It's time for another Plain Dealer Pulitzer: Self-defense commentary continues
More to be learned from latest Regina Brett columns
By Chad D. Baus
In 2004, ultra-liberal Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz (wife of Sherrod Brown, the recently-elected anti-gun U.S. Senator from Ohio) was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary that, among other things, bashed Ohio CHL-holders as "Dirty Harry wannabe's".
Schultz wrote the following commentary just days after Ohio concealed carry became law:
- It seems to me the ones who need protecting aren't the folks who tuck a Glock under their armpit every time they step out to walk the dog or buy a quart of milk. I hate to make assumptions here, but I can't help thinking that folks who carry concealed weapons aren't the ones quoting Gandhi. And if I'm in a store that's about to be robbed, the last place I want to be is between a robber and the Dirty Harry wannabe who's decided to take the perp down.
Ms. Schultz has been notably mute in the days and weeks since an armed 15 year-old attacked a CHL-holder in his front yard. However, I would like to suggest that another Plain Dealer columnist is deserving of a Pulitzer for her commentary on bearing arms for self-defense in Ohio.
While the initial Plain Dealer news coverage of an Ohio CHL-holder protecting himself with gun was everything we've come to expect from the anti-gun newspaper's coverage on gun issues - error-filled and biased, columnist Regina Brett quickly came to the news reporters' rescue.
In an April 25 article entitled "No sympathy for thug culture", Brett correctly put the focus on this incident where it belongs - on the criminal atacker, and the culture that enables him and those like him.
- 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.
Brett's column struck home. Within 48 hours, the Cleveland NAACP President and Cleveland Councilman Zach Reed had spoken out against the thug culture, saying "the black community failed 15-year-old Arthur Buford."
But Brett wasn't finished. Her April 29 follow-up column - "Time to stand up to thug culture" - called out Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson as having been "AWOL" since the self-defense shooting.
Another shock wave ripped across the city - and one day later Mayor Jackson made his first public comments about the shooting. (Unfortunately, it appeared he agrees with the vandals who have trashed the robbery victim's home and force him to move. You see, Frank Jackson believes the armed robber is a "victim".)
On May 4, Brett published a third column on this shooting - this time featuring the first public comments made by CHL-holder since he was attacked.
- The first thing you notice about Damon Wells is how small he is.
For a man, he's slight -- 5 feet 8 and 130 pounds.
The fingers that fired that .40-caliber Smith & Wesson are so delicate they don't seem capable of killing anyone.
The next thing you notice is the grief in his dark-brown eyes. His face seems shrouded by an invis ible veil, a pall of sad ness he can't brush away no matter how many times he rubs those tender fingers across his face.
The first thing he says is, "I'm devastated over what happened."
He's confused by people saying he did the right thing. It doesn't feel right at all that he killed a 15-year-old boy.
He's spoken to no one in the media about the shooting until now. He never wanted to be known as the gunman.
"I don't want to be known for any of this," he says so softly it's hard to hear him over the Starbucks chatter.
Gun ban extremists (like Connie Schultz mentioned above) are quick to characterize those who would chose to bear arms for self-defense as violent, blood-thirsty vigilantes out looking for a fight. Indeed, this exact claim was made to me by the husband of gun ban extremist Toby Hoover during a 2003 live television debate.
But as the first public comments by this Cleveland CHL-holder show, the truth about Ohioans who obtain a concealed handgun license is anything but what gun ban extremists claim.
While this is far from the first instance of an Ohio CHL-holder defending themselves against armed attack (contrary to a Plain Dealer-contrived media myth), it is one of the most written about. Persons who take their self-defense preparations seriously have been eager to learn more about Mr. Wells' experience, so that they can be more prepared should that terrible day ever arrive on their doorstep.
As such, Brett's May 4 column offers new pieces of information for those who study armed encounters in effort to better prepare themselves for such a terrible eventuality.
First, when he was first confronted by the armed robbers in his own front yard, the CHL-holder "threw up his hands. He tried to talk sense to the teens." An acquaintance of mine who is former law enforcement recently referred to trying to talk an armed attacker down as "verbal judo". It sounds nice in theory, but as this CHL-holder found out, when a criminal has made up his mind, there simply isn't much changing it:
- "F- - - that," one teen barked.
