The last week or so has been eye opening and appalling as anti government, pro-gun, pro-Trump extremists were pushing for more ways to kill or harm us. And by that I mean both with guns and with the coronavirus. There’s quite a list of examples but below are just a few:
- 2 women shot up a McDonald’s restaurant when it didn’t open up for seated customers
- a young man pushed a Texas park ranger into a small lake when the ranger was doing his job to get them to practice social distancing and staying safe
- the tragic case of a security guard at a Dollar store in Michigan who was shot and killed for telling a family they needed to wear a mask to shop in the store
- a Michigan man wiped his face on the shirt of store clerk for telling him he needed to wear a mask
- a Kentucky man who threatened the Governor over the stay at home orders has been arrested and charged with federal crimes
- in Texas a group of armed extremists claiming to be protecting a bar that was open in violation of state orders were arrested
- a social distancing argument at an ATM in Boston involving a threat with a gun got one man arrested
- a parade in a Pennsylvania town to honor health care workers ended with a gun wielding man threatening the crowd and a police chase
It would be hard to make this stuff up wouldn’t it? This did not happen in other countries that have also suffered from the same virus. Unlike America, they don’t suffer from armed insurrectionists threatening and shooting their fellow citizens.
On another front, people are dying from bullets in the midst of our pandemic. There have been several shootings in Minnesota, one in particular that has drawn the attention of the media and citizens. A gun permit holder shot and killed a young black man during an altercation over a fender bender because he “thought” the man was going for a gun when he put his hand in his waist. This is called Shoot First, Ask Questions Later. And, of course, the victim cannot tell his side of the story. But he was unarmed. Here is more from the article:
Trifiletti later told police that Lewis appeared to be reaching toward his waistband as he advanced toward Trifiletti, who’d grabbed a handgun from his glove box and fired several shots, striking Lewis four times. The man has a legal permit to carry, a law enforcement source confirmed.
The problem with legalized carrying of guns in public places is that when armed citizens and even law enforcement officers believe that anyone could be armed (because a certain number are) they assume that putting your hand on your waist band means you are have a gun and you are going to shoot.
And the excuse given by permit holders in these incidents is that they were shooting in self defense. In Minnesota the law requires a duty to retreat first unless in your own home, before shooting someone. There is no excuse for shooting innocent people for no reason.
Common sense tells us that if the shooter had been a person of color there would be no excuses allowed. Stand Your Ground laws have penalized black people more than whites in these situations. And more black people are shot in “self defense” incidents:
When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white.6
Controlling for other factors—such as who initiated the confrontation and whether or not the victim was armed—Florida Stand Your Ground cases with minority victims are half as likely to lead to conviction, compared to cases with white victims.7
I can’t leave this post until I talk about the heinous case of Ahmaud Arbery who was shot in the back by 2 white men in Georgia. A video shows that Arbery appeared to have been ambushed. Once the video was released the public was so angered and the media coverage so intense that the shooters were finally arrested after more than 2 months of getting away with murder. (Coincidentally the video was made by a friend of the shooter who was following Arbery and the 2 shooters for some reason. But why was he doing a video in the first place? Was this shooting planned ahead of time?)
It seems that some in positions to know better would have let this go if they could have:
Arbery’s family and their attorneys say Arbery was out for a jog when he was killed. They believe he was the victim of racial profilingand have called the killing a lynching.
“Once again, a black man was lynched in Georgia. It was an unfortunate incident because we see this too often,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a press conference Friday. “That is a sad statement in where we are in this nation.”
It wasn’t until the video was released that public pressure and reporting about the shooting led to the arrest of the shooters. In just a few minutes 2 men with a gun snuffed out an innocent life and changed their own lives forever. For what?
Georgia is a Stand Your Ground state. It will be important to watch this case to make sure justice is done for the victim. This was a murder by vigilantes. This is an American tragedy.
Charles Blow writing for the New York Times had this to say:
But there is a clear problem here: Arbery had committed no offense. His only offense, the thing that drew suspicion, was that he was black and male and running through these white men’s neighborhood. (…)
Arbery was enjoying a nice run on a beautiful day when he began to be stalked by armed men.
What must that have felt like?
What must he have felt when he approached the truck and saw that one of the stalkers was brandishing a shotgun?
What must he have thought when he fought for the gun?
Ahmaud Arbery was a 25 year old human being out for a jog. He happened to be black while jogging. He jogged almost every day according to his family who loved him and will miss him every day.
When there are more guns added to the mix and more stress from the stay at home orders and job loss, there will be more gun deaths. A surge in gun purchases means a surge in gun deaths and injuries. From the Annals of Internal Medicine:
Since February 2020, as U.S. public health efforts have focused on containing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), gun sales in the country have skyrocketed. In March, more than 2.5 million firearms were sold, including 1.5 million handguns (1). In the best of times, increased gun ownership is associated with a heightened risk for firearm-related suicide (2). These are not the best of times. The United States faces an unprecedented combination of a public health and economic disaster. The physical distancing necessary to curb transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has disrupted social networks. Many people live in isolation, and the mental health of the population will likely suffer. Combined, these forces create a climate with the potential to increase firearm-related suicides.The firearm-related suicide crisis was mounting well before COVID-19. From 2006 to 2018, firearm-related suicide rates increased by more than 25% (3). In 2018 alone, there were 24 432 firearm-related suicides in the United States (3). Simultaneously, the number of firearm background checks increased from 10 036 933 in 2006 to 28 369 750 in 2019—an annual increase of 14% (4).
Gun violence is an epidemic in the midst of our coronavirus pandemic. The guns purchased in panic will be in homes and on our streets for the years to come. The gun lobby would have us believe that an armed society is a polite society. We have been treated to daily photos, videos and stories about armed Americans intimidating, injuring, threatening and killing innocent human beings during the coronavirus pandemic. The public understands that the gun lobby is dead wrong. The public is in favor of stronger gun laws and doing something to save lives.
Over 70,000 Americans- almost 80,000 have died from the coronavirus and the numbers keep climbing. It is frightening that a disease can be so deadly and so communicable. Scientists and health care providers are working hard to find measures to treat the virus and/or lessen the severity of the disease. Until a vaccine is released to give us all immunity from this awful disease, deaths will continue.
Now we need a vaccine from shootings. There are laws that can reduce and prevent gun violence -like a vaccine. Common sense works too. Staying safe from gun violence means locking up guns, not carrying them around in situations that could become volatile, checking on friends and loved ones to make sure they are not suicidal or homicidal, and just thinking about the risks of guns right now and always.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay at home unless you have important and necessary items. Social distance. Wear masks. It’s not just for you, it’s for all of us. We are all in this together and can prevent the spread of the disease by following easy and simple measures. Our freedoms have been temporarily restricted to save lives. It’s not an either or proposition. We don’t have the freedom to kill people and we should not the freedom to willfully spread the coronavirus by protesting against the very things that can prevent all of us from dying. We all have the freedom of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”