Two people were killed in a tragic but interesting story that took place in the Bronx on Sunday, May 11. I thought I would share it on DK because I think it involves different aspects of gun policy. According to the New York Daily News:
Jeffrey Pierre, 33, was driving a Mercedes-Benz SUV when he was approached by Jermaine Johnson and Kaiison Lewis outside the Dyer Avenue Deli Grocery in Wakefield about 4:40 a.m. Friday, police said.The New York Times adds further details:
Investigators believe Johnson and Lewis, who both lived in Mount Vernon, N.Y., tried to steal the SUV at gunpoint.
The intended victim chased after the would-be carjackers and fired multiple shots into Johnson’s green Acura, riddling the vehicle with bullets, cops said.
After a brief, close-quarter confrontation in the car, the two would-be assailants ran back to their parked Acura sedan, with Mr. Pierre in pursuit, the police said. He fired several times into the car, the police said, killing Mr. Johnson and Mr. Lewis, who was seated in the passenger seat with bullets in his pocket and a 9-millimeter handgun nearby.There are several aspects to this story that I think illustrate problems with our gun culture and gun laws.
The first aspect is that Pierre and Lewis had pistols. Apparently all participants had criminal records which should have precluded them from purchasing a handgun legally. But the guns were in the hands of known criminals. This fact demonstrates that if you want a gun, you can get a gun. They didn't have to buy them from somebody selling them illegally. All they had to do is purchase them from a private party, thus avoiding any scrutiny about their criminal past. Universal background checks are designed to make it harder for criminals to get guns. Thankfully, Pierre was also charged with possession of an illegal gun.
The second aspect is the defense the shooter wants to use. Although all the details aren't clear, it is clear that Pierre pursued Lewis and Johnson before shooting them in their car. After chasing down Lewis and Johnson, Pierre should not be able to use self defense. Unless there are mitigating circumstances that we don't know, letting Pierre use self defense is an outrage against the people of New York.
Some people don't agree. Several people in the comments section of the Daily News think Pierre is a hero and acted appropriately. "Release this guy and give him a medal!" says one commenter. While it is a common Hollywood fantasy to have a hero who is judge, jury, and executioner fighting against corruption and injustice, allowing this type of behavior in the real world is a recipe for tragedy and grief. Pierre is not a hero, no matter if Johnson and Lewis were low life criminals.
This mindset Pierre had that night says that once you have been wronged, or perhaps just perceived so, you have the right to shoot. I call this mindset stand your ground on steroids. People who have this mindset take the monopoly on violence belonging to the state for themselves. We see it here, at the Bundy ranch, with George Zimmerman, and with a few other recent stories. Sadly, with the current state of affairs regarding gun policy and extremist right wing rhetoric, I expect we will see more.
The third aspect is this; this type of story is unlikely to happen in any first world country except the Unites States. And the reason is the guns. I am not against people having guns. I am against an essentially unregulated market where anybody can get a gun. If the market wasn't as open as it is, the price a criminal pays for a gun would go way up. If the price goes up, criminal gun use goes down. Tighter controls than what we currently have in place are needed to reduce the traffic in illegal guns. To throw up our hands and say criminals don't obey the law is de facto support for the illegal gun trade as it currently exists. We can reduce the amount of guns in criminal hands. Other nations do it, and so can we.
The fourth aspect of this story is just how divisive it is. For me, it seems pretty straightforward. The man shot two people he didn't have to. Murder or manslaughter surely, but self defense it wasn't. Others aren't convinced. Read some of the comments in the news story; they boggle my mind. "Jury nullification would be appropriate here"; "Turn him loose"; "Hopefully the community will get behind this guy". It is just his type of thinking that we cannot allow to gain power and rule. Unfortunately, this type of thinking rules the minds of too many of our countrymen.
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