This morning I read about the horrific drive by shooting of Chris Lane, a 22-year old Australian baseball player in Duncan, Oklahoma last Friday. Lane, who was attending East Central University on a baseball scholarship, was shot while out for a jog. He had returned to Oklahoma to begin his senior year and was staying with his girlfriend’s family.
Three teenagers have been arrested in connection with Lane’s homicide. Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards, 15, have been charged with first degree murder while 17-year old Michael Dewayne Jones has been charged with being an accessory after the fact and with use of a vehicle during the discharge of a weapon.
Jones apparently told authorities that they killed Lane for “the fun of it.” One of the defendants reportedly said, “We were bored and didn’t have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody.”
Some are utilizing Lane’s death as an opportunity to make guns the issue. Former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer is calling for a boycott of the United States in protest of our gun laws. Fischer said, “This is the bitter harvest and legacy of the policies of the NRA that even blocked background checks for people buying guns at gunshows.”
It should be noted that Fischer isn’t a left-winger. He served as John Howard’s number two during his first term in office in the late 1990s and more recently was Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See.
But Fischer is off the mark on this one. Responsible gun owners don’t wantonly shoot people out of boredom. The three teenagers who will stand trial for Lane’s murder surely didn’t purchase their weapons at a gun show. The three teenagers who did this did so because they do not know nor do they care about right and wrong. Indeed, Edwards laughed and danced as he was being taken into custody.Tougher gun laws do not prevent tragedies like this from happening.
When I read about Lane’s death, I was immediately taken back nearly 20 years when I lived in Ottawa. In March 1994, a British engineering student named Nicholas Battersby was killed in a drive-by shooting by three teenagers as he was walking home on Elgin Street on a Sunday afternoon. Like the teenagers in Duncan, Oklahoma, the teenagers in Ottawa killed Battersby for the fun of it. Scarcely an hour before Battersby was killed, I was walking home on that very same street. It could have very easily been me. But for the Grace of God.
I think we would agree that Canada had tougher gun laws than the United States two decades ago and have tougher gun laws today. But evil knows no boundaries and even the most stringent gun laws cannot prevent people from commiting acts of evil.
One significant difference between the killing of Battersby and the killing of Lane is the fate of the perpetrators. At the time of Battersby’s murder, the maximum sentence a teenaged criminal could receive under Canada’s Young Offenders Act was three years. Lane’s killers will be tried as adults. Which means they could face the death penalty. The death penalty won’t bring Lane back, but it would ensure those three teens never harm anyone ever again.
ADDENDUM: As Ben Stein correctly notes in the latest installment of his diary on the main page, the three teenagers are not subject to the death penalty. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roper v. Simmons, declares that the administration of the death penalty to those under the age of 18 is cruel and unusual punishment. It is worth noting that Oklahoma’s death penalty only applied to those over 18 prior to the Surpeme Court ruling.
Nevertheless, being randomly shot while going out for a run is also cruel and unusual punishment. If the three defendants can be tried as adults then they ought to face adult consequences.