Philando Castile and the Other Side of the Argument
What follows is not about mass shootings or gun control. Quite the opposite actually. I have my beliefs but the Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights for a reason and that's not the discussion I want to have at the moment.
Earlier this week, a man with an rifle shot up a baseball field full of Congressmen on that same day that a disgruntled employee killed several people at a UPS outfit in San Francisco. Though our arc from outrage to apathy was much shorter than usual, there was a fairly typical burst of arguments about gun rights following those shootings.
Those arguments are necessary but they're predictable. We argue about which people should not be able to carry guns, how to keep guns out of those people's hands, how to make sure we know when those people are volatile, how to protect others when those people do get guns. We argue about background checks, mental illness, gun culture, no-fly lists, assault weapons, magazine sizes, and gun-show loopholes. Again, these arguments are important to have, but they are only half of the argument that we should be having.
Last July the oft-ignored other half of that argument was laid bare in dramatic fashion when a police officer in Minnesota killed Philando Castile. Castile was a legal gun owner who was carrying his weapon legally and informed the officer of the presence of a gun when the traffic stop commenced. By his wife's account, Castile complied with the officer's instructions and was shot several times while reaching for his wallet. Shortly after the shootings in Virginia and San Francisco, the officer who shot Philando Castile was acquitted of all charges and quietly dismissed from the police force.
We spend hours upon hours crossing swords over which people we feel should not be allowed to carry guns but are allowed to do so under our current set of laws and regulations. We spend no time whatsoever being outraged and passionate about people who should be allowed to bear arms but, for all intents and purposes, are not.
Philando Castile had every right to protect his family, every right to safeguard his property, and every reason (far more reason than most gun owners) to fear tyranny. His rights were terminated not by gun laws and liberals, but by a law enforcement officer and his service weapon. By laws and a culture of deference that refuse to hold police accountable for their actions even when, in the course of protecting the community, they destroy a vital and cherished part of it.
We treat issues like gun control and police violence as separate and distinct but they are not. If you believe that our Second Amendment rights are inviolate – that they are enshrined so that we can resist a tyrannical government and protect our property – but you're not appalled and disturbed that Philando Castile will get no justice, then you need to take a long hard look at your beliefs. The right to protect one's property and to expect that the government be anything but tyrannical has been reserved for people that look like me since before the framers put their pens to paper. Apparently that hasn't changed. If that doesn't make you as angry as attempts to close gun-show loopholes then perhaps it's time to think about why.