I know I’ll draw fire from some, but so much about the Oscar Pistorius story disturbs me. First, to be clear, my hunch tells me that Pistorius is guilty. I don’t know, was February 14, 2013, the first time Steenkamp went to the bathroom alone in the middle of the night? If not, why would Pistorius — armed with a weapon — be so frightened, not for his safety, but Steenkamp’s, as he claims? He did it all for her. Some caution would have served her just as well.
What if the “intruder” had abducted her and held her in the bathroom? And how imminently dangerous is an intruder who goes hides in the bathroom?
That’s the point that rubs me the wrong way. A shoot first, ask questions later solution doesn’t leave room for error. And even if Pistorius had shot an intruder, not his girlfriend, would he have been justified? One can think of countless reasons why someone might be in the wrong house at the wrong time, including a mistake. It happens so often it only remains a big story when a big name is involved.
Just this past year a Rochester Minnesota man shot his grand daughter because he confused her for an intruder. She was outside the house for a smoke. That raises the question: What is an intruder? Was that once called a trespasser? (Kids, you don’t want to play ding-dong ditch in that neighborhood.) Fortunately that woman survived. Two cousins shot in the basement of a home near Little Falls last winter, on the other hand, did not. These two had in fact broken into a home, but again was the shooting necessary, even it was supposedly justified? (Some questions about that, too.)
I wasn’t in Oscar Pistorius’s house on the night he shot his girlfriend and I haven’t been in that situation like. I have been scared before — no question about that — and I have felt vulnerable and threatened. I know emotions change the way we experience events and react. But isn’t that a good reason to rethink all of these “stand your ground” laws that have become so vogue in recent years?
Here is a case drawing international attention and all of that attention is on Pistorius, as it should be, I suppose. However there is a dead victim regardless of whether or not it was by a miscalculation or not. And I want to argue that even if Pistorius were justified, even if he had killed someone other than his girlfriend, we could still have a dead victim. People are being shot — and dying — under the cover of laws that deliver, not justice, but judgment, suddenly and deadly. Not all threats justify deadly force, especially when that threat is hiding in closed room. Let’s start talking about that.