entitled Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault

     The investigators looked at 677 shooting incidents in Philadelphia and compared those individuals to a control group (matched for age, sex and race) of Philly residents who had not been assaulted.

     Of the 677 shooting victims, 5.92% (or a total of 40) possessed a gun at the time of the assault.  Simple math tells us that 637 (or 94%) of the shooting victims therefore did not possess a gun.  This can be restated as "16 shooting victims were not carrying a gun for every one that was carrying".   (Incidentally, of the 684 non-victims in the control group, 7.16% (a total of 49) possessed a gun at a comparable point in time.)        Analysis of other variables indicated statistically significant difference between the group who had been shot and the group that had not been shot in the following characteristics:  

         "At the time of shooting, case participants were also significantly more often involved with alcohol and drugs, outdoors, and closer to areas where more Blacks, Hispanics, and unemployed individuals resided. Case participants were also more likely to be located in areas with less income and more illicit drug trafficking." 
       From these data the investigators concluded that an individual is 4 times more likely to be shot if they possess a gun than if they don't possess a gun.  A thoughtful and skeptical person might now ask themselves, "How did they reach this astonishing conclusion?"  Simple, actually.  They performed some freakishly complicated statistical calisthenics (regression analysis) and mathematically cancelled out all of the other characteristics (such as hanging around out of doors around crime-ridden areas in destitute parts of town) as being "confounding variables".  And the so-called "control" group had absolutely nothing to do with their bizarre conclusions.        This is a fine example of utter junk science, and yet we find a supposedly authoritative advocacy group such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing this study as a justification for recommending restriction of the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.  This goes well beyond sloppy analysis of data and enters the realm of willfully misleading and despicable behavior.

  Shame on them!    

(In 2009, Gary Kleck of Gun Owners of America did a nice discussion of the Philadelphia study here.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

CAN ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT COSTILLA COUNTY? is a site with forum-style postings about different communities. One thread starts with this query from screen name ShariaRoberts:

Greetings everyone, My husband and I just purchased land in Blanca CO.Costilla County. Can anyone tell me about this area, the people, what kind of work is available, etc...... Thank You

Some of the responses are interesting, especially in light of our own experiences surrounding the disappearance of Jack Gordon. Here is a small sampling of the several dozen responses (or you can check out all the responses here):

Jazzlover- "There are very limited jobs in the area. Costilla County has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the United States."

CrazyBeautifulDisaster- "Of course you will be able to find the happy go lucky people like myself or you can find people that are just angry at the world."

JPPhillips- "There are a lot of beautiful places to visit that are close by."

DragonflySharyn- "Well, if everyone that bought one of these "land deals" would move there we could have a whole community of like minded people and it would be great!"

Base of Mt. Blanca- "Besides the cold, and the poorness of the area, I would like to get advice on this..... if I leave my cabin alone for periods of time, will I go back to find it broken into, everything stolen, and 20 people living in it?"

80skeys- "There's a reason why this land is cheap. Not to say it's "bad." It's just not the first place people think of when they choose someplace to live. It's out in the open, exposed, wide open spaces, no shade. You have to drive a long ways to get anywhere. You have to dig a long ways to hit water. Winters are brutally cold. There's not anything you can do with the land unless you irrigate the heck out of it. Overall it's not most people's idea of where to settle down. It's not even useful as a base camp for outdoors activities because: no running water, very long drive to reach the mountains or the Rio Grande river, nothing really in the way of outdoors activities you can do on the land itself. I don't think the value of the land has changed in decades, so it's not a good "speculative" venture."

Jazzlover- "an individual deputy sometimes having to cover hundreds of square miles. The thieves know this. Having all kinds of locks, etc. offer some protection, but if a thief is determined to break in to an isolated property, he may have all day (or days) to do it. In the SLV, the area is very impoverished, and there is certainly some resentment of outsiders by a chunk of the local population."

gn3- "If your property is fairly isolated (and even if it's not), it stands a fairly high chance of being broken into when you're not around. As Jazz said, it's a poor area and outsiders aren't always well liked. I know several people who have had properties broken into there."

