With all the attention focused on the police shooting of Harith Augustus in South Shore, the silence coming from the gun rights groups is deafening.
I mean, just about everyone else has weighed in, one way or the other, on the July 14 shooting, including Black Lives Matter activists, Mayor Rahm, and the Fraternal Order of Police.
But not a word from the normally loquacious spokespeople for the National Rifle Association like Dana Loesch, Oliver North, or Wayne LaPierre.
And it’s weird, ’cause if ever there were a case tailor-made for the NRA to join—or even lead—it would be this one.
Consider what we know from the footage released by Chicago police.
It’s Saturday evening. Augustus is standing on the sidewalk outside the barbershop where he works, on 71st Street near Jeffery Boulevard in South Shore.
Several police officers approach him. We don’t what they’re saying because there’s no sound in the body camera footage released by the police department.
It looks as though one officer is asking Augustus for an ID. Augustus reaches for his wallet. Another police officer reaches for his arm, as if to handcuff him. Augustus breaks for the street. As he turns, his shirt lifts, revealing what looks to be a handgun holstered at his waist.
It’s then that he’s shot by a probationary officer, who hasn’t been identified.
Defenders of the police say Augustus was reaching for his gun, so the cops had no choice but to shoot him before he shot them.
Putting that matter to the side, the great unknown is why the police approached Augustus in the first place.
I mean, he was doing no wrong. He was bothering no one.
He wasn’t a known offender. He had no record apart from “three minor arrests” dating back years ago, as the Tribune put it.
The official police explanation, offered by spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, is that Augustus was “exhibiting characteristics of an armed person.”
But that’s no crime—owning a gun. Augustus even had a firearm owners’ identification card (FOID) for it. True, carrying a weapon on the public way without the appropriate permit is a crime—unlawful use of a weapon. But it’s not hard to understand why he, a registered gun owner, would be. He’s a barber—a cash-heavy business—in a relatively high-crime area.
It’s at this point in the discussion where the NRA’s voice is noticeably absent.
Because as Loesch, North, and LaPierre never tire of saying, there’s nothing wrong with owning a gun.
Quite the contrary, as they see it, it’s a fundamental right, enshrined by the founders in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which of course states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
I’ve heard NRA members invoke this sacred right every time anyone calls for gun control, even in the aftermath of horrific mass murders. Such as when . . .
Adam Lanza shot 26 people, including 20 children, in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Or Dylann Roof shot nine people during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
Or Stephen Paddock shot 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017.
And so on.
The right to bear arms is championed by all the leading Republicans in the land, including Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, the judge he’s just nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In fact, a few years ago, one Chicago police officer caused a stir when he allowed himself to be photographed holding an American flag and standing behind a sign that read: “I stand for the Anthem. I love the American flag. I support my president and the 2nd Amendment.”
And yet the police approached Augustus, as he stood on the sidewalk bothering no one, because they thought he was “exhibiting characteristics of an armed person.”
This case should boil the blood of any self-respecting Second Amendment advocate. Indeed, Loesch, North, and LaPierre should be marching with the Black Lives Matters activists in their demonstrations for justice.
But you know how it goes. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s anti-union Janus decision, it’s obvious that Republicans think the First Amendment is only supposed to protect the speech of conservatives—certainly not football players, like Colin Kaepernick, who kneel during the National Anthem.
And apparently, the NRA thinks the Second Amendment only applies to white people.
Correction: This post has been emended to correctly reflect that carrying a gun without a firearms permit is a crime, whether or not one has a firearm owners’ identification card.