Editorials

Gun rights in action

Judging from the facts as reported, it will be reasonable and appropriate if no charges are filed against two area men who have used deadly force in recent days to protect their property and themselves. Indeed, such cases make the constitutional “right of the people to keep and bear arms” seem both prescient and precious.

There had been an outcry in the wake of the first incident in northwest Sumner County last week, when Milton homeowner Ron Heimerman was arrested . and briefly jailed after using a rifle to shoot two of four burglary suspects on his property. Heimerman told The Eagle that before he shot the two intruders outside his house, he had been awakened at 3 a.m. by the sounds of someone in his house.

“Guess he should have gone out first, unarmed, and asked them to leave in a polite manner,” went one comment among more than 1,100 posted on five articles on the shooting at Kansas.com.

“That’s what’s wrong with this world, the criminal always seems to be in the right,” said another reader.

Among the factors fueling both the homeowner’s and the public’s reaction in the Sumner County case — a burglary on Heimerman’s property just three days before the shooting, the rash of burglaries in the area, and the fiscal reality that two deputies were patrolling Sumner County’s nearly 1,200 square miles that night. Sumner County Attorney Evan Watson decided last week not to file charges against Heimerman.

Then on Tuesday night in east Wichita, according to Wichita police, a homeowner used a .45-caliber handgun to fire at an armed intruder who had entered an open patio door and demanded property. No charges will be filed against that homeowner either, according to police.

Common sense calls for shooting an intruder or would-be burglar to be the very last resort in home security, the step to take when locks have been breached and the threat is certain.

That’s a high standard, and there is room to debate whether the recent cases satisfied it. There also is room for interpretation — and potential abuse — in the state law allowing someone to use deadly force, whether indoors or out, if he reasonably feels it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or others.

But there is no room to quibble with the wisdom of the founders in prizing and specifying Americans’ right to such self-defense. Such cases also spotlight the zealous efforts of state lawmakers over the years to underscore and safeguard the gun rights of Kansans.

People of goodwill can and do disagree on a lot of things about guns. But when the threat is imminent and law enforcement is miles away, surely no constitutional right matters more than the one allowing gun ownership and use for self-defense.

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