Monday, January 07, 2013

Guns Don't Kill People

A friend has drawn our attention to a recent case in Georgia which, says our friend, needs more publicity.  To be brief:  a woman used her handgun to effectively deter a home invader, quite possibly saving herself and her children.  (Read stories hereherehere.)

The story is indeed gripping.  It takes place in the small city of Loganville, where a woman was at home with her two children when the doorbell rang.  She did not answer, and so the person who had rung it -- a career criminal named Paul Slater -- went to his car and returned with a crowbar.  He entered the house, and began a room-to-room search, presumably for things to steal.  The woman and her children retreated to an upstairs room.

When Slater entered their room, the woman shot him,  six times, emptying her weapon. Five of the bullets hit him.  She then told him to stay down, threatening to shoot him again, as she and the children escaped to a neighbor's house.

Slater, badly wounded, got up, left the house under his own power, and attempted to drive away.  He crashed his car, and was apprehended.  He is badly injured, and may still die.

So, yes, this is by any reasonable standard a case in which a handgun is used for legitimate self-defense.   Although laws vary, the so-called Castle Doctrine generally permits the use of deadly force for just this sort of situation, and one is hard pressed to argue that it should not.

Our friend's feeling is that this story should be considered as a counter-balance to the heavy media coverage of gun crimes.  Although he doesn't put it quite this way, he seems to believe that he story vindicates the logic behind DC v. Heller, and the general contention that guns in the home lead to safer homes.

Maybe it does, but we have a couple of reservations.  

The first is moral:  an armed woman shot an (apparently) unarmed man.  This is not to argue that he did not pose a mortal threat to her and to her children -- he could certainly have killed them barehanded, or with the crowbar, had that been his goal.  Still, she might have tried telling him to leave the house before she shot. We're not sure we would have, though, and we don't fault her for a moment.

Our second qualm is practical.  She shot him five times, at point blank, and yet he was able to leave the house and drive away.  This suggests that she needs marksmanship training and/or a bigger gun.  (Hit the sumbitch five times with a 9-mil, he ain't walking away, amiright?)

Unfortunately, Slater's survival also adds a bit of nuance to the pro-Heller argument.  If Slater had been carrying a gun of his own, it seems very likely that he would have been able to return fire, quite possibly killing the mother and children.

So why was Slater unarmed?  Even though he is a convicted felon, we doubt that it would have been difficult for him to obtain a gun in Georgia.  That, more or less, is what guns shows are for.  Or pawn brokers, or a guy in your neighborhood.  We expect that Slater carried no gun for fear of laws which provide more severe punishments for a crime committed with a weapon than for the same crime committed without one.  But it isn't logical to expect most hardened criminals to be so scrupulous about the law; they are criminals, after all.

In other words, this story does give some comfort to those who regard guns as defensive weapons, but only because the person who got shot had no gun of his own.  In its own way, this makes a good case for reducing the number of guns in circulation, and making it more difficult to buy them.

It certainly makes a case for training gun owners to shoot.

1 comment:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

If there are kids in the home, and even if there aren't, guns need to be put away, hopefully locked up, without the bullets in them. So if you aren't by the locked case when you need the gun, or you can't quickly get at it, or at the ammo, how would a safely stored gun in a home (or school) help? Guns in schools are so much more problematic, given that teens tend to act out easily, and teachers who work with teens could easily also reach their tipping point in the daily life of a school. There seems to be so much potential for more disaster with guns in a school than the potential for a crazy guy coming into a school and shooting.