30 March 2015
It’s Hard to Tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”
Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President
The only thing that stops someone from exercising his God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is an intolerant guy with a gun.
There are over 30,000 gun deaths in the US every year. Put another way, that’s about 10 times the number of US citizens killed by terrorists—ever—or 4.5 times the number of US troops killed in the Global War on Terror (Iraq and Afghanistan). Keep in mind, these 30,000+ deaths occur every year. And small wonder, with over 88 guns for every 100 US citizens it’s not hard to get your hands on a lethal weapon if you are so inclined.
Shockingly, the large scale tragedies, such as the shooting deaths of 26 elementary school children at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, do not spur us to take any substantive action. But let’s consider a few of the recent, high profile one-on-one examples of excessive force, abetted by intolerance. Of these, Florida seems to have more than its share. The brief summations that follow are captioned in the names of the victims.
Trayvon Martin February 2012
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old visiting his father in a gated community in Sanford Florida, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, local neighborhood watch coordinator and police officer wannabe. Zimmerman began following Martin, who is black (yes, it probably matters), while “on patrol” and continued following him after phoning the police about a suspicious person. The police dispatcher advised Zimmerman not to tail Martin. He disregarded that advice, and wound up in a struggle with the teenager for the pistol that Zimmerman was licensed to carry.
Zimmerman may have figured Trayvon Martin could be managed easily when he profiled him; a skinny teenager slurping down a soda on a rainy night. The police report on the night of the shooting lists Zimmerman’s weight at 200 lbs. Zimmerman knew he had the best hand when he dealt it whereas Trayvon Martin didn’t even know there was a game on—or that he was playing for his life. I mean, really, who was the aggressor here? Who was the hunter and who was the hunted?
Zimmerman wasn’t standing his ground, he was stalking. Apparently Zimmerman got more than he bargained for—less than he deserved but, more than he expected. Zimmerman probably didn’t set out to shoot Martin, but could any reasonable person believe that he would have pursued the teenager if he hadn’t been carrying a loaded gun? Seriously?
Chad Oulson. January 2014
Curtis Reeves fatally shot Chad Oulson in the chest after an altercation over Oulson texting his daughter’s babysitter during previews at a movie theater just outside of Tampa. Oulson, 43 was at the theater with his wife, sitting a row in front of Reeves and his wife. Reeves 71, is a retired police chief who reportedly never shot anyone during his career in law enforcement. After demanding that Oulson stop texting Reeves left his seat, some say to contact the management of the movie theater, but quickly returned, by which time Oulson had ceased texting.
Oulson’s wife claimed that Reeves then taunted Oulson even though Oulson had put away his phone. Oulson became upset and threw a container of popcorn at Reeves who immediately pulled out his .380 and shot Oulson in the chest at point blank range. Reeves said if he had it to do over again he wouldn’t have shot Oulson. Reeves’ wife said they should have just changed seats. They sound like reasonable people.
At his bail hearing Reeves had no problem coming up with witnesses who testified as to what an upstanding citizen he had always been. (Aside from the recent unpleasantness.) Reeves insisted he had been defending himself. It sounds more like he picked a fight knowing full well that he had the upper hand.
Jordan Davis November 2012
Jordan Davis, 17, and black (yes, it probably matters) was shot 3 times as he sat in a friend’s car listening to music in a convenience store parking lot by Michael Dunn, a 47 year old (white) computer programmer. Dunn then fled the scene, ordered pizza, walked his dog, spent the night at a motel with his girlfriend, and was arrested the next day when he returned home.
Dunn claimed the 17 year-old victim had a shotgun but none was ever found. His fiance, who was in the convenience store as the shooting occurred, said Dunn never mentioned to her that he saw a shotgun. After firing several shots at the victim and his friends Dunn exited his vehicle as the teenagers hastily drove away and fired several more rounds at them. In a routine recording of a jailhouse telephone call Dunn declared that he was the victim. A jury didn’t see it that way, sentencing him to 60 years, the minimum he will be required to serve.
Reeva Steenkamp February 2013
It seems that the fatal insecurity that is so prevalent in the male psyche transcends geopolitical boundaries. Reeva Steenkamp, the striking model and girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, the South African paralympian known as the “Blade Runner,” was shot and killed by Pistorius while staying at his home in an exclusive gated community in Pretoria, South Africa. He shot her four times through the closed, and locked, door of the bathroom. Pistorius claims he awoke during the night and thought Steenkamp was an intruder.
How plausible is that? He awoke in the night, thought he heard something, said, “Hon, I think there’s someone in the bathroom…Hon?” Or, he awoke in the night, thought he heard something, reached out to find his girlfriend, “Baby, you there?…”
OK, so it’s not at all plausible. Pistorius, who is currently on trial for the murder of Steenkamp, has a history of “inappropriately” discharging firearms.
Pistorius is something of an odd-man-out in this line-up of gratuitous killers. For one thing he’s not American. More significantly, he knew his victim—intimately.
How is it that one so readily, and so casually, leaps to the use of deadly force?
All of these men had training and were experienced in the use of firearms. Clearly they were aware of the power they wielded. So aware of the power and yet so oblivious of the consequences.
The thing is, it’s never a fair fight. In these four murders, there is no evidence that the shooters gave their victims even half a chance. Not one of them pulled his pistol and said “I feel threatened and if you do not run away/turn down your music/stop texting/get off of my bidet, I may shoot you.” At no point did any of these killers take any action to defuse the situation.
Zimmerman stalked Trayvon Martin to the point where Martin surely must have felt threatened. Reeves, at one point, actually taunted Oulson, after Oulson had put his phone away, asking him if he was “scared.” And Dunn stepped out of his vehicle to fire 10 rounds at a fleeing car—after, he claims, he saw a shotgun.
Oscar Pistorius, the “courageous paralympian,” seems to have been the most risk averse, firing at his lover, indisposed, who could not even see the threat through the locked bathroom door. (The door was locked because?) These are not the actions of men trying to avoid trouble. These are the actions of bullies who are in the possession of deadly force and itching to use it—which they did.