Stand Your Ground: A Free-For-All, or Are There Limits?
As it always does after a particularly bothersome incident, "the gun issue" is once again being hotly debated, argued with fevered pitch in the U.S. as though life itself is somehow precariously out of balance and I can assure you that it indeed is, for anyone who finds themselves on the wrong end of a gun.
This round of debates is quite different, however as it includes debates surrounding extremely dangerous laws that can and have been misconstrued and abused with supremely tragic consequences FOR THOSE ON BOTH ENDS OF THE GUN.
Just as prevalent as the debates themselves, is the sheer volume of people across the country who become severely confused each and every time the concept of gun control is broached, somehow correlating "control" with ending gun ownership entirely, thereby prompting ad nauseum repetition of the moronic, audacious and dimwitted attempt at bravado made popular by our friends at the NRA; “I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”
Let me say first of all, in order to dissuade any instantaneous preconceptions or rush to judgment that I'm just some gun antagonist or a gun maniac; I am neither .
I own several guns and have for 52 years now, since I was presented with my first - my grandfather’s Remington Model 34 .22 ca bolt-action rifle at the age of 8 years old. I love to shoot guns (I deplore killing anything with them other than tin cans and glass bottles, however). There! I said it; I love to shoot guns.
Owning and shooting guns is both exhilarating and challenging; it's perhaps somewhat akin to standing next to an idling locomotive or even racing cars. The raw power unleashed by them all is an experience one never tires of and the challenge of learning to shoot well is a gratifying accomplishment, but holding that power in your hands, learning that skill and maintaining ownership of something as deadly as a gun is accompanied by massive quantities of responsibility; responsibilities that are there whether or not one wants to accept them and if one wishes not to accept them, they should stay as far away from guns as they possibly can. And by that, I don't mean; "sure, I accept the responsibility, now let me strap one on and point it with all it's ferrociously deadly power at another human being" any time I don't like what I see or hear in that other human being.
When not in use at a range or in a safe place in the desert, my guns are locked in a gun safe, to which only I have the combination and while in transport they’re locked in the tool box in the back of my pickup for, just as those locomotives and race cars, guns DEMAND an extreme level of respect and safety.
I do not, nor will I ever carry a weapon in a public arena and I firmly believe that, outside law enforcement, very, very few, if any should and this is precisely why:
On July 10, 2010 a man with whom I was acquainted entered a Costco in a suburban area of Las Vegas, Nevada known as Summerlin, a mildly upscale master-planned community of upper-middle income residents. The man, Erik Scott, was a sales representative for a major healthcare manufacturer (Boston Scientific) which produces high-end medical devices including the implantable pacemakers and defibrillators he sold. He and I met regularly to coordinate acquisition of those devices for implant into patients within the hospital system for which I was responsible.
He was a very congenial, intelligent young man and was certainly not an ordinary slouch of a guy; a West Point Graduate (in the top 10 of his graduating class) with a master’s degree from Duke who had served as a Platoon Leader of M1A1 Abrams Tanks and their crews in the U.S. Army.
Erik was in Costco to purchase items for a trip of some kind which involved a backpack such as hiking or camping; it’s unclear to me exactly what the trip was and while in Costco, he began opening a package of items to see if those items would fit into his pack. Predictably, this behavior caught the attention of a few Costco employees, some of which became concerned and some of which were not, some even trying to assist him; different accounts from different perspectives, as always.
Erik paid for the products he had opened along with other items he and his girlfriend purchased and exited the store. For those of you who have frequented a Costco store, you know what kind of crowd is typically coming and going; estimates are that there were at least 20 to 30 people in and around the immediate area of the entry/exit where he encountered several Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officers screaming, by all accounts, a rather wide range and confusing variety of contradicting commands.
It seems that during the process of checking the items for proper fit, one of the “concerned” Costco employees noticed Erik’s weapon and instantly, a horrific set of circumstances and chain of events were set in motion, from which there would be no return.
The employee either panicked or perhaps became incensed after he told Erik that he was not allowed to carry weapons, to which Erik simply replied “I have a permit to do so” and the employee reported to his supervisors something to the affect that “there was a very suspicious man with a gun ripping open packages in the store.” The store management began to quietly evacuate the customers and employees, all unbeknownst to Erik.
