“All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’”
— Howard Beale in Network, 1976.
It was a small news item among the several we receive every day in the form of reports from police — a man had nailed a trio of vandals with his pellet gun.
He’d found them graffiti-tagging his garage one Sunday afternoon and took aim with his .177-calibre air gun from a distance of nine metres.
Two of them high-tailed it, a third wasn’t far behind.
No charges were laid against the teens, and none against the marksman, either. The shooter said he was sorry.
It’s unclear why the taggers weren’t charged, since the first rule of laying charges against vandals is that you catch them in the act.
A kid showed up at Royal Inland Hospital soon after the incident sporting a sore lip — pellet wound. His explanation, apparently, was bullet proof — “The youth had allegedly told the medical staff that he was just walking down the street when the pellet struck him,” Staff Sgt. Grant Learned explained during a police briefing.
Happens every day.
The outcome of this incident, while it has its mildly amusing sides, is troubling on two counts.
One is that graffiti vandalism costs businesses and residents many thousands of dollars a year, and taxpayers well over $100,000 annually trying to control it, and it forms one of the thickest files of unsolved cases at police headquarters, yet no attempt was made to prosecute.
The other is that this particular incident of raw street justice seems to have been regarded somewhat cavalierly. If the kid with the sore lip had shown up with a pellet in his eye, would the legal system have viewed it differently?
Sure, some might applaud a homeowner who, in true Howard Beale fashion, decides he isn’t going to take it anymore.
There’s not one among us who doesn’t understand the frustration of Mr. Homeowner upon seeing those three dumb-asses vandalizing his garage. There’s far too much of that going on, and defending one’s castle is instinctive.
But in this country the law frowns on the use of deadly force in protecting our possessions. In Texas, of course, it’s different. There, you can legally kill anyone you think is going to burgle your house or who’s running away.
Here in Kamloops, yelling at a trio of miscreants spray-tagging your garage would likely have the same effect as shooting at them with a pellet gun, and would be much less dangerous.
Pellet guns aren’t toys. They’re commonly advertised for pest control, “plinking” and target shooting. A .177-calibre pellet gun actually has a higher velocity than a .22-calibre rifle, though it packs less power.
It’s good that the homeowner recognizes the problems associated with his gut reaction to having the sanctity of his home violated. And it’s good that no one received life-threatening or life-altering injuries.
But it shouldn’t be treated lightly.