Opinion: Knock, Knock, Bang!

April 23, 2023 By Michael Weymouth

The recent shooting of Ralph Yarl, a young black man who mistakenly knocked on the wrong door, believing he was picking up his siblings, and Kaylin Gillis, a 20-year old New York resident who turned into the wrong driveway looking for a friend’s house, are the very definition of the word tragic.

These incidents add to the growing list of gun-related violence in our country, and yet conservatives contend that they are isolated incidents that do not portend a larger problem. The shooters after all were just exercising their rights under the so-called “castle doctrine” to respond to an imminent threat. Whether that claim stands up in court remains to be seen, but these two incidents have ramifications far beyond the actual shootings.

I’m sure I’m not alone in fearing that knocking on someone’s door can put me in mortal danger, simply because the homeowner believes he has the right to respond with a gun to a “perceived” threat. This perception creates a chilling affect within our society when you consider how many times in our lives we have knocked on a stranger’s door. We will now think twice before doing so, and that in itself is a tragedy.

“Stand-your-ground” laws also lead to unintended consequences. On April 18 Heather Roth, an Austin, Texas cheerleader was shot when she mistook a car in a parking lot for hers. Her companion, Payton Washington was also critically injured.

Advocates of “stand-your-ground” and “castle doctrine” laws seem to be oblivious to the unintended consequences of these laws, or if not oblivious, they accept the consequences as collateral damage to an otherwise well-intended law.

But what these advocates fail to take into consideration is that a free and open society such as ours presumes that all citizens are level-headed enough to know when they are actually being threatened. The three recent shootings are examples that prove otherwise.

Polarization only exacerbates this problem, as increasingly, people with strongly held views no longer see those who disagree with them as simply an ideological opponent, but literally as an enemy to them and to society. Hatred like this is a coiled spring and it doesn’t take much to set it off.

Unfortunately rather than make policy based on these types of societal flaws, too many politicians these days cultivate hate and divisiveness in an effort to create voter blocks in order to win elections. More tragedy.

The real hero in all this is Jodi (last name withheld for fear of reprisals) who opened her door to Ralph Yarl to help him, after other residents had turned him away. Jodi called 911 and was told there was an active shooter in the neighborhood and not to open her  door. And yet she did, and she and her son rushed out and joined the first aid effort.

Knock, knock, help: a far greater reflection of American values than resorting to a gun to express your fears

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