Tag Archive | western

Alias Smith and Jones, actor Pete Duel – thoughts on his suicide and gun laws

Pete Duel.jpg

Remember Alias Smith & Jones?

Alias Smith & Jones was a TV series and a western which first aired during the years 1971-1973, and of course later in other parts of the world. The series was indeed popular internationally, also in countries which only had about one or two TV channels at this time, which increased the chances that viewers would find the series – and those who did liked it. Unfortunately the series is also well known for the suicide committed by one of the actors when he was 31 years old, Pete Duel (previously Peter Deuel), early New Year’s eve 1971. He was found naked and dead under the Christmas tree after having shot himself through the ear.

This suicide seems to have been truly spontaneous, where he left no suicide note, no explanation and he had even arranged wake up calls for the following morning in order to get up to work at Universal where he and his colleagues were finalizing a new episode of the show. His parents were travelling by plane in order to make their planned visit the following day. Pete’s girlfriend was, based on her own account, sleeping in the bedroom when Pete turned up to take his gun and said ”I’ll see you later”, before the shot was heard moments later.

”But Peter’s most serious personal crisis occurred when he was 16. ”My father took great pains to get me ready for college,” he pointed out. ”But I had been watching the world and I didn’t see one thing in my future that I really wanted. Everything seemed phony. I was down, terribly depressed. I knew that if I went to college I’d be educated like every other guy who ever went to college. I’d be given little chance to become Peter Deuel. People I didn’t even know, would never even meet, had planned my life for me. I said the devil with it.” / PETER DEUEL: HE KISSES THE GIRLS AND MAKES THEM CRY by Lou LarkinModern Screen, March 1967

”A series disrupts your life and makes you think. You have to do a lot of thinking. The pressures and the time involved in doing a series are the things that can either make you grow or beat you into the mud. I allowed myself to be beaten into the mud last year. I just didn’t really choose to deal with reality.”/ WHAT IS PETE DUEL AFRAID OF ? by Fiona MacDougall ‘TEEN Magazine, February 1972 

Peter sometimes felt lonely and depressed also later in his life and sadly too much alcohol became one of his problems He had a couple of DUI’s against him and pleaded guilty to a serious felony drunken driving charge. Two persons almost got killed in the accident and he had unfortunately removed himself from the scene of the accident (something he deeply regretted and couldn’t fathom that he even contemplated). He gave up his driver’s license for a period of time, and he was therefore driven to and from work by his stand-in at the series.

This type of personality change suggests that he was highly unreliable under the influence of alcohol. Moreover, this ordeal together with the fact that he was supposed to stay away from heavy drinking based on the court order, plus the fact that his work wore him out, plus his history of depression should all have motivated him to make precautions and to keep two things away from his house: alcohol and weapons. Unfortunately both were present. What might have happened if at least one of those two things were not present that particular night?

If Pete’s addiction to alcohol was so intense that he couldn’t keep it away from his house (which apparently was the case), then wouldn’t it have been wise safety measure to at least keep weapons away from the house considering his shaky background and the risk for mood swings during too much drinking? Of course, when you’re sober you might not think that there is a risk for doing anything that foolish when you’re drunk …

Pete had already reached out to Alcoholics Anonymous for help.

It’s hard to know if a small argument with his girlfriend took place that evening, but at least it was established that they had split up a few months earlier and had tried to get back together. It’s quite possible that it still didn’t work out. It’s also possible that a number of factors caused him to drink heavily this evening, and which resulted in his unfortunate decision in the midst of his daze to kill himself.

Unlike his colleague Ben Murphy, Pete didn’t want to be in Alias Smith & Jones in the first place (or any series), but rather in film productions.

