Last week, Veronica Dunnachie of Arlington was arrested at Millwood Hospital in Arlington on charges of capital murder. The 35-year-old, police say, drove herself to the mental health facility after fatally shooting her husband and her 20-year-old stepdaughter.
The facts of the story are bleak. Dunnachie had filed for divorce from her husband, 50-year-old Russ Dunnachie, in October, according to the Dallas Morning News. On Wednesday afternoon, however, she allegedly shot him and his daughter, Kimberly Dunnachie, then called a friend, who convinced her to drive to Millwood Hospital, where police took her into custody, the DMN reported.
However unfortunate the circumstances of the deaths may have been, though, Dunnachie’s affiliations quickly overshadowed them. She’s an active member of the Open Carry Tarrant County organization, which—among other things—staged a well-publicized event inside of a Target store in Irving earlier this summer. In the current climate, where discussion of gun control and gun rights are such heated topics, a member of an open carry group turning herself in for a double murder is going to become a political chip quickly.
Over on Alan Colmes’ Liberaland website, for example, the gloating came quickly. A post went up scouring Facebook for shots of Dunnachie with other Open Carry members, with a shockingly snide tone for a story that involved two people who were just murdered. “Here she is looking like every other Open Carry activist. Size matters, amirite?” the post uses to caption a shot of Dunnachie preparing to fire a large weapon.
Veronica, just like her colleagues with the aforementioned gun groups, objects to a ban on open carrying firearms in Kroger. You see, they are all law-abiding citizens, that is, until one of them opens fire.
That’s a fairly condescending way to make the point—but with such a heated topic, perhaps it’s also to be expected. Over on the Open Carry Tarrant County Facebook page, meanwhile, members expressed a range of emotions. Many were mourning members of their community (which Liberaland’s post describes as “the sads”), to be certain, but also statements like “I knew her, I’m not that surprised” from Bobby Thomas, and “many people die every day. This circumstance is no different from all the others” from Hath Hathaway, and “antigun groups are gonna go to town on that one” from Fred Guzman.
That Guzman’s immediate reaction to the loss of members of his community was to worry about the political fallout shows how quickly dead bodies can become cudgels to beat home a point—and, based on the reaction from Liberaland, Daily Kos, and more, Guzman’s prediction was also accurate.
It’s distasteful, to say the very least, to be snide, dismissive, and condescending toward people who are mourning the loss of people they presumably knew well. (Many who commented on Facebook appear to be personal friends of the Dunnachies; they talk about celebrating holidays with the family, or babysitting their younger children.) But this situation highlights one of the major concerns that many have with groups like Open Carry, which seem to fetishize guns. Namely, that today’s “law-abiding gun rights activist” can be arrrested for tomorrow’s double murder after turning herself in at a mental hospital.
Over on the gun rights blog BearingArms.com, the story about Dunnachie runs with the headline “BAD APPLE” in all capital letters, suggesting that she’s an outlier who in no way represents the group. The blog goes on to assert that:
There are 100 million gun owners in the United States, and millions of them belong to Second Amendment groups. They are far more law-abiding that the average citizen, a fact that citizen control cultists religiously ignore.
The reality of the matter is that the vast majority of the violently mentally ill involved in the debate are on the side of gun control.
They often support gun control because that they are too mentally unstable to own and use firearms responsibly, and they project their deficiencies upon the rest of the world.
That’s a statement that, were it on Wikipedia, would receive a pretty strong , but it serves to demonstrate how difficult—if not downright impossible—it is to find common ground between gun rights and gun control activists. A member of Open County Tarrant County can go to a mental hospital and turn herself in to police on a double murder charge, and a gun rights blog uses it as an opportunity to argue without evidence that “the vast majority of the violently mentally ill” are on the other side of the issue. Meanwhile, members of a gun rights organization can’t mourn the loss of members of their community without worrying that their words are going to be screenshotted and mocked as “the sads” on blogs from people who disagree with them politically.
Even statements that seem self-evident in the face of Dunnachie’s arrest, like “not all gun owners who identify with the Open Carry movement are responsible, law-abiding citizens” or “we should recognize the shared humanity of people mourning the loss of their friends even if we could potentially score cheap points off of it” come off like contradictory positions at this point. That’s the nature of the gun debate in 2014, and the deaths of the Dunnachies highlight the toxicity of the debate as it stands.