Gun culture

The papers and never short of heartbreaking stories but this is one that really stands out. (See story here)

A few days ago, Jeffrey Giuliano shot to death an intruder believed to be breaking into his sister’s house. The intruder had on a ski mask and was holding a knife. It turned out the dead intruder was Giuliano’s son Tyler. It is unclear whether Tyler was pulling some sort of prank or if he had intended to rob his aunt but I wonder how this changes anything.

If it was a prank, this is just another death consistent with the fact that if you own a gun you are more likely to shoot a loved one by accident than you would a burglar.

But let’s assume he had intended to commit a burglary and that he had come at Mr. Giuliano to scare him off, or worse yet to attack him. What would have happened if Tyler was not wearing a mask and Mr Giuliano knew it was his son? Would he have shot? I can’t imagine he would have. He would have done what he had to to get away from the threat. No matter what, I doubt he would ever feel justified in shooting his own son.

I don’t have all the facts but for sake of argument let’s assume Tyler was fully intending to rob his aunt. Given his history – biological father in prison, biological mother once crashed her car while under the influence of crack cocaine resulting in the death of infant daughter, shuttled from home to home until adopted by the Giulianos four years ago – it is not inconceivable he would involve himself in petty criminal activities (if that was indeed his intent). Nevertheless, by all reports he was a good kid and we would hardly blame him for making some bad choices from time to time.

The family’s attorney said the shooting was “justifiable” and that Giuliano had a permit for the gun. The police seem to agree and are unlikely to press any charges. Why would they? We can’t blame the father. He did what his culture expected of him and owned a gun for protection purposes. He lives in a world that sees nothing wrong with that.

My question is the following: If Giuliano would not have shot his son had he known his identity, why would it be “justifiable” if it was someone else’s son?

Does a 15 year old petty criminal deserve to die for what he did? Given the gun culture and the mindset of “Stand-your-ground” laws, it seems North American society has determined he does.

I don’t even know where to begin describing how wrong this is.

As long as we see gun ownership as an acceptable option, more people will die than need to:

- Suicidal individuals will have a more effective means at their disposal. While a determined person will find other means, most suicidal states are temporary. Giving someone access to a lethal means goes against the first rule in suicide prevention.

- Angry disillusioned people will continue to go on shooting sprees in university engineering schools, in Colorado high schools, in movie theaters, and in whatever location the next one will take place. It is only a question of months…or weeks…or days. An angry person with a knife can kill one or two people. An angry person with a gun can kill dozens. Those who support gun ownership like to say: Guns don’t kill, people kill. Well, true, but people with guns kill more efficiently!

- People will continue to die in mistaken identity cases. Two cases stand out for me: Amadou Diallo and Yoshihiro Hattori. These stories will break your heart.

- Skirmishes, road rage incidents, and other confrontations such as the Tyler Giuliano and Trayvon Martin cases will continue to happen. They are inevitable in the heat of the moment when fear, misunderstanding, and emotional impulses, all come together in the presence of a deadly weapon.

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Posted in Human nature, Life.

Posted on 03 Oct 2012

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2 comments to Gun culture

  1. Marie-Line
    On Oct 11th 2012 at 13:49

    When I grew up in the country no one in my street would lock their doors because everyone knew everyone. But growing up and living in a big city you cannot not lock your house or apartment door because you don’t know whose your neighbour. That said; I’ve never been in favor of owning any kind of firearms even if it’s for self or family protection. One never knows who will use it by accident or with a deadly purpose.

  2. Cyril Denoual
    On Oct 12th 2012 at 18:39


    Sorry, my english is not fluent enought to give you my comment in english, I will have to do it in french. I hope it won’t be a problem.

    On peut effectivement se demander si ce tir est “justifiable”. Cependant, la réponse à cette question est totalement différente selon qu’on se place sur le terrain de la morale ou du droit, qui sont deux choses complètement différentes.

    Moralement, mes sentiments et mon ressenti sont identiques aux vôtres, et sans aucun doute à ceux de tous ceux qui eu connaissance de cette tragédie.

    Légalement, on se pose des questions hélas beaucoup plus froides : est-ce une situation de légitime défense ? De cette question découlent toutes sortes de conséquences procédurales en terme de poursuite et de règles de preuve.

    Ici, le “familly’s attorney” a estimé que c’était un cas de légitime défense. Il est très probable que l’identité de l’intrus n’ait joué aucun rôle dans cette décision. Dans d’autres cultures démocratiques beaucoup plus hostiles à la détention et à l’utilisation des armes à feu, la solution de droit aurait très certainement été identique, pour une situation similaire. C’est l’application d’une règle de procédure pénale, très commune dans les pays occidentaux, la présomption de légitime défense en cas d’intrusion nocturne dans un domicile.

    Reste à considérer si cette règle est morale ou non, si elle doit ou non être révisée, si elle est ou non digne de la civilisation telle que nous la concevons. Mais c’est là un autre débat.

    En espérant avoir apporté une précision utile.
    Et merci pour vos billets, ils sont toujours passionnants.