Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Vigilante mom

A case of gun rights gone wrong

        Northern Kentucky's vigilante mom had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. So much for a law that was supposed to be about self-protection.

        That's what the gun-rights lobby promised in 1996, when Kentucky's legislature agreed to let people pack heat in their pockets.

        This law will save lives, they said. Kentuckians will use it to protect themselves from immediate harm, not to blaze away at their enemies.

        Now we have a woman with a concealed-carry permit who shoots an accused child molester in the groin and abdomen.

        Her adolescent son told her the man, Larry Howell, had molested him. She confronted Mr. Howell, the exchange grew heated, and she fired.

        Mr. Howell's lawyer insists he is innocent. The mother told the Enquirer she wanted to make sure he never did it again.

        Supporters of the concealed-carry law said it wouldn't be like this.

Unusual case

        To be fair, the mother's case is unusual.

        Across Kentucky, 66,000 people have concealed-carry permits. To get one, they must take eight hours of training with a certified instructor, pass a test and be cleared through a background check.

        Law-enforcement authorities say the law's effect is unclear. They have seen neither an increase in gun violence nor evidence that criminals have been deterred.

        Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests the law can work well.

        Ann Barry of Warren County was defending herself in 1997 when she shot an armed robber as he crept through her house.

        Ms. Barry told reporters that her concealed-carry training had helped her foil the bad guy.

        In a 1999 incident, Joseph Megerle was taking a walk in Covington when a man wanted in a robbery pulled up and demanded money.

        Mr. Megerle shot the robber twice with a permitted pistol. The man survived and is serving 15 years in prison.

Wild West rants

        Mr. Howell also survived. He now faces nine counts of sodomy in addition to earlier charges of marijuana trafficking and child-pornography possession.

        After the shooting, as many as 30 boys came forward to allege improper contact, police said.

        David Bender, Mr. Howell's attorney, has refused to comment on further charges.

        If all this proves true, the guy's a scumbag. He deserves to rot in jail. I'd say he even deserves to be shot — which is precisely why we have laws against it.

        The world is full of scumbags and people who would like to get even with them. Imagine the carnage if impulse were law.

        What's sad about the Howell shooting isn't so much the mother's act of passion as the Wild West rants that followed.

        “Yahoo!” people said. “Git 'im, honey!”

        One supporter put up $10,000 cash to bail the mother out of jail. Her attorney predicts no jury will find her guilty.

        I despise what Mr. Howell is alleged to have done to this family and others. But to make his shooter a folk hero is to play tragedy as farce.

        This case doesn't prove the concealed-carry law was a mistake. It does proves bloodlust is real. We can only hope all those permit-holders haven't been listening.

        Karen Samples can be reached at (859) 578-5584 or at


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