Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Self-Defense Shooting By Victim a Real Man-Bites-Dog Story

In the good news department, an armed robber terrorizing a Detroit neighborhood with a .22-caliber handgun, (unloaded), was shot dead by what turned out to be his last victim—whose 9mm was not unloaded. ("Man with unloaded gun killed by victim”).

Not only did the Detroit Police Department call the shooting self-defense, they even had to give the potential victim his gun back. They didn’t have much choice, thanks to Michigan’s “shall-issue” concealed weapons permit law.

For those of you who remember the bad old days before the Michigan Legislature reclaimed the Second Amendment by adopting a “shall-issue” concealed weapons permit law, this situation may have ended with the potential victim facing possible homicide charges, concealed weapons charges, and at the very least having his handgun confiscated by police.

Under the old regime, when unelected gun boards made up of law enforcement officials had complete discretion when and to whom to issue CCWs, they were rarely issued, and the decisions were almost certainly driven by favoritism and local politics.

But the worst of it was that the government got to decide, arbitrarily, which citizens were or were not allowed to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Bill of Rights was drafted specifically to get government out of these kinds of decisions, yet this situation was tolerated in Michigan until 2000. Of course, the whole idea behind the Bill of Rights was to reserve rights to the People and keep the Government out of it.

As its name suggest, a “shall-issue” law requires government officials to issue CCWs to qualified citizens without recourse to arbitrary, capricious, political, or ideological obstructions they may want to impose. If the issuing authority has objections, the burden of proof is on the government to disauqlaify the applicant, rather than on the citizen to prove he is entitled to exercise his Constitutional right.

Senator Carl Levin hated this bill, and called for its defeat in 2000. Levin cited this from the Michigan Law Enforcement Coalition: "The Michigan Law Enforcement Coalition opposes any legislation which strips local gun boards of their discretion and shifts the burden of proof from the applicant to the gun board." He objected also that the “'shall issue' legislation would make us less safe according to those best in a position to know,” i.e., law enforcement officials and law enforcement political action groups.

Though some of these groups may serve commendable functions, they are still the arm of the government. Put another way, Levin was comfortable with the government’s law-enforcement arm acting as gatekeeper for the Second Amendment right to carry a weapon. If you think this makes constitutional sense, ask yourself if you think decisions about where and how you can worship or what speech you can engage in are decisions best left to government agents “best in a position to know.”

When Levin complained that “shall-issue” legislation “would take discretion away from local law enforcement and allow virtually any applicant to carry a concealed handgun,” he was absolutely right: it would, and it did.

As it happened, on May 17 the 18-year-old Detroit, Charles Parker, Jr., and a bunch of his pals set out on a string of robberies in northwest Detroit. Parker had an unloaded .22. First they robbed a teenager of his cellphone, chains, and wallet. Then they tried to carjack a couple in their driveway. One of the suspects pointed the .22 at the couple and pulled the trigger. (Apparently, this is when the carjacking went wrong, as the “teens fled without the car.”) Personally, I think there is a lesson here for the Democratic Congress about the effect that clicking an empty weapon has on one’s negotiating position, but I don’t have time to work it out.

Anyway, these guys then tried to rob a man at a self-serve car wash, two suspects approaching him, one with the .22 and one with a ball bat. That’s when the victim shot Parker, the one brandishing his weapon. The poor kid was DOA.

According to the Detroit Free Press,

“After the shooting, police questioned the 53-year-old man and released him, noting that he had a valid concealed weapons permit.

“Then they gave him back his gun.”

This is exactly what Carl Levin was afraid of.

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