AS THE NEW YEAR BEGAN, I found myself still brooding on two grim shootings of lawbreakers that occurred late in December. One passed without much comment while the other was carried in newspapers and on television across the country. Neither incident involved a concealed handgun; the law permitting Texans to carry concealed weapons did not take effect until January 1. But there is no purpose to the new law unless you assume that the circumstances leading to the shootings are more and more common. Moreover, there is no purpose to the new law unless you assume that circumstances like these should be resolved by a gun. I kept asking myself exactly that: Should they?
On December 19, at about a quarter to ten in the evening in a rural subdivision not far from Houston, a man named Perry Jones was asleep in bed with his wife when someone broke the window just a few feet away and climbed through it. Jones shouted at the intruder, but he kept on moving. That’s when Jones picked up a shotgun he kept by his bed and pulled the trigger. The blast killed eighteen-year-old Lemas Jimel Brewer, a football player at the local high school who had never been in any trouble. He was not armed. The local sheriff told the Houston Chronicle that Jones was “almost hysterical” afterward. Jones himself told the newspaper, “I’ve never hurt anybody in my life. This is pretty traumatic.” No charges were filed against Jones.
The second incident involved four boys who, although still in their teens, were close to being professional thieves. At night they left Seagoville, a blue-collar suburb southeast of Dallas, and drove around in search of cars with fancy wheel rims or hubcaps that they could steal. It was petty crime, but maybe the money would seem