I recently saw a cartoon that asked, “Where do you get your information?” The answers were: The Internet—Newspapers—(Medieval) Scrolls—Meditative States—Crystals—Telepathic Pets—The Spirits—Cable News. “Poorly Drawn Lines” by Reza Farazmand is supposed to be funny or, lacking humor, at least clever or possibly ironic. Of course, something that catches our eyes as readers, causes us to stop for a moment, probably contains some element of truth. But “truth” is, I believe, a fragile and fungible thing, difficult to identify and almost impossible to get a room full of people to agree with.
This was driven home when I noticed a news item from the Drudge Report online about a man being forced to vacate his home because he had successfully defended himself with a firearm. Here’s the substance of the story.
Rockland, Maine. Harvey (sometimes “Harry”) Lembo is a retired lobsterman. 67 years old. He’s partially deaf, takes a lot of medications, and gets about in a motorized wheelchair. After all these years, after endless days on the water and thousands of tourists who have vicariously appreciated his backbreaking labor, Harvey barely has more than a few dollars to his name. Adding insult to injury, his one-bedroom flat in Park Place Apartments has been burglarized five times in the past six years. He’s damn mad about it so, a few months ago—August 29th to be precise—he bought a cheap handgun, an old Russian Nagant model in, of all things, 7mm.
Because there is a lowlife grapevine, in September, Christopher Wildhaber, 46, decided Lembo looked like an easy target. Generally, the last thing the public had heard about Mr. Wildhaber, he wrote to his sister, Delores, via Facebook.com, that he was “engaged again. Unemployed for the time being and looking for a work (sic) and a place to live.”
About a year after such an emotionally touching Facebook post, Wildhaber figured he would slip into Harvey Lembo’s apartment and steal the old man’s drugs. Finding no sign of forced entry, the police suspect that Lembo’s door was not locked.
Instead of simply rifling through the drawers and brushing aside an old man’s feeble protests, Wildhaber was presented with an unexpected complication. Lembo put up a fuss, but Wildhaber just laughed: “I’m here to rob you…like everybody else.” He might not have thought he was so funny if he knew Lembo was packing the 7mm Nagant and willing to use it.
The story moves through several moments of indecision on both men’s part, but eventually Lembo pulls the trigger and the bullet strikes the thief in the shoulder. Painful but not life-threatening. The incompetent burglar was, at last report, a resident of the Knox County Jail in Portland, charged with a probation violation and burglary (though he has undoubtedly since posted bond and been released pending disposition of the case).
Standard stuff, you think, because you are familiar with many such stories, but the truly interesting point is where Lembo lives. The retired lobsterman has been sent an eviction notice by his landlord. The cause? Lembo’s apartment contract apparently stipulates that no guns are allowed in the complex. On receipt of the notice, Lembo retained a lawyer claiming his Second Amendment rights were being violated…and perhaps that because the complex has repeatedly failed to provide proper security for residents, they must be allowed to defend themselves in any way necessary. Park Place corporate lawyers have argued that a simple notification to Lembo that he could face an eviction if he does not follow “house rules” is insufficient to trigger administrative protection under the Second Amendment.
What is fascinating is not that a resident shot a potentially violent crook committing a home invasion. Good for the resident. Or even that his aim was off by at least six inches, which can, with a little practice or coaching, be corrected. What is fascinating is that this is a case that pits our rights to own a firearm against a property owner’s right to set rules-of-use for his property.
Can you be required to give up your rights to live in a rental property? If so, shouldn’t you be able to hold the landlord liable for protective services? But what if you leave your doors and windows open or unlocked—as Mr. Lembo evidently did—even after repeated home invasions? Does Mr. Lembo share a portion of the blame for his repeated inconveniences?
Is this a complicated case or is it, indeed, very simple and straightforward? What’s your opinion?
Me? I’m swearing off the news and sticking to cartoons…
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