Hottest Wisconsin movie shootout doesn’t star Johnny Depp

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Joel McNally
Monday, April 21, 2008

The hottest shoot-íem-up filmed in Milwaukee isnít the upcoming Dillinger movie starring Johnny Depp. Itís a video posted on the popular Web site, YouTube, by the Milwaukee Police Department.

Police claim they posted the Milwaukee shootout filmed by a surveillance camera at Villard Food and Liquor on the national Web site to seek help in identifying an alleged shoplifter involved in the gunfight.

But the thousands of computer hits generated across the country have nothing to do with any sudden, overwhelming desire of the nationís citizenry to assist Milwaukee in cracking down on shoplifting.

The video of a real-life gun battle and a violent beating that preceded it offers all the sleazy attraction of a particularly horrible car crash. But the real national and state debate into which the video feeds is the argument over the desirability of carrying handguns.

Gun enthusiasts who equate carrying handguns with public safety consider the video an argument for the more, the merrier. After an apparent shoplifter is surrounded by four men and beaten with a baseball bat, he leaves the store and returns later with a gun. You see the man striding quickly through the door, determined to create mayhem. Then, you see him stop short without even raising his weapon when he sees that the clerk behind the counter has a gun trained on him.

As the customer meekly retreats from the store, however, he turns and begins firing. The store clerk opens fire at the same time. Incredibly, a woman in a green jacket calmly walks between the shooters and out of the store in the middle of the gunfight.

Only fortune and bad aim prevented a public massacre.

Any rational viewing of the video makes it a far cry from a National Rifle Association recruiting commercial. In fact, it undercuts just about every argument gun supporters make for the proliferation of handguns.

The video clearly shows how the easy availability of guns escalates an already violent society into a potentially deadly, violent society. The shootout is the most shocking event in the video. The second most shocking is the violent beating of the man with fists and a baseball bat by four men. Reportedly, it was over the theft of a stick of deodorant.

With guns so readily available, any victim of a one-sided gang beating thinks he has an easy means to even the score. But, of course, when guns are everywhere, you never know when somebody else is going to get the drop on you.

Gun supporters see that as incredibly good news. To them, itís just great that an angry victim of a beating bent on blowing away store employees was driven away by a hail of bullets in the other direction. But most of us are far more likely to identify with innocent customers in a convenience store on a Sunday afternoon when this barrage of gunfire took place.

Do we really want to live in the society the supporters of concealed carry are so eager to create where such shootouts can suddenly break out anywhere anytime? What kind of public safety is that? The video also refutes the claim that bad guys with guns will somehow make a rational decision not to use them if they think their intended victims might be armed.

Golly, do you think anyone would have a clue that a liquor store where shoplifters are beaten with a baseball bat might just possibly have a gun behind the counter, as well?

Some were outraged to learn that the police asked the district attorney to determine whether the store clerk should be charged as a felon illegally in possession of a firearm. No problem. A few days later, the deputy district attorney announced the clerk would not be charged. Prosecutors know juries are unlikely to convict store clerks for protecting their businesses with deadly weapons unless the reckless endangerment of the public is overwhelming. And, maybe, not even then.

But the next time the Legislature tries to put even more guns on our streets, think about getting caught in the crossfire of more Sunday afternoon shootouts in Milwaukee.

Joel McNally is a syndicated columnist. His e-mail address is jmcnally@wi.rr.com.

Last updated: 8:55 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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