Lethal Weapon 14 Draws a Packed House
Not since L’Affaire Simpson had I seen an overflow crowd in a civil courtroom.
Wedged in the pews of Department 14 in downtown Los Angeles, they sat shoulder to shoulder, or maybe shoulder holster to shoulder holster, for a hearing in their complaint against the Los Angeles Police Department.
All of them, according to their lawyer, were eager to tell the judge that they need to carry a concealed weapon, and that the present chief of police is being way out of line for not granting or renewing permits to do so.
This battle-by-tort has been going on for a couple of years; what made it worth noting this week was what happened on Capitol Hill.
Two veteran police officers were killed by a man with a .38. One was shot when the man tried to evade a metal detector. The other was killed after he heard the gunfire, confronted the man and told him to drop the gun. He shot the gunman as he went down.
Two cops with 36 years between them, men with firing-range refresher courses, as familiar with a gun as I am with a Phillips screwdriver, trained to be cool and deliberate and vigilant--if these men can’t preempt the bad guy, preferably without being killed or wounded themselves, who can?
Those men and women sitting packed into the courtroom pews of Department 14?
Gun fanciers had a response at the ready, instant as a recoil: If even a few of the tourists milling around the Document Door last Friday had guns in their fanny packs, the odds would have been much better than 2-on-1.
And so might the body count.
The dead policemen will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the graveyard for the first fruit of the family slaughter called the Civil War. Maybe it was in that war that someone began the what-the-hell battlefield mantra, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.”
After the Capitol shootings, a sobbing Florida congressman was photographed hugging a tearful Texas congressman. “Now it’s your turn,” I thought when I saw it. “Now you too stand alongside every mother and father, every child, every wife and husband bereaved and orphaned and widowed by some damned fool with a gun.”
In the Florida congressman’s state, more than 250,000 people who are not felons or nuts, who have “demonstrated competence” with a gun (which does not require handling or firing one), hold concealed weapons permits.
In the Texas congressman’s state, 100,000 who are not nuts or felons and who have taken 10 hours of safety training can likewise carry guns.
Are these states--and the other 29 that issue permits--safer places for it, or not?
Spare me your dueling studies. Here’s my modern corollary to a law of physics: For every study there is an equal and opposite study.
And for every anecdote there is an equal and opposite anecdote. Pick yours: the L.A. pizza deliveryman with the concealed weapon permit who killed the robber who stabbed him? Or the two Oklahoma grandfathers, arguing over who would take their grandson home from day care, when the grandpa with the concealed weapon permit pulled his gun and killed the other grandpa in front of 250 kids?
Like the other people in the courtroom, I am curious to know who might fit the LAPD’s criteria, which appear much more stringent than Florida’s. A reckless record with “dangerous instrumentalities” like cars can work against you. And “convincing evidence of a clear and present danger to life or of great bodily injury” to yourself or family is required.
The judge, with precedent hovering over his bench like a cartoon balloon, wants a threat-assessment expert to calculate just how good any one applicant’s “good cause” is in seeking a permit. What manner of fear is reasonable? Is urban life alone enough? Is it more justified in Palos Verdes, or in Compton? Will a loony neighbor suffice? A menacing ex-spouse? A vengeful former business partner? Jewelers often apply because they carry valuables. How much is enough for others to qualify? Anyone with a Rolex? Every driver with a new car? Every man delivering a $10 pizza?
When the permit matter came up in Simi Valley a while back, a man in a wheelchair pleaded that the disabled and the frail get permits, to even up the odds.
A couple of sabbaths ago, a new Kentucky law took effect, allowing ministers to pack weapons in church. A minister with the Kentucky Council of Churches said this: “Jesus would puke.”
I don’t think so. Jesus was a sensible guy. He would duck.
Patt Morrison’s column appears Wednesdays. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.