When Damon took a step backward to get to his porch steps, one teen threw his arm out to block the way.
That's when Damon knew he had no choice. He knew they weren't messing around.
He pulled the gun from his shoulder holster. He fired three shots. He didn't know he had hit anyone. Both boys ran.
The Associated Press has made much of Mr. Wells' expression of sorrow over the incident. Wells told Brett "If you could, tell his family I'm real sorry for what happened that night. I'm praying for them. I hope they can get through this. I'm just real sorry."
- "I was always told that taking someone's life was the greatest sin of all," he says. "I feel like my soul is on the line."
He grows quiet. He says he is worried. Worried that his own family sees him differently now. Worried that he's not safe in the community. Worried about what God will and will not forgive.
The boys who tried to rob him were taller than he is. Damon is 25. He didn't know how old they were.
"Thirty-eight was all I saw," he says, referring to the caliber of gun pointed at him.
Being robbed at gunpoint is like a rape; a person feels violated in a deep, physical way.
But being forced to kill another person is a different kind of violation; it reaches way down into the soul.
Damon quit his job at a Popeye's restaurant. He couldn't stay focused.
As anyone who has attended one of my (or the many other) NRA Personal Protection courses is has been taught, there are significant physical and psychological reactions that can be expected in the aftermath of prevailing against a violent attacker, and Mr. Wells' comments to Ms. Brett are highly illustrative of some of the effects:
Physical reactions to prevailing in a violent attack:
Psychological reactions to prevailing in a violent attack:
Judging by his comments to Ms. Brett, Wells seems to have left Elation (a feeling of joy at having survived a potentially lethal encounter) and has moved on through a bit of Revulsion and Remorse. These feelings are completely natural and to be expected. There is no set time-frame on how long these psychological reactions will last in any one person, but I suspect that this article would read differently were it conducted again down the road a ways.
As Regina Brett points out in her article, Wells is likely to be dealing with the after-effects of being violently attacked for some time to come. His home, vandalized by other thugs in the neighborhood after the robbery, now sits empty:
- He wants to go home but can't. Someone broke the windows in his house. He says he forgives them for it, but it pains him to see the home he loved boarded up with plywood.
"It looks like a crack house," he says.
For now, Damon is homeless. He and his fiancée, Tiffany Berry, are staying with friends who will let them crash for a night.
Brett's latest column is entitled "Wells' story: One person, one action can change a life", and is yet another excellent commentary. Once again, Brett's commentary keeps the focus where it should be - not on the tools criminals use to commit their violent acts, but on how to fight the "cancer that has taken over the inner city".
Brett digs deep into the reasons Damon Wells and his twin brother managed to avoided the carnage, thanks in part to a next door neighbor named Bill, and concludes with this:
- The treatment for this disease isn't to run. It is to stay put and fight. Together. One on one.
"Do something," [Damon Well's twin brother] Damel said. "Anything. Help one person. Ask. Go to these kids and ask. Take a risk."
All it takes is one.
Last week the old neighbor, Bill, called.
Bill saw Damon's name in the newspaper. He worried for Damon and called his mom to see if Damon was OK.
As I sat with Damon for two hours listening to the details of the tragedy that is now his life, he smiled only one time.
When he mentioned Bill.
Knowing Bill called, that Bill still cared all these years later, brought a smile to his face.
Not just a smile, but sweet laughter.
The power of one.
No, this isn't the last chapter.
It's time we write a new one.
When Connie Schultz won the Plain Dealer a Pulitzer Prize, the judges said she penned a collection of "pungent columns that provided a voice for the underdog and underprivileged."
Regina Brett's columns are by no means malodorous, but they are more "a voice for the underdog and underprivileged" than Schultz's mean-spirited, judgemental anti-gun articles ever hoped to be.
It's time for the Pulitzer judges to send another Prize to Cleveland.
Note: Many persons who endure violent attacks will suffer the effects of post-tramautic stress syndrome, and professional counseling is often necessary and highly recommended.
Regina Brett's May 4 op-ed noted that account has been set up at Charter One Bank to help Damon and his fiancée, Tiffany Berry. Donations can be made under Tiffany's mother's name, Jestina Berry. Let's show Damon Wells that there are a lot more people out there who support him! Call 216-696-0130 to donate.
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