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Frank Gray

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Police patrol the area where the shooting of Tavontae Haney took place Saturday near Spatz and Senate streets.

With risks, why even carry a gun?

Different people carry guns for different reasons.

I once knew a man who owned a bar, and he once told me in weird-speak, “I always carry a firearm on my person.”

Gee, I thought, I guess I better never buy a bar.

I also knew a man who owned a little restaurant, and in the early evenings he’d take a zippered money bag with the day’s receipts and walk a few doors to the bank to make a night deposit. He carried a gun, too, and if anyone ever robbed him, he told me, he’d give up the bag and shoot the robber when he turned to leave.

And then, some people carry guns for no good reason at all, other than maybe it makes them feel tough.

When I was growing up, most of the people I knew owned guns, but nobody carried a gun unless they were going hunting. Once there was a rumor that a guy with a gun – a bad guy everyone knew – was headed that way. Anyone carrying a gun had to be crazy and looking for trouble, we all reasoned, so everybody left.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a police officer whose job it is to try to trace guns that are taken off people who had been arrested or were carrying them illegally. We talked for a little while about the people who do carry guns and why they do it.

Some people say they carry guns for self protection. Perhaps they’re going to spend a little time in a bar that’s sort of rough, so they carry a weapon just in case trouble arises.

Gee, I thought, what a great idea, going to a bar and drinking, knowing that the gun is there as your backup if anyone rubs you the wrong way. Nothing like a real clear-headed drunk guy with a gun.

Why go to the kind of place where you think you might need a gun, I asked? Why not go to a nice place where you don’t need a gun?

That’s sort of the way I think. If you’re going some place where you think you might need a gun, why not rethink your plans and go somewhere else?

The officer just chuckled a little bit.

The other day I encountered Fort Wayne’s police chief, Rusty York, and suggested that a whole lot of people carrying guns out there have no business carrying them at all. I wondered how many were actually stolen.

He told me that when someone is caught with a stolen gun, they are turned over to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms because they can file federal charges, which carry heavier penalties.

Then York just lamented that there are “too many guns out there,” a comment that also appeared in an article that appeared in Sunday’s newspaper.

Are there too many guns out there, or are there just too many people carrying guns who have no business, no good reason and no permit to carry them?

Take the case of Tavontae Haney, a 19-year-old described as a sweet guy who had a couple of warrants out for him and was carrying a handgun when police stopped the SUV in which he was a passenger on Saturday afternoon.

The driver and Haney, who had the gun, both jumped out and ran, and when cornered, police say, Haney directed the gun at them, and police shot him and killed him.

Haney probably would have ended up in jail no matter what happened, but his gun got him killed.

One does wonder, why did Haney have that gun? Where did he get it? Where did it come from?

One also wonders, how many people would be alive today if they had refused to hang around with a guy with a gun, or if they had refused to give a ride to a guy with a gun?

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.