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By Elias Atienza
The United States exploded when Philando Castile was shot seven times by a cop during a traffic stop. A legal gun owner who tried to obey two conflicting orders and paid for it with his life.
National Review’s David French summarized it nicely:
“If you read carefully, you’ll note that it appears that the officer shot Castile for doing exactly what the officer told him to do. Yanez asked for Castile’s license. Castile told him that he had a gun, and the officer – rather than asking for his carry permit, or asking where the gun was, or asking to see Castile’s hands – just says, “Don’t reach for it then.” At that point, Castile is operating under two commands. Get his license, and don’t reach for his gun. As Castile reaches for his license (following the officer’s orders), and he assures him that he’s not reaching for the gun (also following the officer’s orders). The entire encounter, he assures Yanez that he’s following Yanez’s instructions. He died anyway.”
Castile wasn’t a criminal who was in trouble with the law. He was a loving man who took care of his girlfriend and child, was employed as a nutritional supervisor known as Mr. Rogers with Dreadlocks, and never had trouble with the police except for traffic-related tickets. He was also a man with a concealed carry permit who died because he had a gun on him.
He died because the police officer feared for his life, which is a common theme in most police shootings that are later found to be unjustified. Like the death of Walter Scott, where Officer Slager shot him in the back and felt ‘total fear.’
The NRA has the time to release ad after ad warning of the dangers of government, saying that former President Obama wanted an Australian type gun confiscation. How Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton were the worst things to happen to gun rights since Ronald Reagan backed the assault weapons ban. They don’t have the time to comment on actions that actually threaten the Second Amendment.
As Breanna Edwards points out in The Root, it’s been three and a half weeks since Officer Yanez, the man who shot Castile, was acquitted by a grand jury. NRA spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, finally commented on it during a segment on CNN and that was after being questioned about it. She said:
“I think it’s absolutely awful. It’s a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided. I don’t agree with every single decision that comes out from courtrooms of America. There are a lot of variables in this particular case, and there were a lot of things that I wish would have been done differently. Do I believe that Philando Castile deserved to lose his life over his [traffic] stop? I absolutely do not. I also think that this is why we have things like NRA Carry Guard, not only to reach out to the citizens to go over what to do during stops like this, but also to work with law enforcement so that they understand what citizens are experiencing when they go through stops like this.”
This was a weak attempt at assuring gun owners that the NRA cares. As Jacob Sullum argued, it’s been a year since the incident happened and almost a month since the case was finally ruled on. Why now? And half of this statement is basically an advertisement for their own organization’s programs and to imply that Castile might still be alive if he had been a member of the NRA Carry Guard. As David French explained, Castile followed Yanez’s conflicting orders to the letter and ended up dead because of it.
And Castile is not an isolated case of the NRA failing to defend gun rights of legal gun owners. Andrew Scott was playing video games with his girlfriend when somebody knocked on his door late at night. Understandably worried, he approached with a gun in his hand, pointed downwards. He answered the door and was promptly shot by a police officer. r. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Scott’s estate and essentially ruled that an agent of the state can shoot you in your house if you answer your door late at night with a gun. Once more, David French is one of the lonely voices speaking against this ruling.
“Pay close attention, citizens of the Eleventh Circuit (that’s Alabama, Georgia, and Florida). If you exercise your constitutional right to keep and bear arms in your own home, agents of the state who show up at the wrong house and don’t announce themselves can kill you with legal impunity, even if you are retreating — and even if you point your gun at the ground.”
The NRA was nowhere to be found; no statement, no cries of government overreach, nothing. They did not have the time to comment on a case where the Second Amendment was clearly violated by a police officer, who, once more, feared for his life, but had the time to comment on the Eleventh Circuit’s decision to strike down one of their backed laws (which they struck down on 1st Amendmen grounds).