Gun laws 

pete duel.jpgPete was no criminal, and he got his weapon due to the risk of intruders who might try to enter his house. Intruders are still to be preferred over the risk of self inflicted injuries made under the influence of alcohol. A week prior to the death, he had shot a hole in a telegram which he had pinned to the wall and which was telling him he had lost the election to the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild. (This extra shot is quite significant since the Police wanted to figure out why there were two bullets used in his gun.) Reportedly he shot at the document because a period was missing, and the new period made the statement of his loss more official …

As a European, I feel that it’s way too easy to get hold of guns in the US. Many spontaneous murders and suicides would have been prevented if people wouldn’t have guns laying around despite that they are neither hunters nor active in gun clubs. If there were more conditions involved for gun ownership (like extensive education about safety procedures, being required to store the weapon in a heavy gun cabinet, being active in a gun club, etc), then these obstacles would eliminate a lot of people from acquiring a gun, and especially criminals. If criminals can’t come by weapons easily, neither will the rest of us feel the need to own guns for protection. Criminals can get hold of guns anyway? Yes, in America! So criminals can never come by guns illegally in Europe? Of course some do, and the homicide rate is not zero in Europe – but the homicide rate in the US is towering compared to the rest of the western world. To me it’s not real freedom to walk around feeling you need to own a gun for protection due to too many criminals owning guns. The day I start to feel that I need a gun in my purse, is the day when I lose my freedom. In order to not head in that direction, I want to continue preventing criminals from owning guns.

Still, if there would be a new American law requiring people to turn in their guns unless they register in an extensive gun safety education class, then of course the criminals would be the last ones to turn in their guns. Maybe it’s too late for America because the guns are already in circulation. If Europe would change the gun laws and make guns more accessible (more like America), the criminals would of course laugh heartily and be the very first ones in line to get guns. THEN (unlike before) the rest of the people would start feeling they need guns for protection. I pray it will never go that way.

Americans might suggest that they want to increase their chances to survive a threatening gun attack by possessing guns themselves which they could use for protection, but my attitude is that it’s the attackers who shouldn’t have guns in the first place. If they don’t have guns, then neither would you need a gun. There are criminals also in Europe who will come by weapons despite serious gun control laws, and those guns are almost exclusively used against other criminals or used in large crimes like a bank robbery. If people would be able to acquire guns more easily, the risk will increase that even criminal teenagers can get hold of them and use them to threaten people on the streets.

If I lived in the US (or if I worked as a farmer in South Africa…), maybe I too would like to own a gun for protection due to the many guns in circulation in the wrong hands, but would an American moving to Europe really want Europe to become just as unsafe as America with the same enormous homicide rate? In America it’s a ”leftist” thing to be for strict gun control rules, but I’m definitely not a leftist either by American or Swedish standards.

Let’s suppose you want to change the airline rules by suggesting that weapons should be allowed to bring on board the plane, unless the airline could absolutely guarantee that you will not be threatened or harmed by other passengers with weapons or other threatening tools. It’s hard to guarantee something like this because it has happened, even if rarely, that passengers have used all sorts of things as weapons (if they haven’t been able to smuggle real guns or knives on board). Let’s suppose that the airline will start to accomodate your request and allow weapons on board because ”If a passenger is threatened by someone with a weapon, he/she has no way to turn in a plane, so if we allow passengers to carry on board weapons for protection, their chances of surviving a threat will increase!”. Who are you really kidding? Of course the risks will instead increase.

Japan is a country where homicides are rare (they say it’s because it’s illegal ….), and the risk of being shot by a gun is just a tiny percentage. On top of this it’s the same thing there, that criminals with guns aim at other criminals, so if you stay away from being a criminal yourself your chances of encountering a gun aimed against you is indeed very small. Still, what if you managed to change the gun laws in Japan and started to apply American gun laws? Maybe because you feel that you must protect yourself due to the 1% chance of being shot? Criminals will thank you and of course buy guns, but not for protection but in order to aim at you and others. THEN you will start to feel threatened.

Starting to apply American gun laws in Europe equals placing more guns in the hands of criminals.

Gun control has helped the UK to have one of the lowest homicide rates in the world

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Homicide rates for the USA, and for the UK (info for 2011 not available for the UK)

The homicide rate 2011 for the USA was 5,1 (by any method) and 3,6 (by gun) per 100.000 population (10,3 for ALL gun deaths 2011)

The homicide rate 2009 for the USA was 5,48 (by any method) and 2,98 (by gun) per 100.000 population

The homicide rate 2009 for the entire UK was 1,2 (by any method) and 0,22 (by gun) per 100.000 population (0,25 for ALL gun deaths 2010)

The homicide rate 2009 for Scotland was 1,9 (by any method) and 0,04 (by gun) per 100.000 population

From gunpolicy.org.  Chart with comparison between the USA and the UK here.

