Assault Rifles are Only Good for Killing Large Numbers of People

Or are they?

According to this Greenville (South Carolina) News story, an AK-47 rifle was among the weapons used to apprehend two burglars at a car dealership. The story (note, please, the headline):

Lawmen often scarce in county’s rural north

The break-ins wouldn’t stop at Shupee’s 4×4, so the owner says he grabbed an AK-47 assault rifle and two friends and staked the place out all night.

In the darkness and quiet of northern Greenville County, the three vigilantes say they hid in trucks and a shed until two suspects pulled into the dealership’s parking lot.

Vigilante: : a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law appear inadequate); broadly : a self-appointed doer of justice.

I submit that these men did not punish crime, they simply suppressed it by doing their duty as citizens to stop crime when police were not available to do so. The use of the word vigilante has extremely negative connotations today, but I’m certain its use was quite deliberate in this story. Imagine the gall of mere citizens defending their property without government sanction! Anarchy! Anarchy!

When one tried to break into a black Jeep, Ken Shupe, Jeff Cartee and Dwayne Johnson say they jumped out and made the suspects lie face down in the gravel parking lot until deputies arrived.

The men said they had to police the lot themselves because there aren’t enough deputies to cover the county’s rugged northern terrain.

See “Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection.”

“It’s not the cops’ fault,” Cartee said. “It’s whoever needs to put the cops on the street.”

County Councilman Joe Dill said budget constraints have kept the county from hiring more deputies this year. With drug labs, break-ins and a growing population, the need for deputies will only grow in northern Greenville County, he said.

“We’re still a long way from having the number of deputies that’s required to really patrol that properly,” Dill said.

Sheriff Steve Loftis said that most of the time six to 10 deputies are on patrol north of Greer and Furman University, a mountainous area comprising about 170 square miles.

The number of deputies usually suffices, but a big event, such as a homicide, or a large volume of calls, can slow response times, he said.

“There’s always room for additional help,” Loftis said, “but we try to staff the beats as best we can.”

Jeff Moore, spokesman for the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association, said there isn’t a good rule of thumb for sheriffs to use to determine an appropriate number of deputies. He said what’s appropriate for one county may not be appropriate for another county that’s more thickly populated.

While the fight over funding continues, residents are finding other ways to protect their homes. That includes forming CrimeWatch groups.

And apparently “vigilante” groups.

Volunteer firefighters in Gowensville, a rural area north of Greer, help by occasionally driving by houses when residents leave town, said Fire Chief Terry Wilson.

“It’s basically neighbor looking after neighbor,” he said.

In the Shupee’s 4×4 incident, a suspect tried to remove a box and some speakers from a Jeep at 3 a.m. on Aug. 10, an incident report states. Cartee stepped out from the shed and told him to get on the ground, the report states

“Going through your mind is, ‘It’s on. You’ve messed up,'” Cartee said.

When the suspect “began to mess with something on his side,” Cartee fired a warning shot from a 12-gauge shotgun, the report states. The suspect dropped to the ground, the report states.

Cartee then told another suspect, who was standing by the road, to get on the ground, too, the report states. The suspect dropped the wrench he was holding and did so, the report states.

Shupe said he said he wasn’t interested in a gunfight. He said he just wanted the break-ins to stop at his business, which is a few miles south of the North Carolina line on U.S. 25.

“It’s just because of the remote location that they think it’s open game up there, which it’s not,” Shupe said.

Warrants charge Helge Christian Gresser, 31, and James Brian Killough, 27, both of Hendersonville, N.C., with possession of burglary tools and breaking into an automobile.

When it comes to catching suspects, Loftis said he encourages the community to help by calling deputies when they see a crime. But he said he discourages citizens from taking up arms.

“I would advise against anything like that because I don’t want to see any citizens get themselves hurt,” Loftis said.

Would that be because you believe that ordinary citizens are incapable of using firearms responsibly? That it’s not their job to defend their lives and property? That they’re not qualified?

Loftis said the growing population of northern Greenville County will require more deputies, but he doesn’t yet know how many.

He said budget constraints kept him from asking for more deputies this year, but he will ask for some in the 2005-06 budget.

In the meantime, Johnson said he hopes the Shupee’s 4×4 incident sends a message to thieves.

“A word to the wise: We’re watching,” he said. “A word to the unwise: We’re waiting.”

Damned straight.

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