Murder of David Gunn

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Michael Frederick Griffin
Michael Griffin.jpg
Michael Griffin mug shot.
Born (1961-09-11) 11 September 1961 (age 60)
Conviction(s)Murder of David Gunn
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment eligible for release in 2043

Dr. David Gunn was murdered on March 10, 1993, by Michael Frederick Griffin in Pensacola, Florida, in the United States in an act of anti-abortion violence in the United States. The murder was the first documented murder of an OB-GYN where the murderer's stated intention was to prevent a doctor from performing abortions.[1]

Griffin (at the time 31 years old) waited outside Gunn's Pensacola Women's Medical Services clinic and shot him three times in the back. He is reported to have yelled, "Don't kill any more babies," just before the shooting.[2] Griffin did not attempt to hide his commission of the murder, telling police, "We need an ambulance." On the day of the shooting, anti-abortion protesters had been demonstrating in front of the clinic.[3]

The New York Times described Griffin as "a fundamentalist Christian and a loner with a bad temper".[4] Griffin originally claimed to be acting on behalf of God; but his attorneys later argued that he had been "brainwashed" by another anti-abortion activist, John Burt.[5]

A jury deliberated three hours before finding Griffin guilty on March 4, 1994. He was sentenced to life in prison, which he is serving at Okaloosa Correctional Institution in Crestview, Florida.[6] Griffin requested parole in 2017, but in November 2017 the Florida Commission on Offender Review denied the request, ruling that he must remain in prison until at least 2043.[3]

Association with John Burt[edit]

During his trial, Griffin's lead defense attorney, Robert Kerrigan, argued that John Burt "brainwashed" Griffin and drove him to commit murder.[7] At the time, Burt was the Northwest Florida regional director of the national pro-life group Rescue America.[7]

Burt was a retired U.S. Marine and former member of the Ku Klux Klan (though he claims to have "abandoned the group's racist doctrine when he became a born-again Christian"[7]) and a self-professed "spiritual adviser" to a group of activists who bombed three abortion clinics in 1984.[7] He ran a "safe-house" for pregnant teenagers who had decided to take their pregnancies to term, called "Our Father's House".

In 2005, Burt was convicted of five counts of lewd or lascivious conduct for improperly touching and propositioning a 15-year-old girl at the house, and sentenced to 18 years in state prison.[8]

Subsequent events[edit]

The murder was one of the motivating factors in the passing in 1994 of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.[9]

Gunn's death also prompted Paul Jennings Hill to issue the Defensive Action Statement,[10] signed by 30 anti-abortion leaders, which stated their belief that the killing of doctors who perform abortions was justified. Hill went on to murder physician John Britton and Britton's bodyguard in 1994.

Gunn’s murder was the first of four doctors murdered between March 1993 and May 2009 by killers proclaiming a pro-life motivation. Others killed were doctors John Britton (1994), Barnett Slepian (1998) and George Tiller (2009).

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.[11]

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. ^ William Booth (March 11, 1993). "Doctor Killed During Abortion Protest". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-07-20. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
  3. ^ a b "Michael Griffin, murderer of Pensacola abortion doctor David Gunn, is denied parole". Pensacola News Journal. November 1, 2017.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Florida DoC Details Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 6, 2014.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Bill Kaczor (May 13, 2004). "Florida anti-abortion activist gets 18 years for molesting teen". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  9. ^ "Griffin trial first test of access laws", Palm Beach Post, October 3, 1994.
  10. ^ First Defensive Action Statement Archived 2009-06-05 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 6, 2014.
  11. ^ Marilyn Manson (1999-05-28). "Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?". Rolling Stone (op-ed essay). Wenner Media LLC (815). {{cite journal}}: |format= requires |url= (help)