Friday, April 11, 2014

Gun Rights Above All

Gail Gerlach was found not guilty and the lead sentence in the Spokesman Review article sums it up for us.

A Spokane jury affirmed the rights of gun owners to protect themselves on Thursday, acquitting Gail Gerlach of killing a man who was speeding away in Gerlach’s stolen SUV.

The jury affirmed the rights of gun owners to protect themselves? No, the jury found Gerlach not guilty. But it's easy to read too much into this and assume the bar has been lowered for taking another person's life with a gun.

After the shooting in March of last year, a friend of mine said he thought Gerlach's killing of Brendan Kaluza-Graham was justified.

"That's what he gets for being a thief."

I suggested his decision was biased because he knew that Kaluza-Graham had a criminal record so I offered up a different scenario. Let's say Gerlach had a habit of leaving his SUV idling in the driveway to warm up and that he had a neighbor, also a very good friend, who constantly chided him for doing so.

"Somebody could steal it."

And let's say that one morning the friend decided to prank Gerlach and drive off in his SUV, drive around the block, and say, "Ha! I bet you thought someone stole it."

And let's say he never got the chance because Gerlach shot him and killed him as he drove away, citing the same reason he does now. That he felt his life was in danger.

"Do you think that would be a justified killing?" I asked. He thought long and hard before answering, "No."

I'm not saying that the jury in the Gerlach trial was biased or failed to take anything under consideration. I am saying we need to think long and hard and address our nation-wide gun violence problem.

Thanks to the evolution of the English language, inconsistent punctuation, and creative legal minds, there is more than one meaning to the Second Amendment. The individual right to bear arms has received greater emphasis in recent American history, so much so that politicians are fearful to speak out against gun violence for fear of political and financial backlash. Instead of taking meaningful action, action that can still remain within the bounds of the Second Amendment, our leaders take symbolic steps or worse yet, add more guns to the mix.

Stand-your-ground laws emphasize taking a life over avoiding violence and confrontation. Consequently, situations are unnecessarily escalated. More emphasis is placed on "gun rights" and not so much on gun owner responsibilities. Hardly a day passes without the news of a child being shot making the newspaper. It's actually more like 20 every day. To make matters worse, unnecessary gun violence has even become a problem with law enforcement agencies across the country.

For those who think the Gerlach verdict affirmed gun owners rights, it could make the decision to draw and fire a little easier--and easier to justify. That's a simplistic statement to make when dealing with such a complex problem, but I think it boils it down pretty well. After all, as my friend initially inferred, it's easier to justify it when a bad person is shot, regardless that we didn't know anything about them when the shooting happened.

There will probably come a time when we as a society finally say, "That's enough. It's time to do something constructive about gun violence."

And we will be years too late.

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