In that case, fortunately, the prosecutor dropped the charges several days later (see http://www.unionleader.com/) and I believe the armed citizen was extremely lucky that things turned out as they did. Several years ago, the courts in my state sent a man to jail for an incident that began much as the one in the NH story. One afternoon several years ago, a school teacher went to get his gun before heading out to search for a burglar who had stolen jewelry from his home. Unfortunately, he did manage to locate a man believed to be the burglar. During a confrontation, he fired the gun but the burglar ran off and was found dead later.
Society, be that citizens in the community, police, prosecutors or judges, won't accept using deadly force to get your belongings back. When a homeowner goes out looking for a burglar, that is the overwhelming impression of the incident. Whether or not in the moment before the shot rings out the burglar placed the homeowner in fear is too often lost in the first impression that here we have someone with a gun who left the safety of their home to go out to confront the thief. That may be the farthest thing from the truth, but it is a darned hard impression to overcome!
The next instructive story came to me via another member who pointed out this news report about the aftermath of a self defense shooting in America’s heartland http://www.desmoinesregister.com/
Too many in the gun world oversimplify the parameters governing using a gun in self defense to such an extreme that the impressionable new gun owner thinks that if they can justify their actions everything will be OK.
The Des Moines story is a textbook iteration of the cascade of bad consequences that can be part of the aftermath. Poor Mr. Lewis was jailed for nearly four months, during which time he was evicted from his apartment, his belongings taken, and even now that he is free he lacks the resources to obtain housing until he can earn some money. I was frankly surprised to read that he was able to go back to work, as employers may look for reasons not to put people back on the job after they’ve been jailed, and finding a job after being in the news for being involved in a shooting is usually a no-win situation.
I’m reminded of a comment Massad Ayoob makes in one of the video lectures that is part of our Network member education DVD series. Ayoob, with some exasperation, comments on Internet forum posting opining that in the end, a so-called “good shooting” will turn out OK. That’s like saying that because today’s wonderful medical miracles cured your cancer, it was OK that you had cancer, Ayoob comments dryly.
Oversimplification of a complex topic is dangerous! If you know armed citizens who need to understand the serious responsibility that comes with gun ownership, why not use the Network’s educational booklet to start a conversation about realistic expectations and their misconceptions?
[End of March 2012 eJournal.
Please return next month for our April edition.]