More Philadelphia gun violence!

Bear in mind that the statistics you read about include incidents like this:

A burglar who kicked his way into a locked store early yesterday found himself facing the shop's owner - who was armed and fired his gun, police said.

Damon Jones, 32, of the 400 block of West Wellens Street, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, authorities said.

The incident began at 5 a.m. in the 5400 block of North Fifth Street, where the owner - who lives in the building that houses his store - heard the burglar breaking in, said Capt. Benjamin Naish of the police Public Affairs Unit.

"The burglar had kicked in the front door and encounters the store owner inside," Naish said. The owner "has been cooperative, and no charges are pending at this time."

Naish said a preliminary investigation was done by homicide detectives, who have sent the case to the District Attorney's Office for review.

Authorities did not identify the store owner because he has not been charged.

Good for the store owner! Imagine for a moment how much money he has saved society. At 32, I think it's reasonable to assume that if the dead man was a career burglar, he's probably been breaking into stores and houses for over a decade, with untold economic consequences (to say nothing of the additional costs occasioned if he's been arrested, tried, convicted, imprisoned, paroled, supervised, etc.)

Unfortunately, the story was buried on page B-8 of today's Inquirer. I can't state with confidence that this is because of any bias against defensive or justifiable shootings, but for whatever reason, the Inquirer apparently doesn't think these stories are as newsworthy as shooting incidents which occur for reasons unknown. When criminals shoot each other (a common occurrence), it's often front page news. As a matter of routine, the numbers are added to the "death toll" from "gun violence."

Few will notice today's buried story, which is why I'm linking it.

However, what most irritates me about this story is that the criminal's death will be added to this statistical tally of "gun deaths." And "homicides." (Which of course it is.) What that means is that eventually, it will plausibly be spun as "gun violence" and the suspect even turned into a "victim."

More attention needs to be paid to tallying these justifiable killings by private citizens.

I'm wondering . . .

Is there any way to prevent them from being used to buttress the anti-gun position?

Or has it been decided that it is not in our best interest to be able to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable killings?

LEGAL NOTE: "Justifiable homicide" is a tricky concept, and I am not entirely sure about the nuances, and whether an official ruling is required to declare that a death was that. Obviously, a failure by a district attorney to charge someone with a crime is not the same thing as a ruling of justifiable homicide. The law does not appear to be uniform, and in some instances, a coroner's inquest results in such a finding. How many "unsolved" homicides still on the books might be found (if brought to trial) to have involved self-defense? How carefully are killings of felons by felons investigated when (as is often the case) no witnesses come forward? Contrary to popular belief (and de facto police practice), felons do not forfeit the right to self defense. As a practical matter, though, they are far more likely to be charged in the event that they kill in self defense. If Felon A breaks into the home or a car of Felon B and is killed by Felon B, it is unlikely that Felon B will stick around and answer questions. More likely, Felon A's family will insist that the dead man was a victim who had done "nothing wrong" -- and the death will be listed on the books (probably forever) as an "unsolved homicide" -- or even an "unsolved murder."

Any analysis is further complicated by the fact that "justifiable homicide" is not a synonym for "self defense." The former often involves a legal finding by the authorities before a trial, while the latter is a criminal defense raised during trial.

I don't have easy answers. All I know is that I have grown weary of questionable statistics.

(And the pacifist meme that all violence is bad.)

posted by Eric on 06.30.06 at 11:33 AM


*Is there any way to prevent them from being used to buttress the anti-gun position?*


I guess one way would be to pressure authorities to record these kinds of incidents as a seperate stat. Both 'justifiable homicide' and 'self defense.'

CJ   ·  June 30, 2006 1:19 PM

I wonder, if the owner (victim) had defended himself by clocking the felon over the noggin with the butt of the pistol, would it be considered 'gun violence'?

mdmhvonpa   ·  June 30, 2006 3:39 PM

I suppose that would be accurate. It reminds me of a misleading story byline for a local evening news story -- "A MAN IS DEAD IN ANOTHER INCIDENT INVOLVING A PIT BULL! DETAILS AT 11." I tuned in at 11, and sure enough it was true. A pit bull was stolen during a dispute in which the dog's owner shot the dog thief!

(That was many years ago; they don't do that as much now. . .)

Eric Scheie   ·  June 30, 2006 5:37 PM

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