Thursday, June 29, 2017

Must Not Question The Gun

Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesto last summer during a routine traffic stop. Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty by a jury of his peers, was fired, and the mother of the deceased has settled a civil suit out of court for nearly three million dollars, to be paid by the insurance company.

Understandably, however, the tweets have continued, even as the National Rifle Association has remained virtually silent.  The silence of the guilty peeves Louis Dennard, who describes himself as "director for the state of Minnesota for the National African American Gun Assoication " and "president of the local chapter, the African American Heritage Gun Club." He decries "the hypocricsy of the NRA" and argues "this is a critical moment to take a stand for our Second Amendment right to own and carry guns."

Acquittal inspired numerous tweets from ordinary citizens. Here they include the factual: "until his death, Philandro Castile was stopped by police 46 times..."; the literate: Fannie Lou Hamer's famous "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired";  the simultaneously patriotic and profane: "this country, my home is breaking my f_ _ _ _ _ _ heart" (only here redacted); the simultaneously ludicrous and complacent:  "the most dangerous terrrorist cells in America are police departments;" and the obligatory "they," as in "still can't help but hope every time that they'll prove us wrong. They never do."

The well-known refused to be left out. Joy-Ann Reid tweeted in part "Shame on that cop. Shame on those jurors. Shame on this system."

Officer Yanez, whose behavior became infamous by viewing of the video coast-to-coast and beyond, was fired. Shame accomplished.  Whether the jurors, who largely suspended their lives while deliberating for four days, are shamed is debatable. And if Reid wishes to take a sledge hammer to the criminal justice system by radically reforming the grand jury system, she can tweet me or send an email to this blog. I'll be waiting.

But the trophy goes to journalist Shaun King, who, anxious to convince followers he is ignorant of real-life lynching, tweeted "the legal lyching of Philandro Castile. Video just released today."

He continued "an abomination. This officer is a murderer. Philando obeyed the law."

We cannot know for sure Officer Yanez is or was a murderer. The jury thought not, but that means only that he is not one in the eyes of the law- and juries are not infallible.

We also do not know whether Castile was at the time obeying the law because testimony pertaining to whether the victim had the weapon fully secured pursuant to Minnesota law was unclear. It appears that if the weapon was secured in a holster (and not visible), it was then legally possessed.  However, effectively requiring the firearm to be locked in the vehicle's trunk would prevent such situations.

We do know that Castile lied when he indicated on his permit application that he used no illegal drugs, though testimony that he was under the influence at the time of the incident was vigorously contested.

Nonetheless, it should be jarring to supporters of gun safety legislation that no one has questioned why a motorist would be armed for a trip to the grocery store, especially when his girlfriend, her daughter, and a controlled dangerous substance are in the car with him.

We should be able to agree that a drug- illegal or alcohol- and a firearm don't go together.  While unacknowledged by Dennard and other outraged critics, that suggests the NRA's muted response was driven not only because the deceased was a "good guy with a gun" but also because he had engendered a dangerous situation.  And because- yet again- the great equalizer became someone's tragic undoing.

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