The Engineer is a television news junkie, so for the last few days I've been hearing way more than I can stomach about a Texan named Joe Horn who fatally shot two men last November and was exonerated of wrongdoing by a grand jury on June 30th.
The bare bones of the story are this: Joe Horn was home alone in his upper middle class neighborhood when he heard glass breaking next door. He looked out the window and saw two black men breaking into his next door neighbor's house. He called 911 to report the break-in. Despite the dispatcher telling Horn repeatedly to stay in his house and wait for the police to arrive, Joe Horn took his shotgun and killed the burglars. He shot them both in the back.
I had heard bits and pieces of the 911 call, interspersed with commentary, on CNN and was astonished that any grand jury (even a Texas grand jury) could possibly let this man off. Perhaps the newscasters had put too much of their own feelings into their reporting, perhaps there was some kind of justification for what Joe Horn had done. I searched YouTube and found the full 8 minute recording of the 911 call.
More than ever I am astonished that any rational grand jury could have let this man walk. Listening to the call, you can hear Joe Horn working himself up to go out and slaughter the house breakers. There was never any ambiguity in the dispatcher's instructions to Mr. Horn. He told him 13 times not to go out there, that it was dangerous and unnecessary.
Joe Horn chose to walk out into his front yard with a loaded and cocked shotgun. He left no doubt even before he exited his house that he intended to kill the men. He came back in after blowing them away, shooting them in the backs, giddy with adrenalin. He murdered those men. And the grand jury patted him on the back and said, "Job well done."
What kind of a country am I living in?
As a people, we look down our noses at Arabs dancing in the street, firing their rifles into the air. We condemn them as violent heathens, yet Joe Horn gets called a hero for shooting two men in cold blood.
The Righteous Right is all for The War in Iraq and for capital punishment, yet opposed to birth control and abortion. It's wrong to remove a cluster of cells from a woman's uterus, but okay to blow away the doctor who does it. It's wrong to try to prevent an unwanted pregnancy but justice to kill a man for a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff.
Does anyone besides me see a moral disconnect here?
How can anyone think Joe Horn a hero? Joe Horn stood behind a gun and let it speak his fears and anger for him. If that 61-year-old, overweight, good ol' boy hadn't had a loaded shotgun, would he have walked out of his house to confront two much younger men?
Is it courage to point a cocked shotgun at someone and shout, "Move, you die!" then shoot him in the back less than two seconds later as he tries to flee?
Every week there are stories on the news about someone being shot, maybe it's a kid who got into Dad's gun safe and was playing with a gun, maybe a crazed college student avenging a bad grade, maybe someone whose "protection" was taken from them and turned on them.
It's true that a gun can't kill without a person pulling the trigger, but a gun sure as hell makes it a whole lot easier to do the killing.