In the United States, individual shootings have become so common that they have not broken the news threshold for a long time.
In the past year alone, there have been gun deaths in the country more than 11,500 (you switch to another service). There have been mass shootings this year already over 160 (you switch to another service). That is, on average, more than one mass shooting per day.
This week, however, the United States woke up to discuss, at least for a moment, the number of weapons and the limits of self-defense.
Last week in New York state, a group of four friends drove into the yard of the wrong house by mistake. 65-year-old man (you switch to another service) started shooting at the car from his house. A 20-year-old woman in the car died.
Ohio State was treated this week in turn last year’s shooting (you switch to another service). The police had fired 94 shots at the black man after he had first fired once from the car at the police.
Police said they were afraid the man might shoot at them again. A 25-year-old man was killed by police bullets. The court acquitted the policemen of the charges.
Last week’s shooting incident in the state of Missouri has received the most attention. In Kansas City, an 84-year-old white man, Andrew Lestershot a 16-year-old black boy on his doorstep, Ralph Yarlia.
According to the boy’s family, Yarl was picking up his little brothers home from his friends. However, Yarl mixed up the addresses and accidentally rang the doorbell of Lester’s home.
Lester told police that after ringing the doorbell, he opened the front door of his home and saw the boy trying to open the front door of the house. She said she was afraid the boy was trying to break into her home.
He shot the boy twice through the glass door, first in the head and then in the hand, when the boy was already lying on the ground.
Yarl is expected to survive the shooting. Lester was charged with aggravated assault and a firearm offense. According to the prosecutor, there were “racist elements” involved in the shooting.
During the police interrogation, Lester said that he was “scared to death” when he saw the boy. Yarl, on the other hand, told the police that he rang the doorbell but did not try to open the door.
Lester is expected to plead in court to defend his home. Prosecutors are expected to plead that the man had no reasonable reason to believe that the boy would have tried to break into the house after ringing the doorbell.
The limit of self-defense is shaky
In the United States, owning a firearm and defending one’s home is an almost sacred right. The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to own and bear firearms.
In addition, the country’s legislation is guided by a doctrine known as the castle doctrine, which states that a person has the right to use deadly force to defend his home if he feels his home is under attack.
An idea taken even further than the castle doctrine is the so-called stand your ground principle. This principle allows a person to defend himself when threatened with deadly force, even in a public place.
Professor at the John Morton Center of the University of Turku Benita Heiskanen has familiarized himself with US gun legislation in his research in recent years.
Heiskanen says that the Supreme Court’s decision in 2008 cleared the way for the country’s current situation. At the time, the court stated that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects everyone’s right to possess a weapon for self-defense as well, not only for national defense.
– The Supreme Court gave the interpretation that the right to bear arms is also related to the everyday context and especially to the home. An individual has the right to defend himself with a weapon at home, says Heiskanen.
Especially in conservative states, the right to self-defense has been extended not only to the home, but also to one’s own car and often also to public spaces.
Most states in the US today have stand-your-own laws that allow lethal self-defense even in public places.
Heiskanen says that such lax gun laws have multiplied “like mushrooms in the rain”.
In numerous court cases, as well as in the upcoming shooting case of an 84-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy, the main question is the defendant’s own experience.
– What makes this so complicated is the human experience of the threat. The court is discussing whether the experience of the threat was real, says Heiskanen.
Heiskanen compares that if the postman comes to ring the doorbell of the home, the person at home cannot credibly claim to have perceived the postman as a threat. On the other hand, if an unknown person stands at the door, you can claim that you felt threatened.
Gun laws are confusing for everyone
Heiskanen himself has especially researched the right to bear arms in American universities. He says the practices in campus areas show well how complicated gun laws are in the country.
Heiskanen says that many times, for example, in state universities, you can bring a gun into the lecture halls, but no longer into the campus post office. That’s because the post office is a federal facility where you can’t bring guns.
– That spatial negotiation is really complicated. This is further complicated by the fact that in some premises the weapon can be carried openly and in others only concealed, says Heiskanen.
Heiskanen says that in the end it is the responsibility of every individual to know where a weapon can be carried and when it can be used.
– According to our research, they don’t know that very well, Heiskanen says.
There is no known end to gun violence
In the United States, the Democrats are known to generally support stricter gun laws and the Republicans for looser ones. At the federal level, it is painful to make significant decisions one way or the other.
According to Heiskanen, the discussion in Washington is mainly about the fine-tuning of gun laws, such as whether it is allowed to sell recoil pads for assault rifles, which can increase the rate of fire of the weapons.
– They are details.
Heiskanen reminds us that there are more guns than people in the United States, and seeking to repeal the right to bear arms is not realistic. It is estimated to be in the country today just under 400 million (you switch to another service) weapon.
However, Heiskanen says that, for example, after the 2018 school shooting in Florida, the civic activism of young people led to the tightening of the state’s gun laws.
He also predicts that over time, the younger generation of politicians will likely tighten the country’s gun laws.
– Studies support that more deadly violence occurs in states with looser gun laws. As long as there are lax gun laws in the country, the cycle will continue like this, says Heiskanen.
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