Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who killed Andy Lopez?

I'm sure you've read the story of Andy Lopez, the 13 year old boy who was shot and killed by police for carrying a toy gun. I've been reading a lot of people's reactions and I thought I'd chime in with my own.

First off, people are debating whether the police overreacted. I think the answer is plain and simple. Of course they overreacted to the situation - they were in no danger. On the other hand, they clearly did not overreact to what they thought the situation was - someone about to fire a military-style weapon at them.

So the real problem is, what made them think the situation was deadly when it was in fact not? I have heard some people blame the boy for it. They claim he wanted to commit "suicide by cop." I think this theory can be dismissed immediately. First off, there is no indication that the boy was suicidal. Secondly, even if he was, would a 13 year old engineer something that complex. I mean, the most likely outcome of the situation would have been his arrest, not his death. And if he had wanted to die a spectacular death, why not leave a note, and why not walk down to the police station and charge them, screaming and acting like he was going to shoot them? The theory does not fit the facts.

Others blame the police. But the police were acting appropriately for the situation they thought they were in, or at least the situation they say they thought they were in. I see no reason to assume the police lied. There's also very little reason to think that the officers involved has a grudge against Lopez, or wanted to be involved in a very messy public tragedy.

So what made the police think a child with a toy gun was a berserk killer with a military weapon? First off, let me mention that the toy was supposedly an airsoft rifle, like the one pictured above. For those not familiar, airsoft guns are toy guns which shot small plastic balls using either a spring (which may be cocked by hand or by a battery powered electric motor) or CO2 (provided by a tiny cartridge). Funny thing about these rifles - they all have very visible orange tips, and the only picture released of the toy in question is at such an angle that you can't see if it had the orange tip on it or not. If it did, that was certainly something the police should have seen, but missed. If it did not, the question is - was the toy broken, or was it modified to look more realistic?

But either way, whether it was modified (illegally) or the police missed seeing the tip, I think the killer is the same - the media. On the one hand, nearly every TV show and movie glorifies walking around with a big gun in your hand - not slung over a shoulder, but in your hand, with your finger inside the trigger guard. Because we have become so afraid of guns (due to media coverage), we don't let children know anything about them, so the only instruction they get is from TV and movies. And so they don't handle them correctly. For the record, the four basic rules of handling firearms are:
  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
My kids have airsoft guns, like Andy Lopez did, and before I let them have them I taught them these rules, and to treat any weapon, even an airsoft gun, as if it were a real gun. And when I have seen them not following the four rules above they have been punished. No, I don't think I'm being anal about it - these guns may not be lethal but they can still put out an eye. Poor Andy Lopez didn't have the benefit of such training, only what he learned on TV and movies (to walk around like Arnold in The Terminator).

So we have a kids who thinks guns are to be handled casually, but what about the police? They are highly trained, and know about guns and stuff, right? True, but police are still people, and they watch the media news coverage demonizing so called "assault" weapons. We come to expect that every person who has a scary looking gun is a killer, when in fact that is a very unlikely situation.

We have the case of Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham, who was illegally arrested in Texas for legally carrying an AR-15 on a boy scout hike with his son. There is Air Force veteran Mack Worley, who was arrested for legally carrying an AR-15 in Washington state. There's case of Police officer Scott Urkov, who was told he can't drop his daughter off at school because he carries a gun. Really? Our children need to be protected from police officers?

And now we have the most extreme case, young Andy Lopez, shot for legally carrying a toy gun. I think the reason that the officers thought they were in such danger, and missed the signs that they were not, is because, like people all over this country, we are being conditioned to be afraid of guns, no matter who carries them, no matter what the actual situation is.

I ask that you join me in prayer for our nation, for Andy Lopez and his family, and for the officers involved, who will have to live with the memory of this tragedy and the guilt of what happened, however undeserved.


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