A Personal Gun Violence Story

This story is from a friend whose family endured mental illness and the resulting gun violence. Take heed!

“I knew very little about my grandfather’s mental illness and my cousins knew little either. The family chose to protect the children from the details. I was ten years old in the early 1950’s when my grandfather shot and killed my grandmother and then killed himself.Many years later, in a phone call to my aunt, the youngest in the family and the only one still living, she started to tell me what happened all those years ago.

She said Grandma had tried to tell her kids that strange things were happening at their house. She told them she was standing on the back porch and she felt a bullet went by her head. She told her children about it but no one took it seriously. One time Grandma had walked from her farm home through fields to her daughter’s home hiding in the cornfield because she was so afraid of Grandpa.

Eventually the family got him committed to a mental hospital. My father took me to visit him one time. He visited with us in a large meeting room. He seemed happy and was very pleasant to be with.That is why his family in general and my father in particular was sure he was better. They wanted the doctors to release him to go home for Christmas and the New Year holidays.

He was being treated with electric shock therapy while in the hospital. The doctors told the family he was not ready to go home. They took him home anyway. On the way home, he bragged to my father that he had the doctors fooled.

On the fifth of January, my grandparents were scheduled to show up at our house for dinner. They did not come when expected. When my father called, the phone went unanswered, so he drove to their house.That is when he found their bodies.

My aunt told me that even after he told them he had fooled the doctors, they still took him home and left him alone with their mother. My aunt said she was in her 20’s and could never forgive her father for taking her mother from her.Another aunt told her daughter that no one understood mental illness. They thought bad times would just go away. My grandfather had called each of his children the night before and tried to get them to come over. They blamed themselves for not going, but perhaps had they gone, there would have been more bodies.

My grandfather was, as the local paper said at the time, a well known business man in the area. (This was before TV news glamorized these stories for other sick people to copy.) He owned four farms and other businesses over the years. He was an intelligent man. He was determined, I believe, not to go back to the hospital. If he did not have access to a gun, he would have found another way to end his and my grandmother’s lives.

Recognizing and treating mental illness might cut down on these incidents. Not publicizing them for copycat sick people who want to make a name for themselves with a higher body count then the last murder rampage might cut down on these stories. Banning guns will do nothing. As we have seen, people who do these murders do not always have legal guns.”


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