Friday, May 02, 2008

Shooting themselves in the foot?

You have to wonder how gun advocates would reconcile the tragedy that befell a Florida Taco Bell with the push in Georgia to let patrons carry firearms while they drink in public. They’ve hammered a bill through the state legislature that allows gun-permit holders to carry a hidden pistol into restaurants and other places that serve alcohol. The proponents are arguing that Gov. Sonny Perdue should sign the measure into law because it would allow your average citizen to defend his or herself should trouble erupt, like the robbery that unfolded in late February at the Cape Coral Taco Bell.

Sure enough, someone in the restaurant that day was carrying a handgun. And, luckier still, it happened to be a police officer—someone with extensive training in how to handle a lethal weapon. Nor was the officer caught off guard. Local authorities had been warned that the fast-food restaurant might be robbed that night. Officer Doug Coons was sent specifically to protect the staff and patrons. When a man at the back door pulled a gun on manager Paul Price, Coons reacted. He fired twice at the armed robber, hitting him in the shoulder. But Price also caught a bullet, though his wound, like the perpetrator’s, was not fatal.

At first, according to local news reports, Price asserted that he’d been shot by the robber, apparently a not-too-quick fellow named Christopher Ward, who was promptly arrested with three accomplices. But authorities reportedly discovered that Ward’s gun hadn’t been loaded. The state attorney’s office also reportedly learned the bullet had come from Coons’ gun.

All parties agreed the injury to Price had been unintended. Indeed, the state attorney found Coons’ actions to be “reasonable and lawful,” according to the Cape Coral police department, and did not merit any criminal charges.

But it’s a reason to stop and think about the legislation that’s on the governor’s desk in Georgia. An innocent man was shot in Cape Coral because a policeman, a highly trained professional accustomed to carrying a gun every day on the job, erroneously hit him. We’re not talking about an amateur unwittingly finding him or herself in mortal danger, possibly after having a drink or two, in a crowded facility where other people may be packing, too. Do the gun advocates in Georgia really believe that an accident shooting would be less likely in a situation like that?

We can only hope the governor listens to the Georgia Restaurant Association’s plea that he protect the public by vetoing the pending bill. As GRA chief executive Ronald Wolf put it in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed piece on Tuesday, “although we recognize the good intentions of the legislature to provide restaurant patrons with an increased sense of security, the reality is that the bill only increases the likelihood of an inebriated customer putting innocent citizens and law enforcement officers in harm’s way.”

1 comment:

  1. I could not agree more with you Peter. Look at the debacle that Indianapolis Colts Marvin Harrison is finding himself in right now. I have nothing against guns, but alcohol and packing heat will only lead to something really bad happening.