Thanks to the NRA, we now live in a world where Barney Fife is armed and dangerous.
Barney was the hapless but well-intentioned deputy in the 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. I always thought that somebody could write a book on how to be a good manager of any organization using the lessons of Sheriff Andy Taylor. One of the things that the fictional Taylor did was order his trigger-happy deputy to keep his one bullet in his shirt pocket at all times.
Now, we have Barney Fifes running around virtually everywhere in America, but there's no Sheriff Taylor to keep them in check. They're carrying high-powered weapons, locked and loaded. And they're killing innocent people.
The most recent example was in Slinger, Wisconsin. Twenty year-old Bo Morrison was shot and killed when a rowdy underage beer party he was attending broke up, and he fled to a neighbor's porch to hide out from the cops. With police only 300 feet away, the owner of the porch grabbed his handgun instead of his cell phone. He went downstairs in the dark, surprised Morrison, and shot him dead.
Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen refuses to prosecute the shooter because he claims that the killing was justified under Wisconsin's new "castle doctrine" law, which went into effect in December. Under the castle doctrine (your home is your castle, get it?) you can shoot first and ask questions later if you claim to feel threatened by an intruder in your own home. You don't have to call the cops or determine that the intruder is armed.
It's only a matter of time before a father shoots a son coming home later than expected.
The Slinger incident is similar to the Trayvon Martin case, which brought to light the insanity of "stand your ground" laws that allow you to essentially carry your castle with you. Under "stand your ground," you no longer have any responsibility to simply leave a tense situation. You can just blow the other guy away.
Similar to the Wisconsin case, this is a deadly mixture of a crazy law, the proliferation of guns, and timid prosecutors terrified of offending the NRA. It's the main reason that George Zimmerman, who killed the unarmed Trayvon Martin, has yet to be charged with anything.
As a matter of fact, the "stand your ground" law has been used in Florida to justify everything from road rage shootings to shoot outs among drug dealers. Claims of justifiable homicide have tripled. An excellent article by Miami's former police chief points out that Florida chiefs of police had predicted all of this when the law was passed in 2005 over their objections.
Responsible, professional law enforcement officials are against these laws, but they've been overwhelmed by the gun nuts in the NRA and on angry-guy talk radio shows.
Combine these extreme laws with concealed carry, and you have a recipe for mayhem. Anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon who isn't a cop is self-identified as having poor judgment to begin with. You also probably have to be paranoid and/or delusional to want to carry a loaded firearm around in daily life.
So, it's the very people we don't want to have easy access to deadly force that want it in the first place, as George Zimmerman would seem to prove.
But these days in America, every Barney Fife now gets to carry a loaded, high-powered fire arm for "self protection." God help us.
For the safety of the well-adjusted and sane people of America as well as innocent young victims like Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison, it's time we fought back hard against the gun-nuts in the NRA. Let's start by repealing the horrible "castle doctrine" here in Wisconsin and then move on to much more strict gun control laws.
There will always be a Barney Fife out there, but let's at least take away his bullet.