Note: This article is a contribution by a guest writer and is not necessarily represent the positions of Davenport Guns, its owner or employees.
Story by Ian Kummer
In 409 A.D. the people of Britannia, plagued by barbarian raids from the North, sent urgent pleas for assistance to Roman Emperor Honorius. He replied with a suggestion to “look to your own defenses.”
The recent ruling by Federal Judge Beth Bloom on the Parkland Shooting sounded eerily similar, but with one key difference. Honorius admitted his inability to defend the citizens of a faraway island. According to Bloom, the government cannot protect its own citizens from criminals. Like the Britons of a past era, Americans are on their own against the figurative enemy at the gates. But rather than armies of face-painted raiders at the border – this time it is against a criminal element from within.
Though news of the terroristic atrocity in Parkland galvanized the nation and the world – Bloom’s decision should come as no surprise to gun owners who already look to their own defense. Even in a so-called “gun-free zone” where government officials are the only legally-armed people present, they have no need to come to the defense of the disarmed citizens (and children) under their charge.
On Dec. 12, Bloom dismissed a lawsuit filed by 15 students against the school district, campus monitor, and school deputy.
She explained her reasoning in the ruling:
The claim arises from the actions of [shooter Nikolas] Cruz, a third party, and not a state actor… Thus, the critical question the Court analyzes is whether defendants had a constitutional duty to protect plaintiffs from the actions of Cruz… As previously stated, for such a duty to exist on the part of defendants, plaintiffs would have to be considered to be in custody.
By Bloom’s logic, a citizen literally has to commit a crime and be detained by law enforcement before he or she can expect protection from violence. But Bloom’s conclusion is not without precedent. Courts have consistently ruled that government actors have no obligation to protect the public from violence. They only exist to enforce the law, and apparently even that is at their discretion.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled against Jessica Gonzales in her legal battle with the town of Castle Rock, Colorado, for the failure of their police department to protect her children against their estranged father, Simon Gonzales. He violated a restraining order and kidnapped their three young daughters from Jessica’s’ yard. For hours she frantically notified the police of the crime. This was not the man’s first offense. His pattern of violence and disregard for the law was well known to the police by this point. Simon even called her to say he had taken the girls to the amusement park. Despite a crime in progress and knowing the exact location of the perpetrator, no one intervened.
That night, Simon drove to the police station and opened fire on officers. He died in the brief gun battle. Afterward the bodies of all three girls were discovered in the bed of his truck. public officials had no interest in doing anything at all until the murderer showed up at their doorstep and started shooting at them. On top of it all, Jessica found herself detained and interrogated for hours as if she was a suspect. Castle Rock officials announced the girls’ deaths to the press before bothering to inform Jessica or the family. Gonzales sued Castle Rock in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Her efforts were in vain. The majority opinion sided with Castle Rock against her.
In 2011, a lunatic armed with a knife terrorized New York City on a 28-hour killing spree. His rampage ended in a subway car. Trapped by a locked door with two NYPD officers on the other side, the knifeman decided to claim one last victim. He turned to commuter Joseph Lozito, told him “You’re going to die,” and stabbed him repeatedly. The NYPD officers a few feet away did nothing except watch through the window.
Despite multiple wounds to the head, torso and arm, Lozito wrestled his assailant to the ground and disarmed him. Only then did the NYPD intervene. More officers and city employees arrived on the car to detain the criminal, but it did not occur to them to provide medical assistance to Lozito. Fortunately, a fellow passenger intervened and slowed the bleeding with his bare hands – quick thinking that Lozito later credited with saving his life. Eventually paramedics got around to evacuating Lozito.
Perhaps these were the exact circumstances Judge Bloom would refer to in her own ruling on Parkland. The government is obligated to render assistance to the man under arrest, but not to the man who stopped him.
To add insult to injury, NYPD took full credit for the arrest and didn’t mention Lozito. Only when reporters discovered Lozito’s involvement did city officials acknowledge him. They might have preferred this embarrassing episode go unnoticed: Lozito sued the city for gross negligence. But like Gonzales before him a judge ruled that the police present had no obligation to intervene, even as a psychopath was trying to stab Lozito to death right in front of them.
To their credit, many law enforcement officers across the nation have expressed continuing frustration at the bureaucratic red tape preventing them from serving the public. The Pulse Nightclub Shooting in 2016 is one egregious example of this. Within seconds of the gunman’s attack, multiple policemen heard gunfire and burst into the building to the rescue. But before they could locate the killer, they received orders to stand down. According to one of the officers:
We got word from higher up, and it was communicated to the OPD lieutenant that we needed to withdraw. So we came back outside and waited for SWAT.
The City of Orlando preferred dozens of innocent people to be killed rather than allow their highly-trained officers to take the initiative.
What lesson can be learned from these cases? Defense is a personal responsibility. Every citizen in this country has a duty to have the education and the tools needed for personal and family protection. Do whatever it takes. Get a concealed carry weapon. If firearms aren’t practical and/or legal, look to other tools – there are plenty of them. Pepper spray, personal alarms, knives, or even a heavy-duty flashlight might be the equalizer needed during a violent crime.
Don’t stop there. Get training, examine home security. Think about daily routines and emergency situations, and ensure everyone else in the household is prepared. Personal safety is the duty of the individual, not the state.
The police can’t be everywhere. While working as a bartender in Rock Island, Illinois, Zana Lynn narrowly avoided being kidnapped while walking to her car. She is thankful for having pepper spray to subdue the attacker, but decided to improve her odds for any future criminals by applying for a concealed carry permit. She carries a firearm whenever possible and maintains an alert mindset to keep herself and her children safe.