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April 12, 2011

Attack on Survivor of Violence By Pro-Gun Activist

When you work in the field of gun violence prevention, you get used to seeing hostility and vitriol from those on the opposite side of the debate. But one thing you never get used to is personal attacks on victims of gun violence.

On April 11, 2011, Link Porterfield, a pro-gun activist from Boise, Idaho who goes by the screen name of "Link P" made such an attack during a Twitter exchange with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). Tweeting through his account @peaceloveammo, Porterfield suggested that our organization "has an undiagnosed case of Peterson syndrome." This was a derogatory reference to Joan Peterson, a gun violence survivor from Minnesota and the author of the blog www.commongunsense.com. In his Tweet, Porterfield linked to a blog by another pro-gun activist in Idaho, Joe Huffman, where Huffman attacked Joan and named what he described as a "mental defect" after her.

Our staff at CSGV knows Joan personally and has great respect for her. We replied to Porterfield that Joan is a courageous and great American.

Porterfield's response? "Peterson is no survivor of gun violence. Her sister was murdered by her criminal brother in law. She wasn't even there."

It's hard to imagine why anyone would feel compelled to make such a statement about someone whose sister was lost to gunfire.

The facts of Joan’s loss are as follows ... In 1992, Joan’s sister, Barbara, was three years into divorce proceedings with her husband. After he left bizarre messages on her answering machine, Barbara got a restraining order against him. One day, Barbara and a male friend went to her husband’s house to deliver some paperwork regarding the divorce. Her husband erupted in anger and shot both of them in cold blood, killing them. Prior to this incident, he had no violent criminal history. He ended taking his own life not long thereafter in a psychiatric ward.

Sadly, this type of incident is not uncommon in the United States. 69% of homicides in our county are committed with a gun (CDC, 2007). In 78% of cases, the perpetrator and victim know each other. In 23% of cases, they are family (FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2008).

For her part, Joan was restrained and gracious about the words of Porterfield. "Gun rights activists like to think that only ‘criminals’ shoot other people," she told us via email. "It doesn't fit with their world view when everyday people shoot other people because it makes them look bad."

That was not the end of it, however. Another pro-gun activist, Keith Milligan (AKA "Sebastian") from Pennsylvania, blogged in defense of Porterfield. In the blog he explained, "Our religion is the role firearms play within the American cultural and political framework. It is heresy to the other side, because their religion centers around victimhood."

The thought that Joan's "religion" might be acting to prevent others from experiencing the same tragedy she experienced apparently didn't cross his mind.

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