On March 5th, 1991, a former police officer and firearm instructor named James Fendry received a call from a woman. Her name was Bonnie. She had a restraining order against her husband. She was desperate to get a gun to protect herself. The Instructor told her that Wisconsin had a 48 hour waiting period. The next day, Bonnie Elmasri and her two children were murdered by her estranged husband, who then committed suicide.
The address in the map above is where Bonnie and her children lived. The red arrow, at the bottom, is the reported location for James Fendry, the former policeman and firearms instructor, in 1991, when the call was reported.
After the murders, Fendry reported the conversation, which then became an example of how waiting periods can be counterproductive by denying people the ability to defend themselves. The account became national and has been included in the debate about waiting periods and self defense. It is included in web pages such as this one that shows how waiting periods for handguns have costs. The existing research shows that waiting periods do not have a measurable effect in preventing crime.
Bonnie Elmasri's brother, a few months after the murders, contended that his sister would never contact anyone about buying a gun, that she knew nothing about guns, and would never buy one. Therefore, he contends, the story must be false. Bonnie and her children are dead. They cannot be questioned. Phone records of the time are gone, and did not include the digital records of today, so we can never prove that Bonnie called Fendry, a prominent instructor who headed up a state gun organization.
Bonnie Elmasri and her children lived at 2454 N. Lefeber Ave in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. That is only 15 miles from Fendry, whose organization has a (414) area code, so it would have been a local call. Fendry had been quoted in an AP story about gun control in a Milwaukee paper, on February 11th, less than a month before the murders. From the journaltimes.com:
"When you pass a gun law, the criminal realizes an honest person is less likely to have a gun or use a gun," said Fendry, a former police officer. "Locally, statewide and nationally, people who focus on gun control don't care about crime control."How many women named Bonnie had restraining orders against their husband in the local area is not known.
The Daily Beast claims that the brother's account must be the correct one. But desperate people are known to step outside of their comfort zones. It seems highly unlikely that Fendry would just make the story up. The waiting period bill had been passed, 15 years earlier. There was no bill pending in the legislature to repeal the waiting period in 1991. We cannot prove that Bonnie Elmasri made the call. Her brother does not believe that she did. That does not make the assertion a lie or false. From the dailybeast.com:
A shameful falsehood resides at the heart of the gun de-control bill that Gov. Scott Walker signed on Wednesday even as the nation still reeled from the reality of the nine innocents shot to death in a Charleston church.In the law, there is the concept of "preponderance of the evidence". That is, if there is a little more evidence on one side than the other, you accept the side with the little more evidence, in civil cases.
This is not a civil case, it is not a court of law. We have two competing claims. Which is more believable? That a desperate woman, not knowledgeable about guns, would reach out to prominent gun instructor who is a former policeman, who had been recently featured in the newspapers defending the right to self defense; or that a grief stricken brother can be certain that the desperate sister would never do such a thing?
I do not think either claim would be enough to put someone in jail, but I think a jury would find the phone call likely to have come from Bonnie Elmasri, by a preponderance of the evidence.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch