I have written several columns where I stressed that I support the right for responsible gun ownership, but question those who feel gun ownership is an absolute right – regardless.
I think it is time to change my position somewhat. The bottom line is the definition of responsibility. A couple of years ago the “stand your ground” killing of a black teenager in Florida headlined the news for weeks. The shooter, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of Manslaughter.
Zimmerman “feared for his life” and therefore had the right to “stand his ground.”
Whether Zimmerman’s acquittal had anything to do with it or not, at least 26 teenagers were killed in Florida in 2013 where the shooter claimed he “feared for his life” and simply “stood his ground.”
But, Florida is not the only state with this problem. In Michigan a manslaughter trial started this week with 54 year old Theodore Wafer being charged with the killing of a 19 year old Black woman. Wafer is arguing that he “feared for his life” and as a result he simply “stood his ground.”
I personally have a hard time understanding how an apparently intoxicated, perhaps disoriented teenage woman who apparently was seeking help after wrecking her car could put the fear of life into a then 53 year old man – especially when that man is standing behind a locked screen door.
A locked screen door.
A screaming 19 year old woman
And, a 53 year old man who was so afraid he fired the shotgun into the head of the woman – killing her instantly.
He fired the shotgun while standing on one side of a locked screen door into the head of an unarmed teenager.
Because he “feared for his life.”
Still, I don’t completely blame those who stand behind “stand your ground” laws when they kill people. I blame legislators who passed these laws and juries that validate “fear.”
Unfortunately, “stand your ground” laws are not the only gun laws that will come back to haunt us.
Recently, the Indiana legislature passed a law making it legal to carry a gun into, among other places, bars and taverns. As I commented in an earlier column, it seems ridiculous to allow guns into a business establishment where excessive amounts of alcohol can often create conflict.
I don’t know if there is any correlation, but I was appalled to read where seven people were shot as they left a bar in Indianapolis last week. The news reports said that arguments started while in the bar and culminated with the shootings as people left the bar.
I guess the argument can be the shootings were outside the bar so having guns inside the bar would have had nothing to do with the final results.
I don’t know. I just know that seven people were shot as they left the bar.
As I said, at first I was appalled at the shooting. Then I remembered one of the major arguments for the absolute right to own guns – any guns.
“Guns don’t kill. People kill.”
I thought about this, and came to the conclusion that the problem lies more with those who are shot than those who do the shooting. I finally came to the conclusion that “guns don’t kill,” but bullets do.
With this in mind, the problem must be that those who are shot are at fault for not getting out of the way of the bullets.
We can’t blame the gun
And, we can’t blame the shooter if he/she “feared for his life.”
While I realize my thoughts are both weird and ridiculous, where do we draw the line?
I know where I draw the line.
Last week a twenty something young man confronted my young grandchildren who were playing with friends inside their own fenced in yard. This young man, a neighbor, stood on one side of the fence, moved his jacket so that the kids could see his gun, and then made shooting motions with his fingers.
No, he didn’t pull his gun. But the threat was obvious.
Fortunately, Ohio does not have a “stand your ground” law. Instead they have a “Duty to Retreat” law. A duty to retreat generally means that you can’t resort to deadly force in self-defense if you can safely avoid the risk of harm or death (by running away, for example).
Without the “Duty to Retreat” law, this young man would probably claim “fear for his life” when he sees 14 and 15 year old boys playing with their dogs inside a fenced in yard. On the other hand, he probably doesn’t care.
He chose to threaten and intimidate my grandchildren and their friends. They may never be comfortable playing in their own yard again.
This young man may have the right to own and carry that gun, but he does not have the right to put fear into the minds of young teenagers.
I have an answer to the dilemma that exists between the right to own guns and the responsibility of gun owners. (Obviously, police and other legitimate security personnel would be exempted.)
First, all “stand your ground” laws must be eliminated.
Second, anyone who uses a gun as a threat to others should be given a mandatory six-month jail sentence as well as automatically lose the right to own a gun – forever.
Third, anyone who uses a gun to injure, kill, or attempt to injure, an individual should receive a minimum five year prison sentence. The only question should be did he/she shoot the gun – not the intent.
None of these three steps would prohibit the right to responsible gun ownership.
However, what would be even better, gun ownership should be restricted to licensed use. Guns that are normally accepted for hunting should be allowed to those who have hunting licenses. Ownership of other gun types should be restricted to the legitimate intended use of those guns.
As for gun collectors, they should be able to register as collectors and be required to report their collection inventories on a regular basis. At the same time, gun collectors should be required to have a “permit to shoot” a gun that is in their collection if they intend to use it for any purpose.
Does this make any sense?
Probably not – But neither does what we have today. . .
– Mike Cooney