RICHARDSON: Am I a weenie?

March 16, 2014 

Let me make this admission up front. I get nervous when I’m around people with guns, unless of course, I see a badge.

Without the badge, that gun on the hip for all to see makes me uncomfortable. That’s their purpose, I’m sure. I should feel protected, but I don’t. Just the opposite. I know, I’m a weenie.

I feel this way because when scary people get scared, most times they are scared of people who look like me. And it’s been shown that in certain circumstances that’s reason enough to blow somebody who looks like me away -- and reason enough for the courts to let them get away with it.

I’m talking about Florida’s stand your ground law, a law some in Georgia’s General Assembly would like to see in this state.

Last week there were those for and against House Bill 875, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, speaking at the Capitol. That bill, if approved by the Senate (it passed the House 119-56) would make it legal for scary people -- as long as they have a gun carry permit -- to make me nervous almost anywhere in the state: school grounds, churches, bars, airports and a host of other places.

Saying I have nothing to fear is no comfort. Having a perceived fear of someone, regardless of the circumstances, has become a license to kill and a get-out-of-jail-free card.

I would think long and hard before walking up to a home to ask for help, something I did regularly when my 1960 Volkswagen put me down in college. Doing that got 19-year-old Renisha McBride shot in the face in Dearborn, Mich. Though just seeking help after an accident, the homeowner thought she was a burglar.

Can you turn to police? They fear, too. Ask Jonathan Ferrell. That’s right, you can’t. He was shot 10 times by a Charlotte, N.C., police officer when he ran toward him. Ferrell was 24 years old, unarmed and sober. He was seeking help following a car accident. The officer was finally indicted four months after the incident.

Or you could ask Kenneth Brown Walker. That’s right, you can’t. Walker, a mid-level manager at Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Columbus with no criminal record was stopped with three friends by Muscogee County deputies. They thought they were drug dealers. They weren’t. As Walker lay on the pavement, face down, the deputy, surrounded by at least eight of his colleagues, all with guns drawn, was in such fear, that he shot Walker in the head.

And then there are those who suffer from “Dunn’s Syndrome,” named for Michael Dunn, the Florida man who was so afraid of teenagers playing loud rap music that it caused him to imagine a gun so he opened fire, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn was so traumatized that after firing his first salvo, he exited his vehicle, assumed a firing position, and fired more shots at a fleeing vehicle. He then left the scene without calling police. You know the rest of the story.

I understand why some see a black face and fear. It’s in their cultural programming. The opposite is also true. I also understand dead men tell no tales. It’s the living whose side of the story we hear. Stand your ground laws, such as Florida’s -- and maybe soon Georgia’s -- give those with irrational fears the right to shoot first and let the devil sort out the details later. Too many times, the details, as far as a black face is concerned, don’t much matter in court.

That’s why I get nervous when I see people openly carrying weapons in restaurants and supermarkets. Are they itching to use them or do they just want to intimidate weenies like me? I think a bit of both.

I would like to be able to relax somewhere, but if our astute lawmakers have their way, as they pander to the NRA, that won’t be possible. The innocent unarmed are doomed to be just as paranoid as those packing heat.

Can a gunfight at the OK Corral be far behind?

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at Tweet @crichard1020.

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