He was the ultimate poster boy for the National Rifle Association and modern gun culture. Concealed handgun permit holder. NRA Life Member. NRA certified firearms instructor. Conservative Republican. Previous president of his local rifle club. Pro-gun blogger. He dreamed of running his own shooting range and gun shop one day. He was a "good guy" through and through... until the second he wasn't.
His name was Landon Jorgensen. Jorgensen lived the NRA's credo to the hilt. He carried a gun on his person at all times, even while inside his own home ("I'll keep that [shit] on me so that I'm prepared no matter what."). He refused to go to gun shows because of the requirement for attendees to unload their firearms before entering. When discussing private property where guns are prohibited, he remarked, "If you remain concealed anyway, how will they ever know?" And he frequented ConcealedCarryForum.com to encourage others to utilize permissive concealed carry laws in order to protect the "sheep" in their communities from crime.
But this proud NRA "sheepdog" turned out to be a wolf. On March 21, 2012 he turned his guns on his 25-year-old girlfriend, Adria Jordan Parker, and her five-year-old daughter, Eliza Kate Parker, before taking his own life. While it's relatively easy for the NRA faithful to throw Public Enemy No. 1 George Zimmerman under the bus, dumping pro-gun poster boy Landon Jorgensen isn't as easy a task.
The sad truth is that Zimmerman and Jorgensen represent only two NRA "good guys" in a nation full of them. There is now a large body of cases to demonstrate that tragedies occur when loose gun laws allow untrained individuals -- who undergo little or no vetting -- to patrol their neighborhoods and dispense "justice" as judge, jury and executioner.
With the 2012 NRA annual meeting set to begin today in St. Louis ("Many fail to understand the importance of what they have done for us," Jorgensen once blogged), the reality is that we know almost nothing about who is carrying guns in public in America. Why? Because five states (Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Vermont, Wyoming) now allow residents to carry guns in public without any permitting whatsoever. And the NRA has gotten laws enacted in approximately 25 other states to prohibit the public and media from accessing the names of individuals who have been issued concealed handgun permits.
Given this profound lack of oversight, awarding civilian gun-toters "Kill at Will" privileges is a step too far. In a recent column, Hubert Williams, the president of the Police Foundation, said these laws -- by eliminating the duty to retreat from a confrontation in public if one safely can -- "[grant] citizens more rights to use deadly force than is given police officers, and with considerably less review." Members of law enforcement, of course, must undergo a battery of tests before they are awarded the privilege of carrying a firearm on our streets. For starters, to become a police officer, candidates must undergo a psychological evaluation. After an officer joins a department, he/she must then re-qualify with their firearm on a regular basis.
Additionally, as Williams points out, "The use of deadly force is one of the biggest areas of training and continuing education for law enforcement." The reason for this is simple. The essence of good law enforcement is judgment. The ability to rapidly assess a situation and know when to shoot and when not to shoot is critical.
With five states currently allowing civilians to carry guns in public with no screening or training, and more than 30 others allowing residents to carry with a lifetime requirement of just a single day-class of training, do we really think that the George Zimmermans of the world are adequately prepared to play cop in our public spaces? And do we really want to give them more permissive rules of engagement than we give our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan?
With these increasingly lax regulations, we have enabled a culture of vigilantism in which incompetent, morally suspect shooters are given free reign. "Good guys"? Jorgensen spent much of his time at ConcealedCarryForum.com posting misogynist diatribes, engaging in murder fantasies and writing about inheriting the two guns his father used to commit suicide. Zimmerman had been arrested and charged with a felony assault against a law enforcement officer and was previously subject to a restraining order after allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse. None of that was even considered when they purchased guns and brought them out onto our streets.
Until the advent of "Kill at Will" laws, the only people we gave legal sanction to carry guns and police our neighborhoods were law enforcement professionals. "Kill at Will" turns this proposition on its head by assuming that almost anybody has the judgment necessary to make split second life-and-death decisions; with minimal training, schooling and testing.
Reflecting on the murder-suicide perpetrated by his friend Landon Jorgensen, ConcealedCarryForum.com owner Nathan Collier told KSL.com, "Prior to this incident Landon was one of the good guys. He taught people how to protect themselves from these very types of attacks." The problem was that no one actually ascertained if Jorgensen was a "good guy" before handing him guns, a concealed handgun permit, and the license to kill.