As Erik exited the store, commands ranging from “get on the ground” to “drop your weapon” were shouted at him from the PD officers awaiting him and apparently, he attempted to heed the command he heard. He reached around to the small of his back, removed the still holstered gun from where he had it concealed and in the process of doing so was shot seven times, ending his life in not more than few, extraordinarily short and horrific seconds.
His profession was not such that it was required, of this much I am certain, but Erik was carrying, not one, but two concealed weapons, a Kimber .45 caliber semi-automatic and yet another .380 semi-automatic in his pocket along with his now blood-soaked concealed weapons permit; a stark and ironic testament that he was legally entitled to do so.
If one reads the various accounts of the incident, here, here, here and here, it’s vividly apparent that confusion was thick in the air, not only with the Costco employee and the LVMPD, but within Erik as well and now there are questions that will NEVER be answered such as; why did the Costco employee find it necessary to pursue the actions he took after being informed that Erik was "packing legally?" Why were the LVMPD officers shouting conflicting commands?
And in my mind, the most important questions of all; why was Erik carrying not one, but two concealed weapons? Why did he feel the need, especially in the community in which he lived, to carry any at all?
Erik was also taking fairly high doses of morphine, for what I don’t know, but it surely raises the question; why was anyone who was taking such a powerful drug allowed to carry concealed weapons to begin with?
So many questions; so few answers, but here is one answer of which I am absolutely certain, even without a preceding question; there is no doubt whatsoever that had Erik not been carrying a gun, legally or otherwise, in a crowded and public arena, he would still be alive today.
There were coroner’s inquests, civil suits, internal investigations by the PD, etc... yet not one time did anyone wonder why the man was carrying two weapons, for there was no need to ask; HE HAD A PERMIT! Why was irrelevant.
Well Hell! What a very impressive privilege; an utterly unnecessary privilege for which he paid with his life on that day!
I do not believe that the PD acted in error, nor the Costco employee and to some degree, even Erik was not to blame, but the lax laws in this country are most definitely erroneous and need review and overhaul NOW.
No matter how you want to view it, whether you’re pro or con on the various gun issues, guns on the streets equals bodies in the morgue. There's just no way to maneuver around that fact and sadly, this event is crystal clear evidence to that end.
“The right to have and bear arms” is an irrefutable right in this country according to the Constitution of the United States, but the “right to bear” them should be tempered drastically.
As with all governing instruments, the Constitution must be constantly reexamined to fill the needs of the society it’s intended to govern (amendments) as that society changes.
The U.S. Constitution was developed when guns were both necessary for survival and when the U.S. had just ended the American Revolution, so the right to bear arms carried far different ramifications than it does now. Let's not forget too that when the Constitution was written, there were around 3.9 million people in the entire country. Today, there are 311 + million. The incredible concentration of human beings in cities mixed with guns is nothing less than a terrifying mixture of dry grass and a burning match.
We’ve all seen various statistics related to this issue and as with ALL statistics, these too can show precisely what the originator wants them to show, but here’s one FACT that simply cannot be manipulated and that is; guns will always present violent scenarios, either purposely or accidentally, when taken into a public area and just one death such as the one above, or Trayvon’s, or any other of the thousands upon thousands who are killed due to foolish, irresponsible gun owners and suddenly, those laws that provide protection for that irresponsibility can no longer be ignored for even one more day.
Victims are dead either way and guns have no business being carried around in a public arena by dime-store cowboys and wannabe cops where misunderstanding is going to be present; always! 100% of the time!
It appears that many, many people interpret "SYG" laws as freely taking another's life if threatened with any uncomfortable situation, as with those we've seen in the news recently, such a concept, such a misunderstanding of justice simply cannot be allowed to continue when severe and utterly irrevocable actions are at the sole discression of one individual, an individual who obviously has neither the requisite respect for the deadly power of guns, nor the value of life. Especially when his/her actions eliminates all possibility of refute by the victim.
Society requires limits if we're to avoid utter chaos resulting in complete decay of humanity and laws such as these carelessly, actively and shamefully promote violence, whether intentional as with Trayvon Martin, or unintentional as in the case of Erik Scott.
In both scenarios above, death was absolute and final. And sadly, very preventable.
UPDATE: Using tactics loved by all jouveniles - diverting attention from the real issue; the NRA is now placing blame with the media for the issues at hand with the Trayvon Martin case. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!