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Shoplifting Our Rights

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The UN World Population Prospects says 7,452 people die every day in the U.S. — one every 12 seconds. This year, one of those 7,452 was Christobal Lopez, 50, who died during a run-in with Michael Dunn, 47.

According to lakelandgov.net, Dunn is the co-owner of Vets Surplus, Inc., has served on several city boards and is a graduate of the Lakeland Citizens’ Police Academy.

Lopez was a transient whose most recent address was a small house in the rural community of Wauchula, an hour south of Lakeland.

On Oct. 3 at 2:30 p.m., Dunn confronted Lopez, whom he had observed taking a hatchet from a store display and shoving it in his waistband. Dunn asked if Lopez intended to pay for it. Hatchet in hand, Lopez ran to the door, but Dunn caught him by the T-shirt. They tugged back and forth before Dunn shot Lopez. Lakeland paramedics declared Lopez dead upon their arrival.

The Lakeland Ledger dredged up a 28-year-old story about Dunn accidentally shooting a man while “practicing inside his home.” The injured man did not know Dunn, and they settled the resulting lawsuit privately. This old incident suggests carelessness.

Store owner Michael Dunn of Lakeland, Florida is shown brandishing a handgun against alleged shoplifter Christobal Lopez in security camera footage taken from Vets Surplus, Inc.

Christobal Lopez was observed stealing a hatchet from Michael Dunn’s retail store in Lakeland, Florida. Lopez had the hatchet — certainly a deadly weapon — in his right hand when Dunn shot him. Based on silent security camera footage, however, it appears that Lopez was only trying to escape and never threatened Dunn. The eventual outcome of this October incident may very well impact our gun and concealed carry rights. (Photo courtesy of Lakeland, Florida, Police Department)

At the time of this writing, Dunn has not yet been charged, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time.* Lopez’s sister, Veronica, said her brother did not deserve to die, something we often hear from criminals’ families. “He was not a violent person. My brother didn’t need to be killed like some animal,” she said.

Did Lopez deserve to die? Probably not, but we don’t always get what we deserve. Actions have consequences — often unforeseen consequences — and by age 50, Lopez should have known better.

But the real victims are you and me. We emphasize responsible carry, training and a careful approach to concealed weapons. Whatever the outcome of this case, we can expect more news stories scrutinizing “stand your ground” laws. We can expect more social media backlash such as that from Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, on Twitter, saying, “We are allowing private citizens to impose the death penalty for shoplifting.”

It may seem insensitive, even brutal, but I don’t care that a thief died during the commission of a crime. I do care that the man who killed him has put himself in an extraordinarily difficult situation and thrown fuel on the anti-gun, anti-stand-your-ground, anti-concealed-carry fire. I do care that Mr. Dunn, in a moment of excitement, has, in my opinion, placed my rights in jeopardy. I do care about that.

*Editor’s note: The case was sent to a grand jury, who came back with an indictment for second-degree murder. If convicted, Dunn faces up to life in prison.

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