On Sept. 18, a Florida man killed his daughter and six grandchildren in a murder-suicide. According to reports, the man turned the gun on himself after police arrived. He was identified as 51-year-old Don Charles Spirit of Bell, Florida, a small town located west of Gainesville.
USA Today reports the daughter’s name as Sarah Spirit. She had six children whose ages ranged from two-and-a-half months to 11 years old. When police arrived to the home that Don Spirit shared with his daughter and grandchildren, everyone had been shot – except Don Spirit, who shot himself after police arrived.
A report by NBC News states Don Spirit had a lengthy criminal history. He had been previously convicted of depriving a child of food and shelter, battery and a felony charge of possession of marijuana. These convictions occurred between 1992 and 1995. Don Spirit also served three years in jail for illegal possession of a firearm as a convicted felon after he reportedly accidentally shot and killed his son, 8, while they were on a hunting trip.
CNN reports that calls had been made to police on “numerous” occasions, which was confirmed in a statement by Robert Schultz, the Gilchrist County Sheriff. Schultz was also quoted as saying the community of about 17,000 residents would be devastated since everyone in town is close. Schultz said no one will be able to explain why Don Spirit did this to his family, which included his grandchildren – three boys and three girls.
Domestic violence situations, such as this one involving a Florida man who killed his daughter and grandchildren in a murder-suicide incident, are known to happen quite frequently across the U.S. Such tragedies have led many citizens to question gun control laws regarding the handling and possession of firearms. Politicians seem unable to determine how to address these concerns due to guaranteed rights of the U.S. Constitution verses restrictions of gun safety laws. An ongoing concern, though, has been how to monitor guns purchased by those with mental health issues, which can be tough to determine due to patient privacy rights.
Incidences which relate to those of Don Spirit show domestic disputes will most likely continue wherever a history of personal issues have occurred, such as illegally possessing a firearm or signs of psychological disturbances, like child abuse. Many can agree that signs were apparent in the case of Don Spirit, particularly after calls to police were made numerous times. This makes one wonder why police had not taken preventive measures, or had not questioned Spirit about his past domestic disputes as a way to determine any possibility of imminent danger.
Though it may be tough to set more laws which limit the handling and possession of firearms for both safety reasons and due to domestic disputes, citizens may have to decide which scenarios appear to be more acceptable than others. In the case of this Florida man who killed his daughter and grandchildren in an apparent murder-suicide and had a history of criminal activity, such scenarios may need to include possible extended probation periods which check on previously convicted felons even after a period of five to ten years.
Opinion By Liz Pimentel