Over the Hill

3 local shootings that could have been worse — if the gunmen had assault weapons

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

I’m just a small-town news guy, but I’ve witnessed three serious shootings. And they would have been much worse if the shooters had used assault weapons.

The first shooting was in 1974 in Paso Robles near the Bauer-Speck School. A middle-aged man spent the day drinking and buying a 16-gauge, single-shot shotgun. When he got home, his lady friend was absent.

She finally returned in a cab, which he approached with his shotgun. The cab driver shouted to duck. The man fired. The birdshot hammered the paint off part of the cab door but didn’t penetrate. The cabbie radioed for police help.

Officers arrived quickly. The man fired two or three shots. The police fired many more. Two or three officers suffered minor pellet wounds. The man was seriously wounded, but survived.

If he’d used an assault weapon he could have killed the woman and the cabbie and maybe others.

The second shooting was in San Miguel in 1977 in an old tourist court with more-or-less permanent tenants. One tenant started shooting his rifle at other tenants.

A man named Shorty said a bullet hit his mouth, breaking his false teeth, but otherwise not injuring him. I guess the gunman was firing .22-short ammunition.

Soon the place teemed with law officers. The gunman fired occasionally. The officers fired back. Two deputies sneaked to the gunman’s cabin and tossed in tear-gas grenades.

He staggered out still holding his rifle in a semi-ready position. The deputies repeatedly ordered him to drop it. He didn’t. They fired. He died at the hospital. The doctors reported finding a brain lesion that could have impaired his thinking. If he’d used an assault weapon, he would certainly have killed Shorty.

The third shooting was in Paso Robles behind the former municipal court. A Cayucos couple, with a history of phone harassment and restraining-order violations, tried to kidnap a lawyer who once represented them. With two pistols they tried to force him into a motorhome.

He resisted for a half-hour. The court bailiff called the police, who concealed themselves nearby. One of the kidnappers finally shot the lawyer. The police responded with a storm of gunfire.

The couple died. The lawyer survived as did a wounded deputy sheriff. But had the couple used assault weapons they would have killed the lawyer and possibly others.

How do we keep such people from obtaining powerful, rapid-firing, quick reloading, large magazine guns? We outlaw assault weapons for all civilians. We don’t need them.