Ziasforever- "If the theives want in your place. They're gonna get in. Alamosa, Conejos and Costilla counties are among the poorest ones in the Southwest. As a result they have limited resources such as fire and police. While it is not policy, the Code of the West is still considered the hallmark of justice in rural areas. You can find the Code of the West and its definitions and procedures on Huerfano and Chafee counties websites. The mountains by their very nature are why it's in place.  Theives literally have days to bust down even the best, solid steel door. I know because mine have dents from assaults and some of my neighbors' doors have been beaten relentlessly with a sledge hammer. I've only seen the sheriff on my road one time in the years I've owned my property. I carry a side-arm and have a large-caliber rifle ready mainly for bears and more worriesome, mountain lions but just-in-case I roll up to my property and the B&E is in progress."

Wanneroo- "I remember as a child my great grandfather at his isolated Colorado home showing me his sheriff deputy badge and his handgun. Plus there were plenty of rifles and shotguns about the house. Where he lived in a gated area it was probably unlikely to have a home invasion but if you did, the cops weren't exactly down the street."

tankpaintertim- "Thanks. I am very serious about moving there ans starting over with good honest open people as my neighbors!!! We are sick of the rat race ...back stabbing , lying people!"

1baccj8- "Really?!? That picture is in the Sangre de Christo Ranches? I didn't see anything even remotely like that there. Most of the lots we went down and looked at were either on a hill with little flat area usage or majorly split by gullies/ravines. We did not look at even one lot that had 5 usable acres. Let alone anything that pretty. All scrub, sage bush and dry dirt." 

It seems to me that there are four types of landowners who have purchased property in the eastern end of the Sangre de Cristo Ranches in the last 15 years.

1. Those who have bought land and have romantic and unrealistic notions about living a simple but beautiful rustic lifestyle amidst like-minded folks.  They tend to say, "I'll just put in a sauna for the cold winters and I can run my Internet business from home."  or "When the s**t hits the fan, I can go hunker down in my bug-out cabin in Costilla County",  or "I'll start with just a small one-room cabin, for me and my wife and the kids and the dogs."

2.  Those who have bought land and actually built a house or cabin and use it as a part time "getaway" or vacation home.

3.  Those who have actually lived year round in the area and realize that the land is harsh and the lifestyle is hard, and accept that for the trade-off of beauty and solitude.

4.  Those who are running or hiding from something in their own life from outside the valley, whether it be a failed marriage, a career gone bad or perhaps worse, a criminal history.  Some would consider the Sangre de Cristo Ranches subdivision to be one of the main stops along the underground railroad for sociopaths.

This is a potentially volatile mix.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


     Jack Gordon disappeared from his building site in the Sangre de Cristo Ranches subdivision in the eastern San Luis Valley of Colorado on October 2, 2008.  The Alamosa Valley Courier on that day, however was reporting on two different unsolved cases.

Mayhem in the Valley

Posted: Thursday, Oct 2nd, 2008


ALAMOSA — As autumn descends on the Valley with falling leaves beginning to leave trees bare for winter, criminal investigators hope the change of the season will also lay bare answers to mysteries new and old in this usually peaceful place.
     It seems two different sets of human remains were discovered in the San Luis Valley during the early fall of 2008.  One set of human bones was found in a shallow grave at the foot of the Mount Blanca massif near the Oasis Campground just south of the Great Sand Dunes.  A man out hiking notified authorities after his dog came back to him with a human bone in its mouth. The partial skeletal remains are still unidentified.  There was speculation about a man from Costilla County named Jack Springer, who had gone missing some 20 years earlier.

