May 8, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Gun seller's gut is last defense against tragedy

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

Weinstein calls the gun dealer, large or small, "the last line of defense" in preventing firearms from getting into the wrong hands. Sometimes, a call to the local police chief might answer any nagging questions, he said. Other times, the sale might not go through at all.

"It's not a must-sell situation. They can refuse," Weinstein said. "But it would be prudent for a gun shop owner to not make a habit of this. I mean, he's trying to run a business, too."

Over in New Hampshire, gun dealers appear to be having no trouble striking that balance. At the urging of the New Hampshire Firearms Safety Coalition, 48 percent of the state's local gun dealers now post materials alerting people who might be a danger to themselves or others that help is available.

Catherine Barber, director of the Harvard School of Public Health's "Means Matter" suicide prevention program, is a member of the New Hampshire coalition -- founded in 2009 after three customers bought weapons from the same gun shop in the same week and, within hours of each sale, took their own lives. Beyond all the posters and hotline alerts, Barber will long remember one gun dealer who sensed something was amiss with a female customer one day.

Looking the woman straight in the eye, the dealer asked quietly, "Should I really be selling this gun to you today?"

"She started to cry," recalled Barber. "And it was clear he wasn't going to go ahead with the sale."

Maybe someone at Cabela's asked Andrew Leighton a similar question last week – or maybe not.

But as he now undergoes a court-ordered psychological evaluation to determine whether he's fit to stand trial for murder -- according to his lawyer, Leighton appeared to be "hearing voices" during his initial court appearance on Monday -- Cabela's would do well to revisit those Clarifying and Confirming sales questions right about now.

Starting with, "How do you plan to use this gun?"

 

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: bnemitz@mainetoday.com

 

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