Sunday, June 18, 2017

Death Of A Good Guy With A Gun

Slate's Leon Nefkayeh explains

Philando Castile received his permit to carry a firearm from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office on June 4, 2015. A year later, Castile had a gun in his pocket when a Minnesota police officer named Jeronimo Yanez pulled him over and shot him dead. According to dashcam footage, Yanez decided to open fire after Castile told him, truthfully and calmly, that he had a gun on him. During a three-week-long trial that ended Friday in an acquittal, Yanez testified that he shot Castile because he believed Castile was reaching for his weapon and therefore presented an imminent threat to the officer’s life.

The jury’s decision to acquit Yanez, who had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and dangerous discharge of a firearm, left Castile’s loved ones angry and heartbroken, sparked a 1,500-person protest in St. Paul, and provoked a profound outpouring of grief on social media.

Staying conspicuously silent on the Yanez verdict so far is an organization that can typically be counted on to offer extreme and uncompromising advocacy on behalf of licensed American gun owners: the National Rifle Association. As of Saturday afternoon, the NRA had issued no statement addressing the verdict, its pugnacious chief spokesman Wayne LaPierre had not been quoted in any media stories about it, and an email from Slate requesting comment had not received a response. For those who remember the aftermath of Castile’s death, this should come as no surprise: The NRA was almost completely silent then, too, putting out a tepid statement only after coming under intense pressure from some of its members. As was widely noted at the time, whoever wrote the statement—most likely LaPierre himself—couldn’t even bring himself to mention Philando Castile’s name.

On its face, the Castile case would seem to have all the trappings of a cause célèbre for the NRA. The group’s most fiercely held belief is supposed to be that law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be burdened—let alone killed in cold blood—by repressive agents of the government just because they want to protect themselves and exercise their Second Amendment rights. Castile should be a martyr for the NRA, while Yanez—who reached for the holster of his service weapon as soon as Castile mentioned he was armed—should be its bogeyman.

Nefkayeh believes that one of the reasons the NRA has been nearly mute is because Castile is black. However, he believes it's also

true that the organization is aligned with law enforcement in certain ways that partially explain its reluctance to get in the middle of a police shooting case. (For one thing, most of the NRA’s 5 million members, like most police officers across the country, are white and conservative.) It’s also true that, while many law enforcement leaders view the gun lobby’s most extreme policy goals—like concealed carry reciprocity—with serious unease, most rank and file cops do seem to believe that having more people around carrying legal guns would reduce, rather than increase, crime rates.

So maybe that’s why the NRA’s leaders are staying quiet on the Yanez verdict: They know that speaking up on Castile’s behalf would antagonize some corners of a law enforcement community whose good side they want to stay on. But even if that’s true, it doesn’t make the organization’s calculus any less craven, or less revealing about the hypocritical flimsiness of its supposed principles.

Those are two of the three reasons. But there is a third. Following the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said.

LaPierre says that the lack of mental health reform and the prevalence of violent video games and movies can lead to these types of tragedies.

The mental health "reform" LaPierre supports is one which would make it easier for mentally ill individuals to obtain firearms. The notion that more guns equal fewer deaths was unpersuasive to Timothy Egan, who after the shooting of Gabby Giffords and twelve others, six fatally, in Tucson in 2011 wrote in a New York Times op-ed

On the day of the shooting, a young man named Joseph Zamudio was leaving a drugstore when he saw the chaos at the Safeway parking lot. Zamudio was armed, carrying his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Heroically, he rushed to the scene, fingering his weapon, ready to fire.

“When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim,” said Arizona state representative Jack Harper, after a gunman had claimed 19 victims.Now, in the view of the more-guns proponents, Zamudio might have been able to prevent any carnage, or maybe even gotten off a shot before someone was killed.

“I wish there had been one more gun in Tucson,” said an Arizona Congressman, Rep. Trent Franks, implying like Harper that if only someone had been armed at the scene, Jared Lee Loughner would not have been able to unload his rapid-fire Glock on innocent people.

In fact, several people were armed. So, what actually happened? As Zamudio said in numerous interviews, he never got a shot off at the gunman, but he nearly harmed the wrong person — one of those trying to control Loughner.

He saw people wrestling, including one man with the gun. “I kind of assumed he was the shooter,” said Zamudio in an interview with MSNBC. Then, “everyone said, ‘no, no — it’s this guy,’” said Zamudio.

To his credit, he ultimately helped subdue Loughner. But suppose, in those few seconds of confusion, he had fired at the wrong man and killed a hero? “I was very lucky,” Zamudio said.

Philando Castile was not so lucky as Zamudio, also a good guy with a gun.  He legally possessed a weapon, notified a police officer he was carrying it, and was shot to death. He was one more individual whose experience demonstrated, tragically, that a good guy with a gun in a tense situation is usually the worse off for it.

If Philandro Castille had not been in legal possession of a firearm, he would be alive today.  It is no surprise that Wayne LaPierre and his society of death wants this one to go away.

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