     The second set of remains was found  on September 20, 2008 after being stuffed into a barrel and set ablaze.  This skeleton was identified by DNA evidence as that of Saguache resident Brenda Kay Shepard who was last seen on September 19, 2008.  Shepard's murderer has still not been identified.
From the Valley Courier November 5, 2008, one month later:

“Based on a missing persons report received on Sept. 22, 2008, as well as other evidence, on Thur., Oct. 30, after extensive DNA analysis, the victim in this homicide has been identified as Brenda Kay Shepard, a 45-year old female from Saguache,” [Saguache County Sheriff Mike] Norris said in a press statement released Tuesday night.
On February 4, 2009, the Alamosa Courier reported that:

"The Saguache County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Bureau of Investigation are still working on the homicide case of Saguache area resident Brenda Kay Shepard, 45, whose body was recovered from a burning barrel on September 20 of last year."


     On January 8, 2013, a man by the name of Daniel Bessey was arrested in Oklahoma and charged with first degree murder in the case of Sarah Beasley and John Salazar of Monte Vista, Colorado, murdered in February of 2012.  It seems that Bessey was an ex-boyfriend of Sarah Beasley.  As it turns out, Bessey also was reportedly romantically involved with Brenda Kay Shepard at the time of her murder.  Although he has not been charged with her murder, interest in him as a potential suspect in the Shepard case has certainly been renewed, as reported in the Salida Mountain Mail on January 18, 2013 (emphasis added):

     "Bessey was arrested on a Rio Grande County warrant charging double homicide for the unsolved deaths of John Salazar, 54, and Sarah Beasley, 29, Feb. 13 [2012] in Monte Vista.  Bessey was also charged with first- and second-degree burglary, criminal mischief, three counts of child abuse and reckless endangerment.
     Saguache County Sheriff Mike Norris said, “In 2008 I had a homicide case in my county. It was referred to as the ‘lady in the barrel.’”
     Brenda Kay Shepard’s body was found chopped up and burning in a barrel on a county road in Saguache County Sept. 20, 2008.  Norris said at the time Shepard was Bessey’s significant other and they were living together. 
     While the Saguache County case remained unsolved and ongoing, Norris said investigations had been inactive for some time.  “With the latest information, it makes us interested in pursuing more information to find out if there are any correlations (between the two unsolved cases),” he said.  Norris said Bessey had been considered a person of interest and had been interviewed [previously]."

     Although Jack Gordon's disappearance did not garner much local news coverage in the shadow of these two more spectacular coinciding discoveries, there are some parallels. The take-home message is that human remains have a way of coming to light, even years later, and although the wheels of justice may grind slowly, they do grind.  Time is ultimately on our side.

R.I.P. Brenda Kay Shepard
R.I.P. John Salazar
R.I.P. Sarah Beasley

From Google Earth TM


Sunday, February 10, 2013


     Jack Nels Gordon was many things during his life.  But did you know he invented the World Trade Center?  Well, not the Twin Towers, and not actually invented, but he was involved in the conceptual development of a World Trade Center for the Great Lakes Region.

     In 1962, Jack Gordon was President of International Commerce Corporation an offshoot of SCOPE International, an Akron, OH firm that developed a proposal for The Great Lakes World Trade Center.

     Here, Jack is seen with then Governor Michael DiSalle of Ohio.   Governor DiSalle is holding a binder with the comprehensive Trade Center proposal. 

     A building site had been proposed in the Erieview section of Cleveland, as part of an urban renewal movement.   Potential members for the Board of Directors had been identified, including retired Army General Bruce Clarke.  General Clarke wrote (in personal correspondence to Jack dated 25 March, 1963) the following:

Dear Mr. Gordon:
     In response to your letter of 20 March 1963, I will be glad to accept the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors of your Corporation.  
                                                                                  Sincerely yours, 

                                                                                  Bruce C. Clarke General, USA Ret.

Architectural conceptions had been drawn.

Funding, however eventually failed to materialize, and the project withered. 

