may - 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 May 20, 1988, Laurie Dann went on a rampage at the Hubbard Woods Elementary School in Winetka, Illinois, after being fired from a babysitting job. She set several fires, tried to poison people with arsenic, and opened fire, killing an eight-year-old boy and wounding four other children. Dann then fled to a nearby home, where she wounded a 20-year-old man who had tried to disarm her, before killing herself. Dann's three weapons—a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, a Smith & Wesson .32 revolver, and a Beretta .22 pistol—were all purchased legally at Marksman Police and Shooter Supply in Glenview, Illinois. Illinois law requires a Firearm Owner's ID (FOID) card to purchase guns or ammunition and Dann was apparently a FOID holder. 
  • On May 21, 1998, Kip Kinkel killed his parents at their home and then drove to Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. He then entered the crowded cafeteria and allegedly opened fire, killing two and wounding 25. Kinkel had been suspended from school on May 20 after a loaded .32 pistol was found in his locker. Police found five bombs and 15 inactive explosives at his house. Kinkel, who was known to be fascinated by bombs and guns, had an "anger management problem" and had been treated by a psychologist. The firearms were legal. The Glock 9mm pistol and .22 rifle were purchased for Kinkel by his father. Police believe Kinkel took the Ruger .22 pistol from his father. 
  • On May 24, 2000, John Taylor and Craig Godineaux entered a Wendy's restaurant in Queens, New York, with the intention of robbing it and killing the employees to eliminate witnesses. Taylor, who had previously worked in the restaurant, confronted the manager in the basement office and ordered him to gather the rest of the employees. Godineaux followed the employees to the basement where he bound, gagged, and blindfolded them with duct tape. The two men allegedly took turns shooting the victims with a Bryco .380 pistol, killing five and wounding two. Godineaux pleaded guilty to multiple murder and robbery charges and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Taylor is scheduled to go on trial in 2001. Taylor purchased the handgun illegally from a street dealer. The gun was originally bought from a Bedford Heights, Ohio, gun dealer on March 19, 1999. The gun's owner reported it stolen April 2, 2000. His roommate, Bernard Gardier, took the gun to Long Island, New York, where he sold it on the street for $250. The gun was sold at least three times on the street, the last time to Taylor. Gardier pleaded guilty to transporting the weapon across state lines in January 2001. 
  • On May 26, 2000, 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill was sent home from Lake Worth Middle School in Lake Worth, Florida, on the last day of school for throwing water balloons. Brazill walked to his grandmother's house where he took his surrogate grandfather's pistol and returned to the school. Brazill went to teacher Barry Grunow's classroom and asked if he could speak to two girls in the class. When the teacher refused, Brazill allegedly pulled the gun and it went off, killing Gunrow. Brazill claims the gun went off unintentionally, but he was charged as an adult with first-degree murder. The Raven .25 pistol was legal. It belonged to Elmore McCray, who was a grandfather figure to Brazill. The gun was stored by McCray in an Oreo cookie tin in one of his desk drawers. The gun was stored unloaded, but the ammunition was also in the cookie tin. 
  • On May 28, 1998, Brynn Hartman shot and killed her husband, comedian Phil Hartman, with a .38 revolver in their Los Angeles home. Brynn Hartman had a history of substance abuse and mental instability, and had been through several rehabilitation programs. According to toxicology tests, she had consumed alcohol and cocaine the night before the shooting. After shooting her husband, Brynn confessed to a neighbor who called the police. After the police arrived, she killed herself with a second .38 revolver. Both firearms were legal. One gun was a recent birthday gift from Phil Hartman to his wife—she had wanted a gun to protect their family while he was away from home. The other handgun belonged to Hartman.