Plain Dealer columnists defend self-defense; AP continues to report bad info

By Chad D. Baus

I hope none of the Cleveland Plain Dealer readers who opened their newspapers today had a serious heart condition, because it must have been quite a shock.

The newspaper has published not one, but TWO, op-eds by Plain Dealer columnists defending CHL-holder Damon Wells taking action to defend himself against an armed teenaged thug.

The first column, written by Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O'Brien, is entitled "The legal gun won this fight".

Mr. O'Brien's thoughful op-ed begins like this:

    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.

O'Brien recites more details about the aftermath of the shooting, and how the criminal's friends and relatives are trying to blame someone besides their dead friend, (who, as it turns out, was on probation for - wait for it - robbery), and then continues:

    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.

As if this much common sense in the pages of the Plain Dealer wasn't enough, O'Brien tied in the lessons of the attack on Mr. Wells to the massacre at Virginia Tech.

    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.

Appreciative emails can be sent to Mr. O'Brien at [email protected].

The next column, written by Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett, is entitled "No sympathy for thug culture".

Ms. Brett's insightful op-ed begins like this:

    There's a sheet of tributes taped to a red brick wall.

    There's a utility pole covered in glittery balloons.

    There's a pile of teddy bears resting not far from where 15-year-old Arthur Buford died on the sidewalk.

    But there's no debate over concealed-carry laws.

    A debate would be as unnecessary as the tributes posted to honor a teen who went looking for trouble and found it.

Ms. Brett might want to pass that along to Plain Dealer reporters Damian G. Guevara and Patrick O'Donnell, whose headline on this foiled robbery screamed "A boy dies, and a gun debate is reignited".

Brett's op-ed continues:

    Damon Wells, 25, was sitting on his own porch Saturday night. It's a long, narrow gray porch with a wicker chair at the end. The house sits near Kinsman Road and East 134th Street in Cleveland.

    He was minding his own when two teens tried to rob him. The plan backfired. When Wells saw one kid pull a gun, he drew his own Smith & Wesson and blasted away.

    It's sad that a delinquent died on the sidewalk.

    It would have been sadder if a law-abiding homeowner had died on his porch.

    Wells had no criminal record.

    Buford, a freshman at John F. Kennedy High School, was still on probation. Last year he committed an aggravated robbery.

Brett goes on to describe how friends of the dead robber have begun vandalizing Mr. Wells' home, and scrawling messages like "Why Da Good Die Young?" on a nearby memorial, and then concludes:

    At least no one can cry race this time. Both the shooter and dead teen are black.

    I can't bring myself to call Buford the victim of a shooting. He was the instigator of one.

    His family should be ashamed of his actions and apologize to the man he tried to rob.

    Two weeks ago, a report came out that examined Cleveland's 389 homicides from 1998 to 2002. The conclusion?

    "Homicides in Cleveland are overwhelmingly intra-racial in nature, with black offenders killing black victims."

    The majority of victims were black males; the majority of killers were black males.

    If there is any debate here, it shouldn't be about gun control.

    It should be about thug control.

Appreciative emails can be sent to Ms. Brett at [email protected].

It is very true that people are quick to damn and slow to praise. Buckeye Firearms Association has certainly been quick to challenge other Plain Dealer reporters recently over factual inaccuracies in their news coverage. We should also be equally quick to praise these two columists for writing these excellent op-eds.

We appreciate their willingness to speak for the mainstream, however unpopular it might be. All we have
ever looked for is a balanced account in the news stories. Unfortuately, there are continuing examples that is not what we are getting from the Plain Dealer news department, or the Associated Press (AP).

The AP's Joe Milicia has written a wire service report that still contains one of the factual inaccuracies that originated at the Plain Dealer - that this incident in Cleveland is "one of the first fatal shootings in the state" involving a CHL-holder. This statement can only be true if the AP's Milicia believes being no less than SIXTH equals being close to "first".

From the AP article:

    There has been at least one other fatal shooting in the state involving a concealed carry permit holder in the three years the passage of a state law allowing people to carry concealed weapons.

    In October, Bennie Hall Jr. shot and killed 14-year-old Qualvale Finnell, who stole Hall's car then drove at him, authorities said. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters determined that the 61-year-old Hall, who was licensed to carry a concealed gun, acted in self defense.

What makes this reporting all the more inexplicable is that Mr. Milicia, like Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O'Donnell, was informed by Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine that there had been several other cases of self-defense by CHL-holders that resulted in the death of the attacker.

In fact, Irvine walked through the complete list of known incidents involving Ohio CHL-holders defending themselves (including at least five previous cases where the attacker died) with Mr. Milicia on the telephone while he was preparing this story. (The list is available on our website here).

One thing can be said for this Associated Press article - Joe Milicia has managed to get Toby Hoover, who fronts what often appears to be a one-woman show at the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, to make one of her most offensive and insane comments yet:

    Toby Hoover, director of the Toledo-based Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, questioned whether shooting Buford was the only option.

    "We have a 15-year-old kid here," Hoover said. "Was he doing something wrong here? It sounds like it. Is the first resort to shoot?"

Police have told reporters that CHL-holder Damon Wells, 25, had just returned home from a walk to a neighborhood store Saturday night when two youths confronted him on his front porch. "One pulled a gun and told him, 'Don't move or I'll pop you,'" said police Lt. Thomas Stacho. "He said he thought he was going to die."

Mr. Wells has been through an absolutely horrifying experience of having life threatened by an armed criminal with a loaded gun. He was forced to make a life and death decision, and chose to take the action that no CHL-holder ever hopes to have to take. He has since had his home vandalized by the criminals' miscreant neighborhood friends. At least one of his attackers is still at large. And Toby Hoover has the gall to second guess Mr. Wells' decision to save his own life?

Shame on her.

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