     As early as 1959, David Rockefeller had proposed a World Trade and Financial Center to be located in lower Manhattan.  See the historical timeline of the Twin Towers here.  The two projects (Great Lakes WTC and New York City WTC) were evolving in roughly parallel fashion.  Jack often speculated to us that in some way the Rockefellers were able to pull the rug out from under the financing for the Great Lakes World Trade Center.  Whether that is true or not, this whole incident marked a fascinating chapter in the varied life of Jack Nels Gordon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


     Here's a little heads up for those of you who have buried corpses on your property.  Bones don't decompose like soft tissues do.  And those pesky bones have a way of popping up when you least expect.  You will be found out. 

From the NBC News- Home's new owners find human skull bones during landscaping work:

A human skull and bones were found Sunday afternoon by residents who bought the home less than a year ago and who were doing landscaping work in the backyard, police said.

The Orange County Coroner's Office confirmed the remains were human and an anthropologist was being called in to further examine them, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, a spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department.

 And from the Daily Mail Online:

The current owners of the house live next door and bought the second property when the former owner, identified as Larry T. Dominguez, was forced to sell the house due to lapsed insurance payments after the house burned down in 2006 during an electrical fire.

He had lived there for over 20 years and was described by neighbours variously as 'friendly', 'strange' and as a recluse.
 Does this sound like anyone we know?  Well, except for the 'friendly' part. 

 So, sleep well tonight (while you can) because maybe tomorrow those restless bones will come to light. 

UPDATE (1/30/2013)-

   More information is coming to light.  Police believe the remains are those of Mr. Dominguez' father who may have been dead since 2005.  But the son apparently decided to continue cashing the father's Social Security checks- to the tune of $100,000.
ABC Channel 7 News Los Angeles reports:

Cpl. Anthony Bertagna with the Santa Ana Police Department said detectives believe the remains are that of Dominguez's 83-year-old father, Wallace Benjamin Dominguez.

Police said they suspected Dominguez of murder because of statements he made to detectives while being interviewed. But on Tuesday, the Orange County District Attorney's Office filed a grand theft charge against Dominguez. Authorities said it appears the suspect has been collecting his father's Social Security benefit checks in excess of $100,000.

Cause of death is yet to be determined

Sunday, January 27, 2013


     Here is an excerpt from "The Curious Disappearance of Seamus Muldoon", since I am too lazy to work up a new post.  From Chapter 1- "Just the Facts Ma'am!"

That brings us to the morning of October 2, 2008. Jack awoke at the usual time and announced that he was going out to Luke for a while. He walked out to the driveway of their duplex Section 8 apartment in Fort Garland, coffee cup in hand, and climbed up into his old white van. Pulling out of the driveway at about 8:30 a.m. he waved goodbye to his little family. Little did they realize that was the last they would ever see of husband and father. As usual, Jack pulled in at the post office down the street and picked up the mail. Outside the post office he chatted briefly with one of his neighbors from out on Luke Road and then got back in the van. Heading south on Highway 159 he next stopped in at a local mechanic’s house to discuss some upcoming work he needed done on the van. He left the mechanic’s house at roughly 9:00 a.m. and headed on down the road. That is the last confirmed sighting that we have.

When lunchtime rolled around and his wife had not heard from Jack she began to wonder whether she should fix his lunch or wait. As the early afternoon progressed she began to wonder what was keeping him. The wonder gradually turned to worry. Jack rarely stayed out at Luke past lunchtime. A good lunch followed by a nap was his favorite way to spend an afternoon. Two-thirty came and went and she started to really worry. Jack had never been out later than 2:30 without letting her know. She called some friends to see if someone could drive out to Luke Road and check on Jack. Nobody was available at that time of day, but by 4:00 she convinced one of her neighbors to take her on the 10-mile drive out to the property.

The two women pulled up at the house on Luke Road and saw immediately that his van was parked in the driveway in his customary spot. She walked over to the house and poked her head inside. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or misplaced, with one rather large exception. Jack was nowhere to be seen. With her pulse pounding and her breathing rate increased to the point of gasping she ran upstairs and searched the entire interior of the house, calling frantically for Jack. Nothing. Knowing that Jack tended to lose his balance easily she took a quick walk around the house, thinking that he may have taken a fall or injured himself. Nothing. She looked inside the van to see if Jack was inside or to see if his keys were lying on the floorboard. Jack’s usual habit in the past had been to drop his keys on the floor when he pulled into the driveway rather than putting them in his pocket. Jack was not inside the van and the keys were nowhere to be seen. Nothing.

