From the Fresno Bee (August 26, 2000)

Copyright 2000 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. Fresno Bee (California)
August 26, 2000, Saturday FINAL EDITION
LENGTH: 482 words
HEADLINE: No easy answers Gun advocates say fear of liability keeps parents from teaching survival skills.

BODY: The first thing Jessica Carpenter asked for was a gun.

When the 14-year-old girl ran to a nearby house to escape the pitchfork-wielding man attacking her siblings, she didn't ask her neighbor to call 9-1-1. She begged him to grab his rifle and "take care of this guy."

By the time Merced County sheriff's deputies arrived at her home in rural Merced, her 7-year-old brother, John William, was dead. So was her younger sister, Ashley Danielle, 9.

On Friday, the children's great-uncle, the Rev. John Hilton, said: "If only [Jessica] had a gun available to her, she could have stopped the whole thing. If she had been properly armed, she could have stopped him in his tracks."

Maybe John, William, and Ashley would still be alive, he said.

Their father, John Carpenter, kept a gun in the home. His children had learned how to fire it. But he kept it locked away and hidden from his children.

"He's more afraid of the law than of somebody coming in for his family," Hilton said. "He's scared to death of leaving the gun where the kids could get it because he's afraid of the law. He's scared to teach his children to defend themselves."

Hilton said Carpenter feared overregulation as well as laws that make gun owners criminally and civilly liable if their children or others are injured.

At gun shops in Fresno and Merced, people expressed similar views. Two Merced families walked into Cline's Sporting Goods and purchased guns for self-defense as a direct result of the horrific crime.

"Two different families, they said that was the only reason they came in and they bought handguns," owner Mike Cline said. "Everyone's talking about it."

Dan Helman, who works at Gilman-Mayfield Firearms in Fresno, said he began training his son to use guns when the boy was 5. His son, now 11, knows exactly where the guns are kept in case someone tries to break into their home.

But more and more, Helman said, people are changing their behavior because of gun laws.

"The government has got the people so scared," Helman said. "I agree wholeheartedly [with the pastor]. If there had been a gun available, maybe nobody would have died."

Bill Mayfield, owner of the shop, said that fear of government is very real -- so real that some people are even selling their guns back. But he cautioned people to look at each case individually.

"I would like to think that she could have gone someplace, obtained a weapon and saved the two lives," Mayfield said. "But a gun is not a magic talisman. There is no guarantee of it. It doesn't mean everything is going to work well."

INFOBOX HOW TO HELP Donations to help cover funeral and burial expenses can be sent to the Ashley and John William Carpenter Memorial Fund, County Bank, P.O. Box 1191, Merced, CA 95341. The account number is 0250070190. Donations can also be dropped off at the Fresno branch of County Bank, 2150 W. Shaw Ave.

GRAPHIC: PHOTOS BY MARY A. LOMMORI -- THE FRESNO BEE John Carpenter, surrounded by family and friends, somberly recalls children Ashley, 9, and John, 7, who were killed by an attacker in their home Wednesday.

SPECIAL TO THE BEE John Carpenter is surrounded by, from upper left, wife Tephanie; Jessica,14; Vanessa, 11; John William, 7, killed in the attack; Ashley, 9, also killed; and Anna, 13, who was wounded and escaped.

From the Fresno Bee (August 26, 2000)
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