I just read an unnerving story coming out of Porterdale, a small town in rural Georgia. Jean-Joseph Kalonji and his wife Angelica (61 and 57 years old, respectively) were visiting their newly purchased home , which sat vacant for several months prior. But unfortunately for the couple, their new neighbors didn’t exactly offer them the friendliest of welcomes. Thinking the couple was trying to burglarize the place, neighbors Robert Canoles and his son Brandon approached the couple armed with semi-automatic rifles. The Canoles snuck up on the Kalonjis and forced them to stand with their hands against the wall, despite being told they were the rightful owners of the property. From there, Canoles called the local police who, upon arrival, arrested the Kalonjis and actually commended Canoles for the apprehension. Seriously. I’m not making this stuff up.
After all the dust settled, the couple was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and the Canoles were themselves charged with aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and trespassing. In a bizarre turn of events, the people once thanked for their “service” were arrested for the same action.
**I’m digressing here: In my opening line, I poked fun at the notion of a post-racial America. Truth is, I don’t know if this story was racially-motivated or not. And I certainly don’t want to needlessly race chase. But considering where this all took place, the interracial makeup of the Kalonjis, and state of race relations in this country, one would be hard-pressed not to suspect race may have influenced Robert Canoles, his son, and the police. Would Canoles pull this stunt on a white couple? Would the police have been as quick to arrest the Kalonjis without hearing their story or doing any background checking had they both been white? I can’t answer with any degree of certainty. But I’d be willing to bet on this more than I’d be willing to bet on the Mega Millions. When Canoles said in his statement that folks in this town “protect our own”, by his own account he was saying the Kalonjis were not rightful members of the Porterdale community. A few guesses as to why that is. *** END OF DIGRESSION
Back to the main point of this post: what I found interesting and noteworthy about this whole affair was the defense Canoles mounted to justify his actions. In an almost Tea Party-esque fashion, Canoles pulled, of all things, the Constitutional card to explain away his actions stating “I don’t know what they can charge me with. This is my Second Amendment right…”. In a shameful display this clown had the audacity to invoke his right to bear arms as a defense for using automatic weapons to threaten innocent people. The Constitution is not, nor has it ever been, an instrument of vigilantism.
Now, I realize it’s socially irresponsible and intellectually lazy to paint all gun owners and enthusiasts with the same brush or to indict them all based on one idiot’s actions. And I won’t. But I will say it’s time for lobbyists like the NRA and gun supporters in general to be a lot more visible during the ongoing debate over control, access, and usage of guns. Unfortunately, the only time you’ll ever hear from these folks in that context is when they’re defending their rights to own the weapons or when they put their political weight behind legislation that allows people with guns to shoot first and ask questions later. But at no point in the discussion will you hear them as passionate about teaching responsibility and accountability. Outside of personal ignorance of the law, there is no reason why a loon like Robert Canoles should ever thoughtlessly conflate the right to bear arms and the right to take the law in your own hand. Gun owners should be as much about education as they are about advocacy.
Am I blaming the NRA for this? Of course not. But I am stating that, considering the length of their reach and influence, a better attempt to educate gun owners is needed. We know politicians don’t have the testicular fortitude to address this, and liberals can’t because it will get casually dismissed as some kind of bleeding heart campaign. The NRA, more than any other group in the country, has the ability to speak and have people hear them. With a large platform comes even larger responsibility. None of this will stop people like Canoles from breeding, much less getting their hands on guns, but at least being more proactively involved is a step in the right direction.
I’m in the market myself to buy a house. But based on these kind of stories, If I ever decide to buy, I can only hope my future neighbors will bring muffins as a housewarming gift and not .45 caliber bullets.