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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Murder People

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It is not OK to murder people.

That may seem to be such a self-evident moral truth that it should not even be necessary to state it in print, but recent history demonstrates otherwise.

In a rapidly escalating number of deadly events in Wisconsin and around the country, many people increasingly insist they have the right to murder other human beings.

With right-wing extremists publicly pretending to be constitutional experts, it may only be a matter of time until there is an organized effort to enshrine the right to murder in the U.S. Constitution.

At this point, the alleged legal right to murder is based not upon any actual constitutional principle, but upon ignorant clichés that have been passed as laws.

These simple-minded statutes are known as “stand your ground” or “(a man's home is his) castle” laws. Usually such trite gibberish only offends the sensibilities of intelligent people. But when it's actual law passed on behalf of the gun lobby, it can be a lot more deadly.

When opponents warn of dire consequences from potentially lethal laws such as concealed carry, the constant refrain from supporters is that we don't hear of widespread killings elsewhere when such laws are passed.

Well, how many more brazen murders need to occur before gun enthusiasts admit we are now hearing about them frequently?

The most famous case in the country, of course, is the deadly shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American, by the self-appointed watch captain of a gated community in Sanford, Fla., despite police telling the shooter to stop pursuing the young man.

But much closer examples abound of individuals insisting upon their right to murder unarmed young people of color.

There was the West Bend homeowner who called police about a noisy party next door. When Bo Morrison, a biracial 20-year-old, fled the party and hid from police on the homeowner's back porch, the homeowner confronted Morrison in the dark with a gun and fatally shot him when he stood up.

Then, Darius Simmons, a 13-year-old African American, had the fatal misfortune of recently moving next door to a 75-year-old, white, South Side Milwaukeean who didn't care much for the idea.

After the elderly man's home was burglarized, he immediately suspected his neighbor, confronted Simmons as the young man was taking out the trash and, without warning, shot him to death.

Laws Based on Fear

The fact that all three of the victims mentioned so far were African American is significant. One enormous loophole intentionally created by the gun lobby as a legal justification for murder in recent legislation is that there is no requirement the shooter actually be threatened by the victim.

The laws are based on fear that exists in the mind of the shooter. Even if the victim is unarmed and no actual threat, if a citizen armed with a deadly weapon fears for his or her safety, then fire away.

And, let's face it: Given the ugly history of racism and racial stereotypes in our culture, far too many white folks have an irrational fear of young African Americans even when they know nothing about them.

There is another extremely dangerous element present in every case. That is the gun. It gives deadly power to its possessor and horrific finality to any bad decision made out of fear or confusion.

Guns actually make people more aggressive. There's nothing like a gun to make a really small man big and scary.

The gun lobby wants you to believe using a gun to murder a fellow human being is normal. It's not.

Ask any police officer who has ever shot and killed someone. Every one of them says no one is ever the same. And the people police kill may actually be threatening.

Imagine how you would feel after murdering someone who is innocent, unarmed and no real threat at all. Perhaps a child. Perhaps even a loved one.

If you don't find that possibility terrifying, you've been seriously deceived into believing it's no big deal to murder people.

Wisconsin becoming the next-to-last state to pass concealed carry wasn't nearly enough for the gun lobby. It continues to concoct ever more deadly laws.

A Texas jury recently had to decide between someone “standing his ground” and the elementary-school teacher he murdered who was defending his own castle.

It involved another noisy party, which suddenly has become a capital offense in armed and dangerous America. Claiming he was standing his ground against a loud birthday party, the shooter took a gun to the castle next door and shot and killed his neighbor. The jury decided murder was murder.

Laws about murdering people should never be based on cheesy clichés. Those laws got it right the first time and sounded a whole lot classier in the King James version. 

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