So you’re walking down the street with a bag of money and a guy comes running up behind you, grabs the bag and sprints down the street with the speed of an Olympic champion.
“Stop, thief,” you yell as you begin the chase.
The thug keeps running so you pull your loaded firearm.
“Stop or I’ll shoot,” you scream.
The thief picks up his pace. So you aim and pull the trigger. So long bad guy.
I don’t think so.
This scenario was hammered into my head more than 30 years ago when I attended the International Academy of Law Enforcement in Pittsburgh for lethal weapons training. I was working as a security guard at the Harrisburg Hospital and needed the “higher education” even though we didn’t carry guns.
The teacher was preparing us for our psychological exam, asking the exact same question about walking down the street with a bag of money over and over again. After being drilled in the proper answer countless times, the academy experts were certain that we would all pass the head test. But that's another story.
The biggest lesson I learned at the "academy" was that you simply cannot shoot somebody just because they are fleeing after committing a non-violent crime. At least that’s my understanding of the law. You probably should not even pull a loaded gun on a criminal unless you are defending the life of another or yourself.
Pulling a gun and pointing it at an accused criminal puts you in a very dangerous situation. Anything can happen. The criminal can pull his or her own gun and shoot you. A cross fire might drop an innocent passerby, maybe even a child. Police might arrive and mistake you for the criminal and shoot you. Cops might be killed in the cross fire.
Is this really what you want in a vigilant society? You really want vigilante justice? Vigilance and vigilantism are two different responses to crime. You really want to live in a Wild West world?
Yeah, I know, we already do.
But, whether you like or or not, police are responsible for societal protection. You are doing your neighborhood a favor by not interfering in official police duties even if you believe you are helping the cops.
A good citizen recently did just that in Wilkes-Barre, according to newspaper accounts. He chased down a suspect who was running from police after crashing his car and fleeing the scene.. He refused to follow police orders to give up. Instead he took off.
Enter the Good Samaritan. Out came the concealed weapons permit approved gun and that was the end of that. And we all lived happily ever after. Or did we?
What if the good citizen had opened fire? What if he had killed the suspect? Please note that I said suspect. Remember the presumption of innocence and due process and all that patriotic law and order business. What if the suspect panicked and pulled a gun of his own? What if another good citizen saw the first good citizen but didn’t know he was a good citizen and blasted him with a shot between the eyes?
Wild in the streets?
Looks like it.
We’re falling apart at the seams. Wilkes-Barre is out of control. Mayor Tom Leighton and Police Chief Gerry Dessoye do not know how to head off life and death problems that take far more than guns and ammunition to solve.
Are we screwed?
As long as we scream our approval of a pistol-packing populace as an end-all to our community development failures, we are, indeed, screwed.
Shoot first ask questions later? Rather be tried by twelve than carried by six? Shoot ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out? Guns don’t kill people, people kill people?
Yippietieiaaaa, get along little cowboys.
Bernie Goetz lives! Long live George Zimmerman!
We better get a grip – and I don’t mean on our Smith and Wessons. If not, we can expect our streets to turn red with even bloodier rivers of disrespect, mayhem, violence and death.