The closest telephone was a quarter mile away at one of the neighbor’s. In a near-panic she rushed over there and placed a call to 911 to report Jack missing. It took nearly an hour for a Sheriff’s Department deputy to arrive at the house. During that seemingly interminable hour a small handful of neighbors helped expand the search on foot around the immediate vicinity of the house. They found not a single trace of Jack or any evidence of what might have happened.

Those are the known facts of the mysterious disappearance of Jack Nels Gordon on October 2, 2008. The following chapters will explore some of the various theories about his disappearance, whether realistic or bizarre, plausible or outlandish, serious or comical. These theories have been put forward by various family members, authorities, friends and neighbors. These scenarios are based partly on fact and partly on speculation. My purpose in writing these vignettes is not so much to solve the troubling mystery of Jack’s disappearance but to celebrate the fascinating variety of his life.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


     I am a practicing Pediatric Cardiologist and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). I am also a member of the National Rifle Association.

     How do we, as Pediatric physicians, respond to a tragedy such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School? As advocates for children and as scientists we are obligated to look at the events of that day with a rational, fact-driven perspective, rather than an emotional, agenda-driven viewpoint.

     In the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut, Dr Tom McInerny, the president of the AAP called on President Obama and congressional leaders to enact federal legislation banning sales of “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines” as a “necessary first step”.   As an individual member of the AAP, I beg to differ.  Actually, the first necessary step in solving a public health problem is agreeing upon a clear definition of the problem in terms of frequency, extent and impact. The next step is reviewing the existing body of knowledge. Theories of cause and effect should be explored and hypotheses developed based on existing data. These hypotheses should be tested in a way that allows for meaningful measurement of results while minimizing the effect of confounding variables. Those results are then subjected to review and independent testing in order to establish a degree of scientific acceptance. Even then, the results should rightly be viewed with an element of skepticism.

     So how can we develop strategies that are logical, practical and affordable, without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens, whether at the local, state or federal level? Looking at the existing body of public health research regarding gun legislation the first thing I notice is that the body of existing knowledge is skimpy at best. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Community Preventive Services Task Force did an extensive review of the existing public health research and found insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of gun legislation (Hahn RA, et al. Firearms laws and the reduction of violence: a systematic review.Am J Prev Med 2005;28(2S1):40-71).

     Large population-based studies attempting to measure a particular outcome (e.g. decreased gun violence) as a result of a particular intervention (e.g. ban on high capacity magazines) are incredibly difficult to achieve. They take a long time, and the ability to draw conclusions is hampered by the size of the population, the length of time needed, the inability to compare to a control group (comparable population that was not exposed to the intervention), as well as a multitude of confounding variables both recognized and unrecognized. A rational approach requires the ability to 
               1) define and measure outcomes, and
               2) make observations about cause and effect
Neither of these is very likely in the case of a blanket federal policy. Going off half-cocked without a measurable goal is generally bad policy.

    A major barrier to valid scientific study of the effects of gun legislation as it relates to mass shootings in schools, is the extreme rarity of those events. But, let’s think about it logically. To develop a hypothesis about preventing mass shootings by deranged individuals there are two potential times for intervention- before the shooting starts or after.

    • The field of mental health, particularly as it relates to predicting violent behavior and incarceration of “at risk” individuals is incredibly far from being a precise science. Our courts have accepted “expert” testimony in such cases as being the best information available, while simultaneously acknowledging the imperfect nature of such testimony even when applied solely to a population of known criminal offenders, those who are “in the system”. The notion of successfully predicting which individuals from the general population are mentally unstable enough to commit one of these heinous crimes, while possibly worth exploring, is nowhere near a practical reality.
    • Another possibility is to deny the perpetrator access to the target. This might entail physically reinforcing school buildings and security systems, although that may merely divert a deranged individual to a different, softer target, such as movie theaters, malls, parks or sporting events.
    • The other pre-emptive avenue, which is the one advocated by the AAP, is to try to keep the perpetrator from getting his hands on the instrument he intends to use for his evil deed. Previous gun legislation has emphasized this aspect. Measures have included bans on specific weapons or ammunition, barriers to acquisition (criminal and mental health background checks, waiting periods, registration), securing of firearms (mandatory trigger locks, gun safes), and gun-free zones.

