GREAT BARRINGTON -- Barbara Cantoni lost her brother, Jim Weatherby, to random gun violence Wednesday night. The sudden loss left her family in deep grief, and left her with a pressing need to say something she has felt for a long time.
"I have always thought we need to do something about guns in this country," Cantoni, a resident of Housatonic, said during an interview Saturday. "If these nuts didn’t have guns they wouldn’t be running around killing people. It’s not about the right to bear arms anymore. It’s about controlling the guns that are out there and who has access to them."
Just after 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Weatherby, 57, whose eyesight is so bad that he was living on disability with his guide dog in an apartment in Riverside, Calif., was on the landing of the stairway outside his apartment.
He had heard that there was a comet passing by and wanted to find out if he could spot it, even with his limited eyesight.
About that time, according to police reports, Daniel John Jones, 44, was involved in a domestic dispute with a female friend, one of Weatherby’s neighbors. After she kicked him out, Jones allegedly was going down the stairs and bumped into another man. Jones allegedly shot him in the leg.
Weatherby heard the nearby shot and started heading back to his apartment.
Jones spotted Weatherby from across the courtyard and shot him once in the back, according to police.
Jones fled and crashed his car on a freeway nearby. Police say in trying to carjack someone, Jones also tried to shoot two others before being apprehended.
He was arrested and charged with one count of murder, and three counts of attempted murder, with other charges possible pending following the investigation.
Police confiscated two handguns and an assault rifle, Cantoni said.
Weatherby had lived in the apartment for more than 10 years, Cantoni said.
"He was content there," she said. "He minded his own business and never bothered anyone. He thought he was safe there."
Cantoni said she is hoping to remind people that with so many guns in circulation -- and no meaningful control over who has access to them -- anyone anywhere is vulnerable to gun violence at any time, something her family in Berkshire County has tragically learned.
"People watch this stuff on TV every day and think it will never happen to them. Well, they’re wrong. It could happen to you, it could happen to anyone at anytime at the hands of some crazy person with a gun," Cantoni said. "Thousands of people every month are losing family members because of this situation with guns. We just need to get rid of these things, and if enough people stand up and say something, maybe something will get done. So that’s what I’m doing."
Since the Newton, Conn., school massacre, many backers and members of the National Rifle Association have advocated arming more people to defend against "bad guys with guns."
"Why should we have to arm ourselves," she wondered. "We need to get the guns away from the from bad people, not put more guns out there for them to get their hands on. That’s just crazy. The wrong way of thinking. This isn’t the wild west and we’re not fighting the Indians anymore."
Since Wednesday, Weatherby’s 82-year-old mother, adult son, two sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins have all been dealing with the gaping hole in their lives after a random act by a suspect who likely shouldn’t have had access to firearms.
Weatherby’s guide dog, whom he’d had for only a few months, was also traumatized by the shooting. He has been taken in by a guide dog group in Southern California for care.
Cantoni said that Weatherby will be cremated and his ashes spread along with those of a previous guide dog, Seeka, who passed way about a year ago.
"It’s horrible, horrible, horrible," Cantoni said. "My mother lost her son. She’s having a very hard time with it. I lost a brother. I feel so angry. I feel so helpless."
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