Monday, August 04, 2003

Rachel Lucas relates the tale of a Charleston, S.C. man who was so fed up with criminal activity in his neighborhood that he took action. Rachel is happy over the initial outcome (3 criminals wounded - 2 by Mr. Gates) but isn't so thrilled with what the police did.

Now here's the gist of it: Mr. Gates had complained repeatedly about drug dealing & other criminal activity that made him feel uneasy about his safety. When 3 alledged drug dealers got into a shoot-out in Mr. Gates' front yard he grabbed his shotgun & wounded two of them. the police aren't pursuing charges - at least as of Friday.

Sounds good so far right? But now enters the hand of all-powerful government:

"While police did not publicly approve of what Gates did, they filed no charges against him Friday.
'We have no plans to arrest him,' Charleston Police Chief Reuben Greenberg said. 'We can't see from where we sit where a crime's been committed. People have the right to provide for their safety, and we believe that is what he was doing."

Official disapproval of a person taking actions that they acknowledge he was justified in taking. But it gets worse:

"Gates...had all seven of the guns he owns confiscated by the police until their investigation is complete."

They admit that Mr. Gates was justified in shooting. They mention that people have a right to provide for their own safety. Yet they confiscate not merely the shotgun Mr. Gates' used, but all of Mr. Gates weapons.

So while they grudgingly admit that Mr. Gates has the Right to Self-Defense, they remove his means of exercising that Right.

South Carolina is a peculiar state as far as self defense goes. In a nutshell the state constitution acknowledges they Right to Arms but it is read to apply only on your own property. Hence you may not legally carry a firearm openly if you are walking down the street. A firearm carried in a vehicle must be in a lockable container, such as a glove box, but it doesn't have to be locked. However they are very lenient in their definition of what constitutes a justifiable threat on your property. So in effect it is a good state to be in for firearms ownership as long as you never leave your house or business on foot.

But this surpises (albeit mildly) me. Confiscating a man's entire inventory of arms because one was used in a justifiable shooting. & even confiscating the shotgun makes no sense as there is absolutely no way to perform any sort of ballistic trace. Not that ballistic traces are effective in rifled arms but in a smoothbore it is worse than useless.

Mr. Gates plans on aquiring another firearm in the meantime & that shows yet more of a very logical mind at work. Mr. Gates realizes that depsite any promise of increased patrols the police cannot protect him & his family. The police took away his means of Self Defense so he simply will go out & purchase another.
Normally I'd be all in favor of any excuse to buy another gun, but not when it is made necessary by the heavy hand of a government, even a local government, who decides it can take away property that is constitutionally protected & practically necessary for an individuals' safety.

I would ask that you contact the Charleston Police Department & express your concern over this idiotic action taken by them.
You may reach the Chief Of Police at 843-720-2401.

You may contact Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. at .

Edit: You may contact Chief of Police Greenberg at

I attempted to call the Chief of Police but was unable to get through (it was after 5 p.m. their time when I called). I did manage to get through to a desk seargant. I explained that I had read a story about Mr. gates' plight concerning the confiscation of all of his weapons despite one only being used in a justifiable shooting & asked whom I should speak with to find out the justification for this action by the Charleston Police Department. His intitial reaction was, "what do you have to with this?". I told him I was a blogger, then explained that meant I am an internet journalist of sorts & he immediatley became a little more friendly. So I would advise that if you can't justify your interest by claiming to be a blogger, you should merely explain that you & your extended family were thinking of vacationing in Charleston but that decision is on hold pending a very good explanation for the very bad treatment of one of Charlestons' own. After all, if a resident gets treated so shabbily what makes anyone believe a tourist would receive better treatment? & Charleston is a tourist town.
Of course you could always simply say that you don't have to justify your 'need to know' & they have to justify their 'need to with-hold information' but I think the internet journalist or tourist answer will produce results quicker.

Update: I just got off the phone with the public relations officer of the Charleston Police Department. A rather interesting chat ensued.
The gist of it is that it is a policy of the Charleston Police Department to confiscate any & all firearms whenever a firearm is discharged by someone within the city limits. I was told that Mr. Gates would have his firearms returned. I asked when & Officer Charles Francis (sp?) said he'd have to consult with the detective in the case & get back to me. He went on to assure me that "'s not like we're gonna keep them forever or anything..." or something to that effect. I didn't bother to inform him of all the times when that's exactly what happens.

A click was heard on the line & he asked if someone was listening on the other end of the phone. He then said something to the effect of talking with him without either someone listening or recording it. I'm not quite sure what he was implying. I assured him it was merely noise in the line.

This is where it gets interesting. He said he'd call me back with the information. I gave him my phone number. he then asked for a name. I told him Publicola. he then asked for my real name. I told him I post under a psuedonym & won't give out my name. he then asked what name my parents gave me, etc...I told him he could call me Publicola. he then started down the "what are you afraid of?" road, quickly detouring onto the "it doesn't matter to me" road making a quick pitstop at the "I'm not gonna tell anyboy" Inn. I told him if he wasn't going to tell anybody & it didn't matter to him then he should just accept Publicola, especially since that was all he'd get. Finally he explained to me that a real American has nothing to hide; that he stands up & states his beliefs under his given name just like George Bush. I couldn't resist bringing up Bush's promise to renew the Assault Weapons Ban but he merely replied that Bush would sign it because he said he would because he does what he says. Our conversation ended with his asurance that he'd call me back & give me the details of exactly when Mr. Gates' property would be returned.

I have dealt with various South Carolina police departments before. In my experience any attempt to gather any information is less than a sure thing. I will say this for Officer Francis (sp?); his was the most interesting side step I've ever heard! (excuse the mixed metaphor). While lacking the finesse I've come to expect from people in any level of government who don't wish to answer your questions but yet want you to believe they've been answered, he gets an A+ for enthusiasm. Hell, I think he actually believes that what he was telling me was accurate, informative & beyond question! Which would mean that one of us on the line did.
He may even call back, though I would be at least mildly suprised if he does.

Update: Suprisingly I have yet to receive a phone call from the public relations officer.
I have added Chief Greenberg's e-mail address, which I should have done earlier. We'll see if he responds.

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