 

I try to not engage too much in American gun laws discussions even though I often see rude comments where some people demonize those with opposing views (those for strict gun control laws) and equate them with ”leftists” (I’m not), but when incorrect claims about gun laws in Europe are in focus I’d like to say something. I’m certainly not a fan of all laws in Europe (and they are vastly different from country to country) and we should be able to handle the subject of gun control without talking about politics in general. Where I live ALL are for gun control (left to right) because we all share the same goal to NOT place guns in the hands of criminals, and the only way is to do this is to prohibit ALL to buy guns for protection. This has led to the pleasant fact that we don’t need guns for protection since there is no threat. If you’re a criminal it’s a different matter, because criminals tend to want to harm each other.

Britain – a country with one of the lowest homicide rates in the world

It happens time and again that people against gun control (usually either Americans or criminals) falsely claim that the violent crime rate in the UK has ”sky rocketed” ever since the country started to apply gun control, but that is an exaggeration and doesn’t change the fact that the homicide rate in the UK is one of the lowest in the world and VERY much lower than the rate in the USA. It’s also common that the same people are not interested in facts that speak against their desired scenario, so they either continue spreading the incorrect statements as though they haven’t heard, or they go elsewhere in their hunt to find support for their idea that low murder rates are not correlated to strict gun control. When being presented to world-wide statistics that show homicide rates listed per country – indicating that the US homicide rate is enormously high compared to other western countries – they usually say ”you can show anything with statistics!” and immediately brush it off. Instead they find youtube clips or Facebook posts with pictures with claims such as ”Australia’s homicide rate sky rocketed ever since the gun control laws, bla bla” and choose to trust these figures thoroughly! Then the song isn’t ”statistics can show anything” any more.

USA compared to other western countries (the most fair way to compare)

Comparing an American state with other American states is of course not an honest way to make a proper analysis, since it’s not impossible to take guns across the boarders or get hold of guns in other ways. Guns used for crimes in NY and other cities can in some cases be traced back to states with more liberal gun laws. In order to appear in a better light when it comes to the comparison with other nations, it’s common that Americans against gun control would like to be compared with countries with even higher homicide rates, and that’s why they must go to infamous countries like Colombia, Venezuela and South Africa to look better. However, a more honest approach is of course to compare with those countries which are closest in culture, wealth, politics, etc. That’s why a comparison with Canada is interesting (but not perfect since it’s possible to take guns across the boarders there too), and other western countries. The below information is from Politifact Virginia, and the text is actually an attempt to HELP the US to appear in a better light! Still, the outcome is devastating for the USA and liberal gun laws.

The U.S. gun homicide rate is 20 times the combined rate of other western nations”. The number is based on a study of the homicide rates of wealthy nations in 2003, conducted by the UCLA School of Public Health. The report, published in 2010, uses data from the World Health Organization to compare gun-related homicide, gun-related suicide and unintentional and undetermined gun deaths for all ages and both sexes. Vital statistics from the U.S. were compared to those from 22 other high-income countries with populations over 1 million people who reported causes of mortality to WHO for 2003. Researchers relied on The World Bank’s definition of a high income  nation. In addition to the U.S., the study included Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (England and Wales), United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and United Kingdom (Scotland). The rate of homicides with guns in the U.S. was 4.1 per 100,000 people; the same rate combining the 22 other countries was 0.2 per 100,000 in 2003. The rate of homicides using guns in the U.S. was 19.5 times the rate of the other countries.

Below is an attempt by the writers to change these stats to improve the scenario for the US, and they took the most favorable and updated stats for the US but not so with the other countries with stats mostly from 2009. They also chose to compare with NATO countries, and  by doing so they would also include countries that are NOT considered wealthy but actually rather poor (such as Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, etc) and by doing so of course the stats will improve.  But is it an honest comparison? For instance, in Bulgaria (in the east block of Europe) middle class people can’t afford to have the electricity on all day so it’s not in the same wealth bracket as western countries. Despite the attempt to improve the scenario for the US, the conclusion is still that the homicide rate in the USA TOWERS over other wealthy European nations: 

The most recent gun-related homicide rate for the U.S. was 3.0 per 100,000 compared to an 0.3 for the rest of the NATO nations. If you compare the most recent data on the same group of nations, mostly based on 2009 statistics, the U.S. gun homicide rate is 15 times higher than the other countries. The number fell to 10 times as high when we defined the inexact term of ”western nations” as countries belonging to NATO. However, that gun homicide rates in the U.S. tower over those of other wealthy  European nations — holds up.

