Editorial— Thoughts About Tim Beaty’s Murder

The hundreds of people who flooded in from across the nation to attend Tim Beaty’s visitation and fu
Chris Wissmann

The hundreds of people who flooded in from across the nation to attend Tim Beaty’s visitation and funeral the other week were a testament to how well the Bourbon Knights and It Burns (et al.) drummer lived, and how many lives he touched as a person and local musician.

But there could be far more to his story— specifically, its ending.

Initially, rumors circulated that Beaty was a bystander at home, perhaps asleep, on Easter Sunday when stray gunfire from a nearby afterhours fraternity party struck him dead.

But now credible testimony has indicated that people who fled the violence at the party came to Beaty’s house for help, and he let them in and gave them shelter.

If there’s any way to view the tragedy of Beaty’s murder in a positive light, it’s that he died trying to protect other people. Even if all he did was open his door to strangers caught in the crossfire, well, his still became a hero’s death by any definition.

Death will come for all of us. We can only hope that when it does, we will face it with the bravery and selflessness and character that Beaty demonstrated.

Above, I referred to Beaty’s death as murder. The law and how it defines murder or the various degrees homicide may say otherwise. But Tim Beaty’s death was no accident. The gun didn’t go off on its own.

Someone pointed a gun at where Beaty was positioned in his house, and then that person squeezed the trigger. That person murdered Tim Beaty.

Whether that person saw Beaty or knew he was in the line of fire doesn’t matter. Ignorance on this point is no excuse or mitigating circumstance. Nor does the probability that the gunman thought he was aiming at someone else.

Guns shoot bullets exactly where they’re pointed when the triggers are pulled. Bullets hit whatever is in their paths. And someone intentionally pointed a gun in Beaty’s direction and made a conscious decision to pull the trigger. That constitutes murder.

Police may never determine which of the four suspects in the shooting fired that fatal bullet. (Perhaps none of them did— police have arrested, and prosecutors have sent to prison and even death row, innocent people.)

Yet even the others involved in the gunfight contributed so heavily to the atmosphere that resulted in Beaty’s murder that morally, if not legally, they remain just as responsible for it.

Proponents of gun control, which I have long been, have several hard facts to face. One is that the U.S. Supreme Court has made restrictions on gun ownership and possession nearly impossible, and Congress (with “encouragement” from the National Rifle Association) has rendered political nonstarters any legal steps that might prevent guns from falling into the hands of violent criminals.

Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine any laws that would have prevented Beaty’s murderers from obtaining the weapons they used to kill him. It’s a pretty safe bet that the murderers didn’t hold Firearm Owners Identification cards, concealed-carry licenses, or their out-of-state equivalents. It’s also safe to assume they didn’t purchase their weapons from licensed dealers who conducted anything resembling background checks.

The solution to curtailing gun violence may not lay in legislation, but psychology and education.

Though they took decades, massive, concerted public-relations campaigns and school health classes steadily reduced tobacco (and other drug) use among Americans. Maybe the right messages and messengers can lessen the desire to possess, carry, and use firearms (especially the illegally obtained and used varieties).

That’s not going to produce results as quickly as anyone would like, but it could constitute the only remaining legal way, and the most effective method period, to bring about an end to shootings such as the one that claimed Tim Beaty’s life.

The good news is that violent crime, despite headlines that would indicate otherwise, has already been falling for decades, including in Carbondale— so there’s a head start with which to work.

There are limits, however, to what such efforts can accomplish. Children aren’t typically in school more than eight hours a day, for example. Two-thirds of the workweek, they’re somewhere else. Absentee, negligent, incompetent, or just plain bad parenting can undo a lot of progress that schools can make. Parents may need help learning how to raise children who won’t grow into monsters.

Parties are supposed to be celebrations. If you feel the need to bring a gun to a party— a goddamned party, for Christ’s sake— then at least one of the following applies:

•        It’s not a party, it’s a gunfight— and you should just stay home.

•        You’re mentally ill— specifically, you’re dangerously, clinically paranoid.

•        You’re pathologically, irredeemably ignorant as to the meaning of the word party, among other terms commonly used by civilized, educated people.

•        You’re going there with the intent to shoot someone.

If the first item applies to you and you go anyway, or if any of the latter three items pertain to you and you bring a firearm to a party, then you are a failure. Not only that, your parents are failures for raising someone so devoid of sense, mental health, education, and values. They are failures as parents. They are failures as citizens. They are failures as human beings. And you are proof of their failures.

Such people, unless they completely lack consciences, must find it impossible to live with their failures.


In response to Beaty’s murder and a spate of other shootings in Carbondale, professor John Washburn will lead a community forum Thursday, April 21 at 6 p.m. at the Carbondale Civic Center. The topic is “What can we as a community do to make Carbondale safer and more welcoming for everyone?” Mayor Mike Henry, city manager Gary Williams, police chief Jeff Grubbs, and SIU officials are expected to attend. The public is welcome to participate in the discussion.