december - handgun history


Each month, this section features prominent incidents of violence in the history of America involving handguns and shooters, ranging from school-aged children to disgruntled employees to lone-wolf assassins, acting out of a wide range of motives. Each month's incidents will include details such as: the identity of the shooter; the number of people killed and wounded; the make, model, and caliber of the handgun(s) used in the shooting; the circumstances of the shooting; and, how the handgun was acquired.

  • On December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal opened fire on students holding a morning prayer circle at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. In addition to the Ruger .22 pistol he used to kill three people and wound five, Carneal had two rifles and two shotguns, which he did not use. After the shooting, Carneal dropped his weapons and surrendered. His motive unknown, Carneal pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder and attempted murder charges and is serving a life sentence. The weapons were taken from a neighbor's garage. The neighbor owned them legally. 

  • On December 5, 1980, Dr. Michael J. Halberstam was fatally shot by a burglar in his Washington, DC, home. According to police, Halberstam and his wife returned home and found Bernard Charles Welch, 40, in their home. The doctor was shot several times in the altercation that followed. He attempted to drive himself to the hospital but had a traffic accident en route. He was pronounced dead at Sibley Hospital more than two hours after being shot. 

  • On December 5, 1986, 14-year-old Kristofor Hans fired a large-caliber revolver in his Lewistown, Montana, high school classroom, killing a substitute teacher and wounding a vice principal and two classmates. According to police, Hans was turned in to the authorities by his parents after he returned home. Hans was charged with deliberate homicide. 

  • On December 6, 1999, Seth Trickey, a 13-year-old student at the Fort Gibson Middle School in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, allegedly opened fire on a group of students waiting outside for the morning bell. He emptied the Taurus 9mm pistol's 15-round clip, wounding four students. Trickey's motive remains a mystery. According to friends and classmates, Trickey was popular, friendly, and intelligent. 

  • On December 7, 1993, Colin Ferguson, a native of Jamaica, opened fire on commuters inside a Long Island Railroad train as they were returning home from New York City. On Ferguson, police found angry rants jotted on pieces of paper detailing the shooter's rage toward various ethnic groups, including blacks, whites, Asians, as well as New York State officials. The Ruger P-89 9mm pistol was legally purchased at Turner's Outdoorsman, a California sporting goods store. To purchase the handgun, Ferguson had to show proof of residency. After having acquired a driver's license using the address of a motel where he was staying, Ferguson passed the background check and waited the mandatory 15 days before picking up his gun. 

  • On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman, who had a history of severe mental problems, traveled from his home in Hawaii to New York City to kill John Lennon. Chapman had been a Beatles fan in his youth and was described by a former classmate as a "Jesus freak." Chapman purchased the Charter Arms .38 revolver legally in Hawaii. Because he had no criminal record and had never been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, he was issued a permit. At the time of the shooting, Hawaii had some of the most stringent gun regulations in the nation. 

  • On December 11, 1964, singer Sam Cooke was shot to death in a Los Angeles motel by the manager. The man claimed that Cooke was raping a companion and the courts ruled the killing justifiable homicide. 

  • On December 24, 1954, R&B singer Johnny Ace, 25, shot and killed himself while playing Russian Roulette. 

  • On December 30, 1999, Silvio Levya, an employee of the Radisson Bay Harbor Inn in Tampa, Florida, walked up to the front entrance of the hotel and opened fire with a Lorcin 9mm pistol and a Charter Arms .38 revolver. Two people were shot outside the entrance, two in the lobby, one in a hallway, one by the pool, and one in the restaurant. Four of them died. Another woman was killed when Levya allegedly tried to steal her car. There was no apparent motive. The Locin was purchased legally from Big E's, a gun dealer at Tampa's Floriland Flea Market. It is uknown how Levya acquired the Charter Arms revolver.