Wikipedia – Britainguns0

People who are desperate to find statistics that show that gun control doesn’t work search high and low, and lately the crime statistics in Britain have been in focus. Those against gun control certainly can’t use the charts for homicide rates as a basis of their reasoning (since those all speak heavily against them) so they have to look for other columns (not homicide). So they found poor Britain, but is it an honest approach make a fair comparison and judgment?

The UK and the USA actually have very close figures when it comes to ”violent crime” rates, with the number for the UK slightly higher. The difference is of course that the UK has a considerably lower homicide rate than the USA, and the difference is HUGE! When studying statistics for Britain or any country, it’s important to understand what is behind the numbers. An affray is considered a violent crime in the UK, while in some other countries it will only be logged as such if a person is physically injured. While the UK ranks above South Africa for all violent crime, South Africans suffer more than 20,000 murders each year – compared with Britain’s 921 in 2007! Some crime cases are not reported at all in certain countries and not only the ”poor” ones. For example, I saw an American documentary about a murder in Philadelphia where a man had raped several women and ended up also murdering one. The investigators discovered that the first rape was not reported due to the aim to improve the statistics for this particular police department, and it was very unfortunate since the follow-up rapes in the same area would have been easier to pin down to the rapist a lot sooner, and before he ended up murdering someone. It’s impossible to know how many other such cases there are for the USA and for other countries. That’s why the HOMICIDE RATE (rather than crime rates) is the best crime to compare with since this is the crime that countries are most likely to report. 

Below is what wikipedia says about the gun situation in the UK and since the data shows that gun control has done the UK a lot of good  (having one of the lowest homicide rates in the world is surely good) it’s a risk that pro-gunners will immediately scream that wikipedia is not a trustworthy source. But they think various youtube clips and information in cute Facebook pictures are reliable sources? Wikipedia might not always be correct whenever ”opinions” are involved, but more trustworthy when it comes to boring facts with proper sources listed. That’s why it’s interesting reading. Interestingly Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where owning firearms for protection is allowed, and it’s also the part with the highest homicide rate in the UK.

In the United Kingdom, firearms are tightly controlled by law—The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world. There were 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010, compared to the 3.0 in the United States (over 40 times higher) and 0.21 in Germany (3 times higher).

Northern Ireland has a very high rate of gun ownership, one of the highest in the world. In contrast England and Wales have considerably lower rates and Scotland has the lowest in the United Kingdom. The gun crime rate rose between 1997 and 2004 but has since slightly receded, while the number of murders from gun crime has largely remained static over the past decade. Northern Ireland: Under the new law, first-time buyers will be required to demonstrate they can be trusted with the firearm. —  Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where personal protection is accepted as a legitimate reason to obtain and own a firearm and is the only part of the United Kingdom where handguns and semi-automatic firearms are permitted. Also, carrying a firearm in plain view in a public place is allowed without a permit. However a firearm certificate for a personal protection weapon will only be authorised where the Police Service of Northern Ireland deems there is a ‘verifiable specific risk’ to the life of an individual and that the possession of a firearm is a reasonable, proportionate and necessary measure to protect their life.

A Home Office study published in 2007 reported that gun crime in England and Wales remained a relatively rare event. Firearms (including air guns) were used in 21,521 recorded crimes. It said that injury caused during a firearm offence was rare, with fewer than 3% of offences resulting in a serious or fatal injury.

For 2010/11, police in England and Wales recorded 648 offences as homicide, of which 58 (9%) involved the use of firearms — a rate of 0.1 illegal gun deaths per 100,000 of population. The number of homicides per year committed with firearms in England and Wales remained between 39 and 81 in the nine years to 2010/11, with an average of 58.3 per year. During the same time period, there were three fatal shootings of police officers in England and Wales, and 149 non-fatal shootings, an average of 16.5 per year. The overall homicide rates per 100,000 (regardless of weapon type) reported by the United Nations for 1999 were 4.55 for the U.S. and 1.45 in England and Wales. The homicide rate in England and Wales at the end of the 1990s was below the EU average, but the rates in Northern Ireland and Scotland were above the EU average.

