Short take: Shooting order

  • Article by: DAVID BANKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 16, 2012 - 11:49 AM

First, last or not at all?

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Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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You know that bit where the hamburger flipper tosses the patty in the air and it lands on the floor, so he picks it up and puts it back on the grill? Happens in lawmaking all the time.

A timely example is the proposal known to opponents as “shoot first and ask questions later” and more prosaically to its authors as the “justifiable use of deadly force in the defense of home and person.”

The action, part of a larger bill, has been carried over from last year, so you’ve probably heard the main arguments.

Pro: Citizens need to defend their homes, their loved ones and other things they treasure, possibly including their pride.

Con: Since the reasonable use of force in self-defense is already allowed, loosening the standard paves the way for mayhem, especially among people disposed to take that path.

“All these horror stories, what might happen, never materialize,” Rep. Tony Cornish of Good Thunder, an author of the House version of the bill, was quoted as saying as the debate smoldered last spring, referring at least to horrors envisioned by opponents. “It’s just a scare tactic for some reason.”

One supposes that two can play at that game. Do situations frequently materialize in which a citizen, having wasted precious minutes consulting the state code, is unable to dispense with an existential threat?

Checking …

Checking …

Um, not really, no.

How about cases in which such a citizen successfully diffuses a situation by brandishing a weapon?

Haven’t heard of many. Maybe they don’t like to brag.

Well, are there at least examples in which someone wishes, in a given moment, that they had a weapon?

Yeah, a few of those.

Fact is, most people can get guns if they want them; occasions to use them heroically are rare and fraught with peril, and existing law does indeed address those situations.

In such a context, the conservative thing for a legislator to do is nothing at all.

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David Banks is the Star Tribune's assistant commentary editor.

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