Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Two robberies show need for gun rights

Citizens of the small Georgia town of Villa Rica got a lesson in gun control last week. On two consecutive days last week, armed robbers attacked local businesses in the normally quiet suburb of Atlanta. In each incident, a man was killed by a gun. Ostensibly both were victims of “gun violence,” but for circumstances were very different. After a weeklong manhunt, the final suspect was arrested this morning in Atlanta.

According to the Villa Rican, the first incident occurred on Tuesday, June 25, when a 19-year-old man wearing a hoodie and ski mask entered Junior’s Food Store, a local convenience store and gas station, around 9:45 p.m. The man, Durante Octavious Ashley, 19, was a part-time employee of the store, but that night he pulled a gun on the clerk who was on duty and demanded money. The clerk opened the cash register and, when Ashley turned his attention to the money inside, pulled his own gun and shot the robber, killing him.

Store owner Rosh Patel confirmed to Examiner on July 2 that because the shooting was in self-defense, no charges are expected against the clerk, whose name was not released. Mr. Patel said that the clerk was very shaken by the incident and was taking some time off from work.

Less than 24 hours later, four men entered a jewelry store on the other side of town. Inside the store, they took out hammers and began smashing jewelry cases to steal the contents. Before the incident ended, one of the men shot and killed store owner Mitch Mobley. Although other people were in the store at the time of the robbery, no one else was injured according to the Villa Rican, although others, including one of Mobley’s sons, were also in the store.

WSB reported that Urarahy Rodrigues, the 34-year-old owner of Defkon One Fighting and Fitness, saw the four killers run past his gym in the same shopping center as the Mobley Company. Rodrigues took a cell phone video of the fleeing suspects and then chased after them. He caught up to 16-year-old Eric Billings, the alleged trigger man, and held him in a choke hold until police arrived.

The four robbers fled after the murder. As of this writing, three of the four men have been arrested. According to WTOC, the sixteen-year-old, Eric Billings, and Raphael Rucker, 23, were arrested on June 27, the day after the murder. On Saturday, June 29, WSB reported that 20-year-old Gregory Clifton was captured by police. The fourth suspect, 21-year-old Cranford Phelps, was arrested in Atlanta in the early hours of July 2. The three adults all had prior criminal records. Since Eric Billings is a juvenile, his record could not be verified.

The two incidents illustrate the difference between armed and unarmed victims. At Junior’s, because the clerk was armed with a legal gun, he was able to act to save his own life. Mitch Mobley, who was apparently unarmed, was at the mercy of the four robbers who burst into his store. In both cases, the police were unavailable to protect the victims during the robberies. All too often the role of the police is to arrest murderers in the days after the crime. This is a necessary and important role, but arresting his murderers won’t bring Mitch Mobley back to life. In fact, if it weren’t for Urarahy Rodrigues, who says “I am not a hero,” the perpetrators might have escaped.

Mobley was mourned by the community. Villa Rica had lost more than a business leader and a family man. He was also a philanthropist who organized charity golf tournaments to benefit causes such as cancer research. His store may have been targeted by the men from Atlanta simply because it was near Interstate 20.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that the number of gun homicides has declined 39 percent from 1993 through 2011 (the most recent year for which statistics are available). There were 11,101 fatal firearm homicides that year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 31,672 gun deaths in 2010 (compared to 33,687 motor vehicle deaths).

The decline in gun homicides comes at a time when the total number of guns in the U.S. has increased sharply. There was a surge in gun sales after the election of Barack Obama and in 2011 Gallup found gun ownership at a 20 year high. Gun violence also declined amidst the Great Recession even though crime is traditionally assumed to spike in times of economic distress. The data calls into question the effectiveness of traditional gun control methods and seems to confirm economist John Lott’s groundbreaking 1998 study, “More Guns, Less Crime.”

Another gun control issue brought into question by the report is the effort to impose background checks and waiting periods at gun shows. According to the BJS report, less than two percent of criminals bought weapons at a flea market or gun show. The vast majority obtained their gun from family or friends (37 percent) or an illegal source (40 percent).

The BJS report notes that in about one percent of nonfatal violent crimes (about 4,600 incidents), a victim reported using a gun to defend themselves. About 0.1 percent of victims of property crime also used guns in self-defense. Without guns for self-defense, the number of gun homicides might rise by almost 5,000.

No one can know for sure whether Mitch Mobley would be alive today if he had kept a gun in his jewelry store. What can be said for certain is that when the gang of criminals burst into his store, he, his staff and his customers were at their mercy. They gave him none.

Originally published as Atlanta Conservative Examiner

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