“He’s not a vigilante. He’s not a nut. He’s just another average Minnesotan who has acquired the power to kill.” (Larry Oakes/Star-Tribune)
CHICAGO, July 10, 2012 — That is how Larry Oakes, a reporter for the Star-Tribune, describes Minnesotan Pat Cannon. Cannon is one of over 100,000 persons in Minnesota who has a concealed carry weapon permit.
Oakes describes this as “acquired the power to kill.” Another lovely literary chestnut in describing Cannon and others who choose to carry is, “people who have taken on the means to use deadly force if they decide it’s necessary.”
Who decides whether deadly, or any other force is necessary? A more accurate statement would be, “if they decide it is justified.”
There is a distinct difference and stark contrast between what is necessary and what is legally justified.
Oakes’ article on Minnesota’s concealed carry law makes the writer’s point of view loud and clear. He is not in favor of the law or the “large numbers,” one in forty Minnesotans, who take advantage of it.
As far as I know, none of those persons are described as paranoid, bark-chewing, raving lunatics wearing camouflage or ninja outfits. None are described as seeing violent armed criminals around every corner.
They are described as ordinary, bland, middle-aged people. This simple fact muddles whatever point Oakes was trying to make.
According to Oakes, 103,000 people have concealed carry permits in Minnesota, while 49 states have concealed carry laws on the books.
Oakes’ concerne is that there is a new culture emerging, a culture of people who carry firearms, a culture of eight million Americans who have legally “acquired the power to kill.”
Oakes fails to recognize that every single human being has the power to kill without having to “acquire” it, or a gun, to do so. People are stabbed to death with all kinds of implements, even common hand tools. People are beaten to death with all kinds of blunt objects, including musical instruments, fists and feet. People are strangled, poisoned, immolated, drowned, defenestrated, and run over with vehicles, sometimes twice just to make sure.
People are killed, whole families at a time, by those that think it is OK to drink and then drive (see PDF above).
Our fellow human beings kill each other by all kinds of imaginable and unimaginable ways.
All of us, including Oakes, have the power to kill, with or without a gun.
Actually we have two powers. We have the power to kill each other, and the power to kill ourselves, again by any imaginable and unimaginable means.
Motor vehicles are more dangerous than firearms. They kill, maim, and catastrophically injure more people yearly than firearms or other weapons. It is more difficult and challenging to get a driver’s license, let alone a commercial driver’s sicense, than a permit to carry a firearm in most states.
Law-abiding citizens who choose to carry firearms are not roaming our streets searching for targets of opportunity on which to use their “acquired power” to kill. They are just ordinary people who feel the need for self-protection. There are probably some who do it just because they can, making the point that they have the right to do so.
That does not make them anymore dangerous than citizens who do not carry firearms. It makes them considerably less dangerous than most people who drive vehicles.
According to Oakes, fewer than one percent of permit holders have been involved in criminal activity. He does not cite what percentage used a firearm. He just throws a number out, 882 permit holders who were arrested for non-traffic violations.
Oakes cites extreme cases to make some kind of point. Naturally, he cites the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case, which allegedly triggered some kind of national debate on guns and stands your ground laws. How could he not?
The other “extreme” case he cites involved a man who killed an armed robber who pointed a gun at him. Oakes gets slightly deceptive. He flatly states, “No charges were filed.” Charges were filed.
The victim’s sister, who participated in the robbery, was charged. The more correct statement would have been “no charges were filed against the legally armed citizen who shot the criminal armed robber who pointed a gun at him.”
If you are going to write an article on something you should get your basic facts straight. If you are going to express a point of view in print, express it openly, honestly, and without stealthy hyperbole like, “acquired the power to kill.”
Gun rights versus gun control is a continuing, contentious issue. Both sides have and employ forceful arguments. Both sides have and employ facts, figures, and those pesky statistics liars always use. They are open, honest, and robust in their opinions and the issue’s impact on the public interest.
Reporters should be open and honest about their intentions, too. If you are going to tell a story, tell the story. It is clear that Oakes does not agree with Minnesota’s concealed carry laws. It is also clear he is reasonably intelligent. The very least he could have done was come up with some facts and figures to make his point instead of his “acquired the power to kill” hyperbole.
Oakes did establish one clear fact. It is the one clear statement of truth in the article: There has been no positive or negative impact on violent crime due to Minnesota’s concealed carry law.
Ordinary law-abiding citizens are not going on murderous rampages, committing criminal acts of violence and vigilantism. Minnesotans can sleep soundly knowing that.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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