The Reason Many Carry
"Arthur Buford is dead, and that's a sad thing.
Arthur had his whole life ahead of him. He was just a kid, after all - a 15-year-old freshman at John F. Kennedy High School.
What he didn't know, as he approached Damon Wells' house in southeast Cleveland on Saturday night, was that his whole life consisted of just a few more seconds. Arthur had a gun, which he and another youngster apparently thought would give them the power to take something from Wells, who was standing on the front porch.
Whatever Arthur's plan was, it unraveled. It didn't account for the possibility that the guy who looked like an easy mark would have permission from the state of Ohio to carry a concealed weapon, or that he would bother to arm himself just to walk to the neighborhood store and back.
Arthur's plan depended on catching Wells off-guard. But Wells wasn't off-guard. He had a plan of his own, against the day when someone like Arthur might come along.
Wells' plan was to avoid becoming a crime victim, and that's how Arthur ended up dying of several gunshot wounds to the chest. Wells hasn't given The Plain Dealer much more than monosyllables, and I don't blame him. What would he say? That he's sorry he was prepared? That he's sorry he defended himself?
Unless he's a man without a conscience, he probably finds it regrettable that it came down to a him-or-me situation. But it's clear that he's not a man devoid of the desire to go on living, so he's got to be glad that it turned out to be "him, not me." But you can't just come out and say that sort of thing without the sensitivity police coming after you, so the less said the better.
The real police, however, aren't planning to charge Wells with anything. They say the shooting was justified. It's just about impossible to argue that, but here come the arguments.
Arthur's relatives and friends are upset that the law isn't going after Wells.
They want someone to blame - other than Arthur. But they shouldn't be allowed to bully the police or the city administration into taking action against a guy who was minding his own business on his own porch when suddenly confronted by an armed teenager.
Then there's the conceptual side of the argument - the big-picture side that says citizens shouldn't be allowed to have guns and certainly shouldn't be allowed to walk around with them.
This kind of incident proves knee-jerk gun foes wrong, and they know it. "This is one of the few where they actually used it [a legally carried concealed weapon] to stop a crime," Toby Hoover of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence grudgingly told a Plain Dealer reporter.
But there are more than a few such cases. There are thousands every year, all over the country. And where are the statistics on gun crimes committed by holders of concealed-carry permits? Something tells me that if they happened at anything approaching the rate of the hundreds of thousands of crimes perpetrated against unarmed Americans every year, we'd be hearing more about them.
The fact is, the concealed-carry "threat" has turned out to be malarkey, just as it was in the many states that debated such laws long before Ohio.
Three of my last four columns have had to do with young people getting killed, and that's a sad thing. In two of those cases, a teenage boy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing wrong when someone shot him.
In the third, 32 college students were doing what they were supposed to do.
After I wrote about last week's outrage at Virginia Tech University, I got a series of sneering e-mails from a reader, along the lines of, "Next, you'll be suggesting that teachers should be armed."
I think I'll take him up on that.
Damon Wells is about the same age as the students killed at Virginia Tech. He's got his whole life still ahead of him, and because he was prepared, he'll actually get to live it - presuming he escapes thug-enforced street justice.
How different things might have been at Virginia Tech if Seung-Hui Cho hadn't had the only gun on campus."
Plain Dealer Columnist
Bravo Mr. O'Brien, Bravo!