Nelson T. “Pete” Shields was an important gun-control advocate from Greenville, Delaware. In 1974, Shields was employed as a marketing executive at the DuPont company in nearby Wilmington when he found out that his son Nick had been brutally murdered in San Francisco.
Nelson T. “Nick” Shields IV, the eldest son of Pete Shields, was one of fourteen victims in a serial killing spree known as the Zebra murders. In response to his son’s tragic death, Pete Shields decided to leave his job at DuPont and devote all his time to national gun-control advocacy. He co-founded Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), a Washington-based gun-control advocacy group. During the next fifteen years, Pete served as the HCI executive director and chairman.
The following story appeared in a 1981 New York Times article on gun control. In late 1980, Pete Shields and Dr. Michael Halberstam, a Washington physician, were discussing the handgun issue at dinner. As a result of their conversation, Dr. Halberstam wrote and broadcast some commentaries for Cable TV News Network. In one, he said:
“Let’s start to put some of the same energy and urgency into controlling handguns as we put into muscular dystrophy. Start now. Don’t wait until someone you love or someone you respect has been murdered by a psychopath with a grudge against society and a .32 special in his pocket.”
Two weeks later, Dr. Halberstam was murdered with a .38-caliber handgun. Later that same day, John Lennon was murdered in New York City with a similar weapon.
Pete Shields was an unsung hero who fought long and hard for a sane gun control policy and a more civilized nation. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act signed into law in November 1993.
Hand guns and military assault weapons are still readily available in the United States and random mass shootings are now commonplace. Pete, we need more leaders like you to convince Americans that stricter gun control is the right course of action. ∎︎