This past Monday I was in Los Angeles when I received a text from my wife, “there was a fatal shooting at 29th and Franklin, it happened just as the High School was letting out.” I live a 31st and Franklin. The 18 year old victim died. My son turns 18 later this year so when I hear of an 18 year old being shot to death in my neighborhood, it becomes personal very quickly. According to my neighbors this was a gang related shooting. The news this week has also been dominated by a shooting in Florida. An unarmed 17 year old was shot to death justifiably, according Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” In what world is shooting an unarmed teen justifiable? Can we really claim to be a Christian Nation and have laws that allow us to kill each other?
Philosophically what happened in Denver is as “justifiable” as what happened in Florida. A gang member was simply standing his ground – protecting his turf.
I can almost understand why people without faith believe that standing your ground is important and correct, but what I cannot understand is how anyone in the faith community could even begin to endorse a law like this.
Stand your ground laws help to legitimize prejudices, assumptions, and stereotypes. It is not surprising that both of the dead teens happen to be black. It is this is population that has been victimized most by society’s irrational fears.
We are not going to get past things like racism, prejudice, and fear by creating space for justifiable murder. If anything, allowing civilians to arm themselves makes these issues more contencious.
Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, and Jesus had it right all along. Swords and guns must be transformed into instruments of peace. When we arm each other it becomes too easy to let fear dictate our actions and fear too often leads to unwarranted violence.