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Ralph Yarl's Life Matters.png

You Can't Have Unlimited Gun Rights Without Itchy Trigger Fingers

By Jen Maravegias | Politics | April 18, 2023 |

By Jen Maravegias | Politics | April 18, 2023 |

Ralph Yarl's Life Matters.png

Over a three-day period, different old, white dudes shot people who accidentally stumbled upon their properties. Read that sentence again. These were not accidental shootings. People were shot, on purpose, for having the audacity of being lost.

Last week in Kansas City, 16-year-old Ralph Yarl rang the wrong doorbell looking for his siblings and was shot twice by homeowner Andrew Lester. Lester assumed the Black teen, who rang his doorbell, was trying to break into his house. Yarl was shot once in the face and then once in the arm after he was down on the ground immediately after Lester answered the door. Over the weekend a number of celebrities, including Halle Berry and Viola Davis, took to social media to express their outrage over the violent event.

The 84-year-old shooter has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Ralph Yarl is, thankfully, out of the hospital and recovering at home.

This past weekend, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis was killed when the car she was in turned up the wrong driveway while she and her companions tried to locate a friend’s house in the rural area around Albany, NY. 65-year-old Kevin Monahan has been charged with second-degree murder for her death because when he saw a car in his driveway he opened fire on it, no questions asked.

It’s not a stretch to tie these events back to Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who belligerently waved around a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun at Black Lives Matter protesters who were peacefully marching past their house in 2020. They were pardoned by Missouri Governor Mike Parson. They were also guest speakers at the 2020 Republican National Convention. Mr. McCloskey ran for a Senate seat in 2022 and lost. But now he’s got his own talk radio program.

The real granddaddy of consequence-free gun violence though is George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman’s hearings, court appearances, and trial dragged out over a year and he was ultimately found not guilty of second-degree murder. During that time, and in the years following, he made himself famous and, much like the McCloskeys, the GOP helped make him infamous.

These poster children for the abuse of state “Stand Your Ground” laws have attained folk hero status among a certain group of people. They watch 24-hour news coverage that culminates in absolution, so of course they’re quick to pull the trigger on their own guns at the slightest provocation. Surely they too will be proclaimed innocent if they cry hard enough about being afraid.

Kansas City is in Missouri, the same state that pardoned the McCloskeys. But Kaylin Gillis was killed in New York State where there are no “Stand Your Ground” or “Castle Doctrine” laws. So, while Andrew Lester may be able to mount some sort of defense for shooting a Black kid in the face, Kevin Monahan is shit out of luck on that front. I hope they’re both prosecuted to the fullest extent and go to prison. If there are no consequences for this type of unprovoked violence then life is just a game of ‘who can shoot first?’ where no one is safe.

Coincidentally, this weekend was also the annual NRA convention, held in Indianapolis. A number of alarming images of children handling guns came out of that event. Photojournalist Mel D. Cole compiled a number of them into a photo essay on Instagram that may prove we’re already there.