    • The second way to stop a mass killing is by a proportional response in force once the massacre has started. Preventing responsible adults from having firearms in the school setting will not keep a determined law breaker from breaking the law. It merely provides him with a crucial time period in which to wreak maximum damage. The minutes that elapse between the onset of an attack and police arrival at the scene are crucial minutes. One observation from a review of the literature and numerous anecdotal reports (2012 Clackamas mall shooting, and 2012 San Antonio restaurant/theater shooting are two recent examples) is that deranged shooters do not tend to stop shooting because their magazine is empty. Three 10-round magazines equal one 30-round magazine and changing a magazine takes a matter of mere seconds. They do not stop shooting because they acquired the weapon illegally and have second thoughts about breaking the law. They do not stop shooting because it is illegal to possess that particular firearm in that particular jurisdiction. The fact is, deranged mass murderers stop shooting when they are confronted by proportional resistance. The presence of on-site adults with the ability to interdict immediately is a potentially very effective way to put a halt to a killing spree. Why would policy makers want to dismiss this possibly effective measure right off the bat? Where are the scientific studies sponsored by the AAP or the CDC analyzing the numerous incidents where a possible victim with a firearm altered a violent attack to prevent death or serious injury? An evidence-based approach requires looking at all the evidence critically, thoughtfully and with an open mind. Yet when the NRA calls for exploration of the feasibility of armed adults at schools they are derided as “unreasonable” (citations too numerous to count).
     In my opinion (based on years of observing human behavior) banning sales of so-called assault weapons will not prevent potential murderers from getting their hands on that style of firearm through illegal means. It will not prevent a mass killer from getting his hands on chains to bar an emergency exit and a few gallons of gasoline to ignite. It will not prevent a mass killer from using an automobile as a murderous weapon. In the hands of responsible, trained adults, firearms can be a vital tool of self-defense. Preventing law abiding citizens from possessing an efficient self-defense tool is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater and as a Pediatrician I certainly wouldn’t advocate that.

     We also must not forget the broader view of this issue. How do I reconcile my view of the Constitution with the desire to be a strong advocate for children? Part of our job as Pediatricians is to help children make the transition to adulthood. This transition includes developing a mature attitude regarding choices and consequences. Learning to drive, operate tools, manage finances and plan for one’s future are all important steps toward becoming an adult. Power tools, automobiles and firearms, while potentially injurious, are all useful tools when used responsibly. In this country though, the most important and simultaneously most powerful tool of adulthood is freedom. Helping them find the balance between individual freedom and responsibility is essential to raising our children into adult citizens. Freedom of choice includes the freedom to make mistakes. A large part of growing up is learning how to recognize the future consequences of present choices. We do our children a great disservice when we claim to protect them by absolving them of the consequences of their actions. We also do them a disservice by telling them the world is a safe place when we know for a fact that it is not. The desire to protect our children eventually must give way to a willingness to let them become adults.

     I understand that people are sometimes frightened by events that are seemingly beyond their control. The initial response to the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School was strong and visceral. I have been a Pediatric Cardiologist long enough to know that bad things happen to good people. The world is full of violence and people are imperfect. I have personally experienced the loss of a family member to a senseless murder. And yet, in the face of all that I would rather my grandchildren grow up in a country where they have the freedom to use tools such as automobiles and firearms responsibly as adults even with all of the messiness and uncertainty that is embodied in that freedom.

James K. Schroeder, MD, FACC, FAAP

(The views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of his employer.)