Gun incident shows armed citizenry deterrent to crime
by John Bachman
An event in Manchester last month caused the usual suspects to man their battle stations, but it also raised some important points for rational people to consider.
When Peter Vaillancourt saw a man breaking into the Manchester Professional Fire Fighters Association hall across the street from his home, he grabbed his shotgun and flip-flopped across the street. He advised the man to “sit down and wait for the police to come.” The man complied, and the incident ended with him in custody.Police charged Joshua Provost, 19, with burglary. Two others who were waiting in a parked car were charged with criminal liability to burglary.
Vaillancourt kept his shotgun propped on his shoulder and never pointed it at the man. Pointing a firearm at a person can be criminal threatening unless one fears for one’s life, but anyone can openly carry a firearm in New Hampshire. Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit that is issued by the local police chief.
Online comments to the reports of this incident range from “Mr. Vaillancourt acted like a good neighbor and a responsible gun owner” to childish name calling and a string of “what ifs” from proponents of stronger gun control struggling to criticize this calm use of a firearm to apprehend criminals.
Did Vaillancourt act rationally or rashly? Would you want such a person as a neighbor?
Under the circumstances Vaillancourt experienced, most people would simply call the police and remain in their house. Some would not even do that.
It takes time for police to respond to any report of suspicious activity, but if the burglar succeeded in gaining entry, then the police would likely arrive while he is still inside. He would then be caught in the act with no danger to anyone other than himself and the police, who are trained, equipped and paid for such activity.
Prudent action seems to be to call the police and then monitor the situation. That kind of conclusion is easy to make now, but what about on the scene as it happens? Vaillancourt seems to have concluded that immediate action was necessary.
We do not know why he reached that conclusion. Again, the critics jumped to a “Wild West” mentality without any reason to do so as far as I can see.
One of the features (curses?) of the Internet is that anyone can instantly comment on any news report or opinion, often anonymously. Incidents involving firearms attract lots of discussion, some of it rational, much of it not.
Those who oppose firearm restrictions are quick to defend Vaillancourt’s action as courageous, demonstrating responsible firearm ownership. Those who would disarm the citizenry are equally quick to fling down the “vigilante” card. The truth lies between these extremes.
Vaillancourt is to be applauded for taking action to prevent a crime – his actions resulted in arrests and nearly certain convictions. Hooray! Good job. A young thief and his cohorts are off the streets.
But were personal confrontation and the display of a weapon necessary? If one decides to confront a criminal, bringing along self-protection is certainly wise.
But why confront in the first place? Vaillancourt made one choice, but you or I may make a different one. Either is acceptable as long as it includes an intervention, which will likely prevent a crime from happening and apprehension of the perpetrator.
Some critics have conjured all sorts of what-ifs. What if the perpetrator made a movement to remove something from a pocket – would that justify a stronger response from Vaillancourt? What if Vaillancourt shot the individual who turned out to be an innocent firefighter who had lost his key? What if another person saw Vaillancourt and concluded that he was threatening the man and took action to prevent it?
None of these things happened, so we do not know the hypothetical outcomes. Such critics seem to lean toward inaction, an unacceptable choice to responsible citizens.
If we guided our lives on what-ifs, we would be frozen in time, hiding under our beds because, well, what if an asteroid crashes into the street just as we cross it? And then what if clear air lightning strikes the bed and sets it afire?
The bottom line is that Vaillancourt acted, thwarting a burglary and holding the perpetrator until police arrived, proving once again that an armed citizenry is a good deterrent to crime. I am confident that my neighbors would act appropriately, and they know that I would, too.
John Bachman is an Amherst businessman and freelance columnist. His column appears in the Nashua (NH) Telegraph on the first Sunday of the month. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original source: Nashua Telegraph