The Prince George County, Maryland man who shot and killed one firefighter and seriously wounded another was released from custody last night—as well he should have been. He did nothing
wrong illegal. He merely exercised his constitutional right to defend himself with a firearm against unknown intruders at his home.
Granted, it appears that the man may have been having medical issues that caused him to be confused about who was entering his home and why, but that could happen to anyone at any time. In this case, the anyone it happened to was a man with a gun and the time it happened was during an attempt by firefighters to help the very man who shot them.
Confusion is all the more likely when police, firefighters and EMS are on the scene for a medical emergency. This is the risk they signed up for when they became first responders in a country awash in guns. More importantly, this is the risk we subject our first responders to when we, as a nation, steadfastly refuse to do anything to stem the proliferation of guns.
There’s a sick irony in the fact that we select and rigorously train these guys to put their lives on the line to protect us and then we tell civilians to go out there and pick up the slack with little more than a half day seminar on how not to shoot themselves in the face. That’s a recipe for tragedies like the one that happened yesterday.
And that’s why the shooter in this case won’t and shouldn’t be charged with a crime any more than if he’d shot an unarmed teenager looking for a flat screen TV. Nor can we charge a guy who accidentally shoots his girlfriend while cleaning his gun; or a guy who accidentally kills his four-year old. Motive makes no difference here. Someone was trying to get into his home and he didn’t know why. He did what he had to do and, indeed, what he has been encouraged to do by a gun culture run amok.
If his access to weaponry had been limited to, say, a bat or a knife, John Ulmschneider would likely still be alive today. That’s why there will be deafening silence around his death from the corners of the interwebs that would have been the most enraged if he had been killed by a black kid in the hood.