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Jane Ahlin, Published October 06 2012

Ahlin: More tragic stories from gun-happy culture

The story is almost too tragic to talk about. And yet, we ought to force ourselves occasionally to acknowledge heartbreaking consequences of living in a gun-happy culture. It’s not as if the wretched aftermath of gun accidents or crimes poses a threat to gun extremists or the NRA anymore.

Good grief, even though the NRA has gone from advocating for sporting guns ages ago to now advocating for assault rifles, it’s remained in firm control of both major political parties. The notion that any politician will propose new gun regulation, much less try to “take away our guns,” is beyond laughable.

But, back to our story, a story that comes out of Connecticut. On one of the last days of September, a teacher named Jeffrey Giuliano – a teacher described as “popular,” who also ran “summer music and zoology camps” – got a call at 1 a.m. from his sister, alone in her house next door to his in the town of New Fairfield (about 50 miles from New York City). She had noticed someone prowling outside her home and was frightened the person intended to break in.

New Fairfield, Conn., is a town of 14,000 people, a nice town with both very little crime and solid police service. The New Fairfield website lists “twenty-four hour law enforcement” with “at least 2 Troopers or Officers” always working, “backed by all of the resources of the Connecticut State Police.”

However, Jeffrey Giuliano didn’t call the police. Instead, he took his loaded handgun with him outside to check out his sister’s concerns. From reports, he almost immediately “confronted a person wearing a black balaclava and black clothing.” None of the news reports that I found included what Giuliano might have said to the prowler; however, several reports included the fact that the prowler moved toward Giuliano brandishing “a shiny weapon.”

Giuliano shot him several times.

It wasn’t until the mask was removed that Giuliano realized he’d shot to death a 15-year-old boy, Tyler Giuliano, his own son. (By all accounts, Tyler was an easygoing kid who never had been in trouble.)

Quoted in an Associated Press news report by John Christoffersen, Jeffrey Giuliano’s attorney said that “Giuliano was inconsolable and physically ill,” that he “cried and vomited.” The attorney also said, “It’s a loss that cannot be measured.”

When his shock subsides, perhaps Giuliano will call Michael Leach, a retired Rochester, N.Y., police captain. At the end of July, 59-year-old Michael and his 37-year-old son, Matthew – both members of the Punishers Motorcycle Club – were on an outing with the club and rooming together at the hotel where members stayed. Alcohol probably was a factor; however, what is known for sure is that Michael Leach went to bed and, later, thinking someone was breaking into the room, shot his son. His son died.

The news report a few days later said that Michael Leach “(was) seeking medical treatment in a secure facility.”

Perhaps Giuliano could garner comfort from talking to a trained policeman who mistakenly killed his own son. One good bet is that neither of them finds comfort in the bumper-sticker mentality of the NRA’s mantra: Guns don’t kill people; people do.

In the Giuliano case, speculation has centered on why Tyler was outside dressed head to toe in black. Interestingly, there’s no speculation as to Tyler’s likely outcome had his father not grabbed his gun. (What would have happened if Giuliano had dialed 911 and then he and his sister had turned on every light in both their houses and waited for the police? For that matter, what would have happened if retired police Capt. Leach had realized a gun did not belong at an event where he likely would be drinking?)

Self-defense and property protection are big themes in ever-expanding gun rights legislation. Conceal carry, open carry, and stand-your-ground are all about protection in an unexpected instant of threat – the very kind faced by the popular teacher and retired police captain who shot their sons.

A public conversation is in order.


Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum.