October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I figured I'd write about how the brutal economy has become an accomplice in crimes against women.
But after Meleanie Hain was shot to death in a murder-suicide, I'm reminded that in Pennsylvania and across America, firearms are the real unindicted coconspirators.
Hain, you might recall, carried a Glock 26 openly just about everywhere she went, including Wal-mart. The Lebanon County woman fancied herself a lioness protecting her cubs, with a baby on one hip and a holster on the other.
Hain grabbed international headlines last year after flaunting her firepower at her preschooler's soccer game. The young mother - a tattooed, vegetarian, Hare Krishna child-care provider - morphed into an unlikely symbol of the nation's deadly obsession with the Second Amendment.
In a sign of Hain's abiding confidence, the frequent poster on pro-gun Web sites chose the screen name shefearsnothing. But privately, she fretted to friends about her marriage to Scott Hain, a parole officer and fellow gun enthusiast.
Last week, their discord reached an unbearable pitch as Hain video-chatted in her kitchen. Authorities say Scott Hain shot his wife several times with a 9mm while her online friend watched in horror.
Afterward, the couple's children ran from the house shrieking words no civilized society should stomach: "Daddy shot Mommy!"
Years ago, I applied for a firearms purchaser's permit for a column comparing gun laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
In the Garden State, where I live, officials take the right to bear arms so seriously a detective knocked on the door to ask my husband if he knew and approved of my plans.
I blanched at the implication, but came around after the president of the National Organization for Women told me spousal-notification laws help abuse victims muster the strength to flee.
The Keystone State has no such provision, because in Pennsylvania guns are a way of life. And death.
In 2006, 50 of the 92 Pennsylvanians who were killed in domestic violence were shot. Last summer, 50 people across the state (victims and their abusers who then committed suicide) were killed in bursts of domestic violence; unsurprisingly, more than half were felled by a bullet.
I never met Meleanie Hain, but her tragedy haunts me.
As a mother of young children, I can't fathom wearing a deadly weapon as a fashion accessory. My strong and determined toddler regularly rips the remote control from his big sister's vise grip. If I had him on one hip and a gun on the other, we'd both end up dead.
In an eerie coincidence, on the day Hain was killed I wrote about the fallacy of believing that carrying a gun makes the carrier feel safe. An early draft of that column had a whole section about Hain and her passionate beliefs.
Now I shiver at the fact that a year ago, Hain compared carrying her gun cowboy-style to having a smoke detector and fire extinguisher after asking herself, "What more can I do to ensure the safety of myself and my children?"
The more people are blown away - by strangers or spouses - the more I wonder why anyone thinks owning a gun will prevent a random, violent fate.
I grew up in Indiana with only vague awareness of my father's National Rifle Association membership and gun collection. He shoots targets in the country, but kept his weapons locked and hidden from his family.
I'm thankful for his responsibility, but if the point of owning a gun is to use it at a moment's notice, what good is a revolver in a basement safe?
Hain gained fame by boldly displaying her weapon in public, but said she kept it out of sight at home, away from curious children.
Scott Hain did not share that philosophy. When he decided to end a fight by taking his gun-toting wife's life, her cherished self-protection - with a bullet ready in the chamber - was tucked into a backpack hanging on the front door.