Britain has had few firearms rampage incidents in modern times. During the latter half of the 20th century there were only two incidents in which people holding licensed firearms went on shooting sprees and killed on a large scale

A legislation was introduced in 1997 to prohibit ”Small firearms” with a barrel length of less than 30 cm or an overall length of less than 60 cm. Whilst intentional firearm homicides did in fact eventually decline —homicides involving the class of firearms prohibited initially increased in the early years following the legislative change before commencing a downward trend in 2008. With an alternative view, in 2012 the Home Office reported that, ”in 2010/11, firearms were involved in 11,227 recorded offences in England and Wales, the seventh consecutive annual fall”. Firearms statistics in England and Wales include airguns and imitation guns, which make up a high proportion of these recorded offences.

Fully automatic (submachine-guns, etc.) are totally prohibited from private ownership and self-loading (semi-automatic) weapons, including shotguns and .22 calibre pistols, are totally banned other than in Northern Ireland. Shotgun possession and use is controlled, and even low-power air rifles and pistols, while permitted, are controlled to some extent. A firearms certificate issued by the police is required for all weapons and ammunition except air weapons of modest power (of muzzle energy not over 12 ft·lbf for rifles, and 6 ft·lbf for pistols).

Any person who has been sentenced to three years or more in prison is automatically banned for life from obtaining a firearms licence.[35] Similarly, persons applying for licences with recent, serious mental health issues will also be refused a certificate. Any person holding a Firearm or Shotgun Certificate must comply with strict conditions regarding such things as safe storage. These storage arrangements are checked by the police before a licence is first granted, and on every renewal of the licence. A local police force may impose additional conditions on possession, over and above those set out by law. The penalty for possession of a prohibited firearm (section 5) without a certificate is a maximum of ten years in prison and an unlimited fine.  

From the 6 April 2007 the sale and transfer of ”air weapons” by mail order became an offence (they may still be purchased in person), as well as the sale of primers, and realistic imitation firearms (RIFs).

While the number of crimes involving firearms in England and Wales increased from 13,874 in 1998/99 to 24,070 in 2002/03, they remained relatively static at 24,094 in 2003/04, and fell to 21,521 in 2005/06. The latter includes 3,275 crimes involving imitation firearms and 10,437 involving air weapons, compared to 566 and 8,665 respectively in 1998/99. Only those ”firearms” positively identified as being imitations or air weapons (e.g., by being recovered by the police or by being fired) are classed as such, so the actual numbers are likely significantly higher. In 2005/06, 8,978 of the total of 21,521 firearms crimes (42%) were for criminal damage.

Most of the rise in injuries were in the category slight injuries from the non-air weapons. ”Slight” in this context means an injury that was not classified as ”serious” (i.e., did not require detention in hospital, did not involve fractures, concussion, severe general shock, penetration by a bullet or multiple shot wounds). In 2005/06, 87% of such injuries were defined as ”slight,” which includes the use of firearms as a threat only.

In 2008 The Independent reported that there were 42 gun-related deaths in Great Britain, a 20-year low. However, in late 2009 The Telegraph reported that gun crime had doubled in the last 10 years, with an increase in both firearms offences and deaths. A government spokesman said this increase was a result of a change in reporting practices in 2001 and that gun crime had actually fallen since 2005.—A 2006 statistical analysis found no measurable effect detectable from the 1997 firearms legislation.

In the year Apr 2010 to Mar 2011 there were 11,227 recorded offences involving firearms, broken down as follows.

  • Long-barrelled shotgun = 406
  • Sawn-off shotgun = 202
  • Handgun = 3,105
  • Rifle = 74
  • Imitation firearm = 1,610
  • Unidentified firearm = 957
  • Other firearm = 670
  • Air weapons = 4,203

Only those items proven to be ”imitations” (which includes BB/soft air types) or air weapons are classed as such, otherwise they are placed by default in the main ”live” categories, e.g. an imitation pistol not proven to be such would be counted as a live ”handgun.” ”Other firearm” includes CS gas (223 crimes), pepper spray (118), and stun guns (149).

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