Did Kathryn Johnston Follow the Four Basic Rules?
Shane Vaiskauskas is a writer for the University of Georgia’s campus newspaper. He is apparently a junior in college, and just might be a wide-eyed idealist. Either way, I think he’s completely missing the point here.
What struck me first and foremost about this case was the irresponsible use of a firearm by Ms. Johnston.
Col. Jeff Cooper of the United States Marine Corps, the father of modern shooting theory and technique, outlined four basic rules of shooting:
1. All firearms are loaded, even when they are not.
2. Never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire at your target.
4. Always identify your target, and what is behind it.
It was neither the war on drugs, nor unjustified or unwarranted police raids that killed Kathryn Johnston.
It was her failure to heed the four most basic rules of shooting.
We have heard the tired argument — it was late, she was old, she had just woken up and was disoriented, it was dark and her vision is roughly that of a 88-year old.
She made the conscious decision to either fail to properly educate herself on firearm usage or fail to follow it, and as is often the case with irresponsible use of guns, her life is forfeit.
Kathryn Johnston is dead not because she didn’t follow the rules. Let’s go over them:
1. Check. She knew the firearm was loaded.
2. Check. She was shooting with intent to kill.
3. Check. She was ready.
4. Check. She determined that her house was invaded with the threat of deadly force, and used deadly force to respond.
Rules 1-3 are clearly to prevent a negligent discharge, or “accident”. There was no accident here. So it all comes down to Rule #4. And that’s where it gets tricky. Shane’s argument is similar to the people who bemoan the cops after a shooting asking “why did they have to shoot to kill, couldn’t they have aimed at an arm or leg?” It’s ridiculous.
Kathryn Johnston lives in a bad neighborhood. In that neighborhood, someone busting down your door in the middle of the night is assumed to be doing so with ill intent. She had to make a quick decision with the understanding that refusing to act could mean imminent death. In the dark, in the middle of the night, with armed attackers invading her home, she made the decision that fighting back was her only way out. She did not have time to determine whether the invaders were police or burglars, because in the dark of night, by the time she made the determination, it would be too late.
As it turns out, the decision was wrong. The invaders were police, not burglars. What happened was a tragedy, but it was not “misuse of a firearm” or a failure to follow firearm safety rules. It was a result of a woman responding to a threat of force with force.
Would she have lived if she hadn’t started shooting? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Unarmed 18-year-old Peyton Strickland didn’t shoot at the cops, and he’s dead (along with his dog). Sean Bell wasn’t armed the night before his wedding, when he was gunned down by police.
What’s at issue in the Kathryn Johnston shooting isn’t firearm safety. While Shane may disagree, I think the issue is that police decided to conduct a no-knock raid on a house in the middle of the night, using overwhelming force and surprise tactics. The reason they did this is to ensure that the drugs they were searching for (2 grams of pot) were not destroyed. It seems to me that the entire matter is the war on drugs and police tactics. A raid that didn’t have to happen, likely wouldn’t have happened if the cops had done a proper investigation, and that was conducted using questionable tactics resulted in the death of Kathryn Johnston and the wounding of three officers.
But go ahead… Keep blaming the victim.