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by Peter Moskos

May 7, 2009

Guns for good or bad?

So I'm writing a comment about guns when this story pops up on my screen. It illustrates both the good and bad of gun ownership perfectly: "[Off duty] Officer John Castro, left his gray BMW running ... when the thief hopped in and sped off shortly after noon.... 'The man ran after the car and jumped on top of it.' ... The wild chase ended when Castro, who works at JFK Airport command, fired a round into his own car." The good is that, thanks to a gun, the guy stopped his car from getting jacked. The bad is he could easily have been killed doing so.

Let's leave aside the crime victim was a cop. I don't think that matters.

Had the victim died--been thrown off his own car and killed--it would have been a very stupid thing to do. But he didn't die. And the thief get's caught. All because the victim had a gun.

This man risked his life by jumping on his car (and also risked the life of a criminal by shooting at him). All this for a car that would have been covered by insurance. Was it worth it? Some will say yes; some will say no. So was it a good or bad action on the part of the victim? I bet your opinion depends on your attitude toward guns.


Marc S. said...

As a non-police gun owner who legally carries daily, I would say it was a bad move on the part of the victim, and i bet that wasn't the response you would expect from someone with my views on guns.

This isn't a pro-gun, anti-gun issue, it's a training issue. Responsibly armed citizens who have made the investment in their personal safety to acquire professional training before committing to carry a deadly weapon (as everyone should) would have learned that property isn't worth your life and that every bullet carries with it a price tag in legal fees that are, generally, far in excess of the monetary value of the property being taken from you. This is especially true if that property is insured, and insurance also costs less than legal fees. I will go so far as to say that no competently trained, armed citizen would take such a risk.

In most states, once a person has the ability to retreat he is legally bound to do so as long as doing so doesn't jeopardize himself or others. once the bad guy no longer presents a threat, as was the case here, lethal force is no longer justified and the fight is over. Pursuing the person and using lethal force to recover property is generally not justified.

I won't blast the officers training in this case as police are trained differently. Unlike the armed citizen, the police officer has no duty to retreat, he is, in fact trained to pursue criminals. Unlike citizens, the legal costs associated with an officers bullets are a social cost, not an individual one.

PCM said...

Well said.

So what would you have done in this situation?

tim said...

If he had killed the scumbag who stole his car, I'd say it was worth it.

(Yes, that commits the fallacy of effects topicality.)

As it was, he put himself (and the taxpayer investment in his training) at risk, and landed a criminal in jail instead of the morgue (meaning another $50,000/year in taxpayer dollars).

Marc S. said...

"So what would you have done in this situation?"

Not left my car running unattended like a jackass.

PCM said...

You have a way with words!

DJK said...

Hey PCM, I'm glad you've got this Marc S. posting comments... I like his POV. I'm not the only Libertarian minded gun owner here now. NICE!