A 37-year-old Virginia Beach man was buying a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven when two armed robbers burst into the store. The clerk and intruders started arguing and tensions quickly escalated. Worried for the clerk’s safety, the bystander pulled out a concealed weapon and fired, hitting one robber in the neck and the other twice in the chest, killing him.
When the police arrived a few moments later, they placed the shooter in handcuffs and hauled him down to the station. But prosecutors declined to file charges. The store clerk, Barrie Engel, thinks the man was a hero. “It was a blessing that he was there at that time,” she told the Virginian-Pilot. “It could have turned out a lot different. It could have been us that died.”
As the debate over gun control rages, an argument we hear frequently from gun-rights advocates is that Americans have a right to self-defense and that an armed population acts as a deterrent to violence crime. Does this incident support or refute their argument?
On the one hand, the account in the Virginian-Pilot does not make the case that the robbers were posing an imminent threat. The unidentified man, a divorced father of a teenage son and an employee of a medical transport business, had every reason to worry. But did he have to shoot? It’s not clear from the article that the bad guys were on the verge of shooting anyone. Do we want to live in a society where ordinary citizens make such life-and-death decisions?
On the other hand, it is a tragedy that we live in a society where ordinary citizens are called upon to make those kinds of decisions! How much of a threat must a gunman pose, one might query, before a citizen is justified in blowing him away? In this case, I’d say Big Gulp Dude was plenty justified. I’m sorry, but when you walk into a 7-Eleven to rob the place, wave a gun around, and get belligerent, you no longer have rights worth considering.
What’s more, you can be sure that the story of this incident will be widely told and retold. Surely, it will have a deterrent effect, at least for a while. Bad guys can case out a joint and make sure there aren’t any police around when they decide to rob it. But in Hampton Roads they now have to consider that they might encounter an armed civilian. Some would-be crooks might think twice.
It’s not a black-and-white matter. I can see both sides of the moral dilemma. But in the end, I come down on the side of Big Gulp Dude. Had the commonwealth attorney’s office decided to file charges and if I’d been on the jury, I never would have voted to convict.There are currently no comments highlighted.