Charges against shooter should reflect human threat as well as damage

I've just returned from back east; family health issues, you know. While I was away, it seemed like I was being held prisoner under a winter sky that appeared so overcome by its own sickness of cold that it remitted one continuous windswept sneeze of its frozen congestion in the form of snow. But for me, that endless fall of snow was remedied by the hot news of what was going on in Carson City, which seemed to vaporize all of what surrounded me and restore its discomforting cold to warmth.

As Carson City prepared for a milestone visit from our country's Democratic presidential candidates, some strained veggie-brain decided it would be funny to click off and blow out metal at store-front windows and vehicles with a pellet gun in our downtown area during the prime time of daylight hours.

I was hit too. Not by a pellet. I was hit - point blank - by the misrouted concerns of some of our residents who dramatized how the image of our city would photograph itself in the minds of our visiting presidential candidates.

Some of those people actually criticized the Appeal for its front-page coverage of the charges against David Scott Killen - charges that suggest he wants to live up to the action verb phonetics of his last name - and his pellet gun workout, being so dreadfully concerned about the irreversible stain we may have applied to the laundered veils of our city's "image" to our Democratic visitors. Those same people would prefer we turn our city into a Hollywood stage set that neatly folds up and out whenever we wish to hide behind manufactured realism.

As far as our city's image is concerned, our recent Democratic visitors did not choose to stage their monumental presidential candidacy forum here in Carson City because of an impressive absence of bullet holes. We as residents - residents, not visitors - of Carson City should instead be emphatically concerned with some of the state laws we have that allow crime stooges to fire off at 28 targets - each of which was in proximity to men, women, and children. This bud-to-blossom criminal is lucky - very lucky - to have just shattered glass windows, and not the lives of those who were innocently living life at the time of his after-lunch shooting exercise.

Nowhere did I see that Killen would be charged with intent to kill. Instead, I see charges that are ludicrously aligned with estimated property damage costs. Here we go again - the dollar sign outranks the possibility of lost life. Oh yeah, that makes so much sense.

I don't get it. I just don't get it. Maybe that's the point, that we should never get it - this indomitable paradox of crime and punishment, or what is deemed punishment by our judicial system. Our policy makers and law enforcers should judge crimes by the severity and potential fatalities of its action, and not by near-hit (or near-miss) prognosis.

How was this 28-shot firing blitz so different from pointing a gun directly to someone's head and threatening to shoot? Is the difference found strictly in where the nozzle of a gun is pointed? So, some little kid eating a bowl of spaghetti gets one of his or her eyes mixed in with their meat sauce because a pellet just pried and splattered it from its socket, and only then will someone be charged with something other than felonies that are absurdly predicated on monetary value of damage? Are we sure we're not regressing in our laws?

The owners of the vandalized property are the ones who get screwed in this case. The cost of the damage to the owners can be first measured by the time and labor they have to divert from their business to repair those damages. Then, the cost of insurance deductibles falls into their hands as well, and at a time when business may not be rated as good.

Seems to me that this 22-year-old would have faced more demanding charges had he robbed a bank with a plastic picnic knife. Why? One guess. C'mon. I know you can do it. It sounds like "funny." It's something we use as collateral to buy things. It begins with an "m." What's that? Did you say "money?" Game over.

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal.


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