There are plenty of cases of where the NRA completely ignored the gun rights of gun owners because the police were involved. The Washington Post’s Radley Balko compiled them in a nice tweet. In most of these cases, the police were shot at because the person involved believed they were thieves and breaking into their homes.
Donald Scott https://t.co/gqrpiDGorS
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) July 11, 2017
A brief history of some of these cases.
Henry Magee who was raided by police for pot and ended up shooting one of them because he thought they were thieves. He was charged with capital murder but was later ‘no-billed’ when the jury found that he had acted in self-defense. He was indicted for possession of marijuana.
Ray Rosas, who shot three cops after they staged a no-knock raid on his house because they believed his nephew was selling marijuana out of his house. One of the cops shot another cop accidentally and Rosas was charged with the crime. He, never the less, was found not guilty.
Ryan Frederick, who shot and killed a police officer after he was awoken to them trying to bust down his door. He had been robbed three days before (ironically by the informant who had tipped of the police) and was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years.
Cory Maye, who shot and killed a police officer after a botched drug raid. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death before the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that he would have a new trial. He later signed a plea agreement where he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, sentenced to ten years instead, and was let free for time served.
Julian Betton, who was shot by police nine times after they raided his house and falsified evidence against him to justifty their shooting. He had a gun which the police claimed he fired at them. He never fired the gun. All gun charges were dropped against him.
These are just some of the cases where the NRA was silent. Where they had no words at all for the violation of gun rights because the police were involved. What’s also hypocritical of the NRA is that most of these cases in which they’ve stayed silent are due to the War on Drugs. Police militarization really stems from the drug war and the NRA has some commentators who really, really like the drug war.
And yet, last year, they tweeted out an article by Reason’s Ed Krayewski.
— NRA (@NRA) July 13, 2016
In their defense, they have gone against law enforcement a few times. Such as in Indiana when they defended the “Stand Your Ground” law which passed the Indiana legislature (and lead to a lot of media outlets proclaiming it was now legal to shoot a cop.) That’s…well that’s pretty much it. In almost every relevant case since the early 2000s, they’ve been quieter than mice especially when it comes to confrontations between heavily armed police and gun owners.
The Second Amendment is about defending yourself from criminals and government agents when needed. Of course, not all police officers are bad or deserved to be shot if they go on your private property. Not all police officers are going to be involved in no-knock warrant raids for marijuana. But if someone tried to break into your house late at night without announcing themselves, wouldn’t you defend your house and your family?
As Radley Balko wrote for the Post:
“In short, the NRA seems to think we’re at risk of creeping tyranny and abuse of power from all sectors of government except from the men and women armed, badged and entrusted with the power to kill. That’s a problem, because if armed agents who enforce the laws on the ground aren’t required to respect our rights, our rights don’t really exist.”
It’s breathtakingly hypocritical of the NRA, it almost boggles the mind. While Wayne LaPierre is ranting and raving that Obama is coming for your guns and that the world is going to implode, he’s remarkably silent when government agents kill a man because he was afraid for his life when the police decided to raid his house in the middle of the night. While Dana Loesch is saying that the violent left is going to tear apart the world, she’s silent when Attorney General Jeff Sessions promises to escalate the war on drugs that leads to so many confrontations between police and gun owners.
While NRA commentators are dismissing concerns at the implications of police militarization on gun rights or the war on drugs, legal gun owners face these threats nearly every day. These are not isolated cases that happen once or twice a decade. These happen every year and it stems from the same problem. We’ll be having these arguments every year when the next court case happens because a cop feared for his life and shot a legal gun owner. Or when a gun owner fired his weapon in perceived self-defense because a SWAT team decided to knock down his door without announcing their presence.
The NRA is silent on issues that matter to the Second Amendment. I don’t know why they are silent when it comes to legitimate threats to one of our most cherished amendments by police. Maybe because they’re really shills for the GOP, maybe because they’re more focused on the boogeyman of Linda Sarsour, or maybe because they’re just cowards.