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Friday, October 24, 2014
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Published: Friday, 3/19/2010

Price of a civil society

DO YOU feel safer now?

Twice in just the past few days, seemingly bad guys were shot while allegedly attempting to rob Toledo stores. Although we're glad the robberies were thwarted and thankful no innocents were injured, we're not sure that store owners and employees defending themselves with deadly force is an absolute good.

In the first incident, Allied Music of Ohio co-owner Eric Bilger, who has a concealed-carry permit and has had shooting practice, exchanged gunfire with suspect Steven James, whose rap sheet includes a conviction on four counts of aggravated robbery. James, who reportedly was holding a gun to the head of a store clerk, was wounded twice before collapsing in a parking lot across Byrne Road from the music store. He's in Lucas County Jail.

In the second alleged robbery, two days later at Bengals Food Mart on Airport Highway, a store clerk killed Alfred Evans, a former parolee with a criminal history who reportedly approached the store brandishing a gun. Details are sketchy so far, but at least three people may have witnessed the events.

Being robbed at gunpoint is frightening, and we do not presume to judge, as police would say, the righteousness of either shooting. But it must be remembered that robbery is not a capital crime, and it's only by chance that no one other than the would-be robbers was injured.

Mr. Bilger's heroism is unquestioned. But what if, in the worst case, it had resulted in the death of the store clerk who was being held at gunpoint? And either gun battle could have ended in the deaths of innocent customers inside or passersby on the sidewalk.

Some people argue that store owners defending themselves will mean fewer robbery attempts. We fear the result might instead be that bad guys will get bigger guns and be quicker to pull the trigger.

And even if it's true that an armed society is a polite society, we wonder how much collateral damage people will be willing to accept in an arms race to achieve civility through the barrel of a gun.

Instead, it seems to us that when deadly force is used as a first response rather than a last resort, civil society suffers.



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