Murder of David Gunn

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David Gunn
Born(1945-11-16)November 16, 1945
Tennessee, U.S.
DiedMarch 10, 1993(1993-03-10) (aged 47)
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
Alma materVanderbilt University
University of Kentucky

On March 10, 1993, Dr. David Gunn was fatally shot by anti-abortion extremist Michael Frederick Griffin in Pensacola, Florida. It was the first documented killing of an obstetrics and gynaecology doctor where the stated intention of the perpetrator was to prevent a doctor from performing abortions in an act of anti-abortion violence in the United States.[1]

A jury deliberated three hours before finding Griffin guilty on March 4, 1994. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, which he is serving at Okaloosa Correctional Institution in Crestview, Florida.[2] In November 2017, the Florida Commission on Offender Review set Griffin's tentative release date for March 4, 2043. Griffin can seek a review of his release date in 2024, and additional reviews after no more than 7 years.[3][4]

Persons involved[edit]

David Gunn (November 16, 1945 – March 10, 1993)[5] was an American physician. He received his bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University and earned his M.D. at the University of Kentucky. Gunn moved to Brewton, Alabama, after his residency, choosing to provide OB/GYN and abortion services in the rural United States.

Michael Frederick Griffin
Michael Griffin.jpg
Griffin's FDOC photo
Born (1961-09-11) September 11, 1961 (age 61)
Conviction(s)First degree murder
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment

Michael Frederick Griffin was 31 years old at the time of the shooting. The New York Times described Griffin as "a fundamentalist Christian and a loner with a bad temper".[6]


On March 10, 1993, anti-abortion protesters had been demonstrating in front of Gunn's Pensacola Women's Medical Services clinic. Griffin waited outside, then ambushed Gunn by shooting him three times in the back with a shotgun, shouting "Don't kill any more babies" before opening fire.[7] Griffin did not deny his actions after shooting Gunn and told police "We need an ambulance."


Griffin claimed to be acting on behalf of God.[8] During his trial, Griffin's lead defense attorney, Robert Kerrigan, argued that anti-abortion activist John Burt had brainwashed Griffin and drove him to commit murder.[9] At the time, Burt was the Northwest Florida regional director of the national pro-life group Rescue America.[9] Burt was also a former member of the Ku Klux Klan[9] and self-professed "spiritual adviser" to a group of activists who bombed three abortion clinics in 1984.[9] A jury deliberated three hours before finding Griffin guilty on March 4, 1994.

The murder was one of the motivating factors in the passing in 1994 of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.[10] From March 1993 through May 2009, Gunn was the first of a total of four doctors murdered by anti-abortion extremists. Others killed were doctors Barnett Slepian, John Britton and George Tiller. Gunn's murder helped lead to the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.[6] Gunn's murder also prompted Paul Jennings Hill to issue the Defensive Action Statement,[11] signed by 30 anti-abortion leaders, which stated their belief that the killing of doctors who perform abortions was justified.[12] Hill went on to murder physician John Britton and Britton's bodyguard in 1994.

Cultural references[edit]

In 1994, Gunn's murder inspired the first official single "Get Your Gunn" by alternative metal band Marilyn Manson. The lead singer, Marilyn Manson, explained in a 1999 Rolling Stone op-ed piece on the Columbine High School Massacre, that to him, Gunn's murder by "pro-life" activists was the ultimate hypocrisy he had witnessed as a young adult.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kushner, Harvey (2003). Encyclopedia of Terrorism. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan: SAGE Publications. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-7619-2408-1. In 1993... Griffin became the first activist to murder an abortion provider, ushering in a new level of terrorism in the abortion wars.
  2. ^ Florida DoC Details Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 6, 2014.
  3. ^ "Michael Griffin, murderer of Pensacola abortion doctor David Gunn, is denied parole". Pensacola News Journal. November 1, 2017.
  4. ^ Reedy, Joe. "Man who killed Alabama abortion doctor told no parole until 2043". The Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  5. ^ Florida, Death Index, 1877-1998
  6. ^ a b Sara Rimer (March 14, 1993). "The Clinic Gunman and the Victim: Abortion Fight Reflected in 2 Lives". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-04-28. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
  7. ^ William Booth (March 11, 1993). "Doctor Killed During Abortion Protest". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-07-20. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
  8. ^ Rohter, Larry (March 5, 1994). "Towering Over the Abortion Foe's Trial: His Leader". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c d Larry Rohter (March 5, 1994). "Towering Over the Abortion Foe's Trial: His Leader". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  10. ^ "Griffin trial first test of access laws", Palm Beach Post, October 3, 1994.
  11. ^ First Defensive Action Statement Archived 2009-06-05 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 6, 2014.
  12. ^ Donald Spitz. "Defensive Action Statement". Pro-Life Virginia. Archived from the original on 2009-06-05. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  13. ^ Marilyn Manson (1999-05-28). "Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?". Rolling Stone (op-ed essay). No. 815. Wenner Media LLC. {{cite magazine}}: |format= requires |url= (help)