Tammy Zywicki and Sarah Brady

By Richard Griffith

October 1, 1993

Last year at about this time Tammy Zywicki, 21, was undoubtedly looking forward to seeing her friends again and starting another semester at Grinnell College in Iowa. Her father commented in the Kansas City Star how much she loved people and was a very caring and friendly person. He called her his princess. A happy and beautiful young woman with much to look forward to in life, Tammy Zywicki, never made it to Grinnell College.

She first had car trouble in New Jersey, according to her brother Daren. Thinking the car was fixed, she continued on alone after she dropped him off at Northwestern University in Illinois. Tammy's car eventually broke down on Interstate 80 near Utica Illinois. A witness remembered seeing a truck driver looking under the hood of Tammy's car as she stood by.

Stranded on the highway, far from home, Tammy was probably frightened, lonely and unsure. What happened next to her is unimaginable for us. We may pretend to understand but we really don't. It wasn't a horror movie or the latest Dean Koontz novel. Sometime that day someone assaulted Tammy.

Tammy was kidnapped, stabbed seven times, and her body was dumped into a ditch off Interstate 44 in Missouri. At some point during this nightmare Tammy knew she would never graduate from college, never have a career, or be married, or have a child. She knew she would never see the sun rise again.

Kate Petit's experience in Florida was remarkably similar to Tammy's. Traveling along a highway in Florida between Lake Kissimmee and Tampa,her car broke down and Kate was left stranded. Because her car was on fire, Kate couldn't sit in the car with the windows locked; instead she had to stand by the roadside alone. A well dressed, respectable looking man got out of his car with a smile on his face and offered to help.

In the next instant, the man pulled a knife out of his pocket, pressed it into Kate's ribs, and told her he would thrust the knife into her heart if she didn't cooperate. Kate was forced into the man's trunk and as they drove along he screamed dementedly at her. After a half and hour of this ordeal the car pulled off the road and stopped. The man started to open up the trunk.

 Kate Petit didn't die that day. She didn't end up bludgeoned, mutilated or raped as countless thousands of women are very day across this nation. This day was different. As the man opened up the trunk, Kate had already positioned herself and was ready. She pulled the trigger on the licensed .38 caliber revolver she carried in her purse and shot this crazed man dead.

I don't know if Tammy's life would have been saved if she had been armed. I do know that the research from some of most respected criminologists documents that firearms are extremely effective for self-defense, especially for women.

In Florida it is now legal for women to obtain a concealed weapons permit. When this legislation was introduced the press in Florida went berserk predicting a Wild West. That didn't happen. Homicide fell 25% in that state, and criminals there today seem to prefer dealing with unarmed tourists, instead of armed natives.

It turns out that the Florida women who sought permits to carry a handgun had good reasons: they lived alone or had to travel late at night through crime infested neighborhoods because of their jobs. Many who applied for permits were women who were begin stalked by violent former boyfriends or ex-husbands. Police and many in the media now credit the law with having saved innocent lives.

It is difficult then to understand how Sarah Brady (the chair of Handgun Control Inc.) can list as one of her triumphs the blocking of reform legislation to allow concealed weapons permits in Missouri, Louisiana and Texas. In these states and in many others it is illegal for a woman to carry a handgun for self-defense, no matter how endangered she is or how much training she is willing to acquire. In pursuit of the goal of controlling guns, Sarah Brady seems willing to disarm those who need firearms to defend themselves and their children the most.

I can understand some of the pain Sarah Brady feels. A family member of mine, a police officer, was shot in the head by a drug dealer. He wasn't as lucky as Jim Brady. He was left to die by his partners who panicked after the first shots rang out. To me though, it is still wrong, no matter how much one may have suffered personally, to trample on the rights of others and to distort the facts. I wonder how many more Tammy Zywickis will have to die before Sarah Brady begins to listen.


Richard Griffith, a college student in Manhattan, Kansas, wrote this article for the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado.

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