There is a right way to use a gun. There is a wrong way to use a gun.
Michael Starnes did it the right way. Monday morning, he saw a suspicious man walking around his neighbor’s home. Starnes got his gun, confronted the burglar and held him at gunpoint until Columbia County deputies arrived to make an arrest.
More good neighbors like Starnes would make the world a far safer place.
Thomas Bradford did it the wrong way. One man is dead as a result, and Bradford likely will spend the rest of his life in prison.
On April 1, 2011, Bradford took a gun to a fist-fight. His opponent that day, Columbia County Water Utility Worker Raymond Lee, took a single gunshot to the chest at close range, and this past Friday a jury found Bradford guilty of murder.
Bradford was licensed for concealed carry of his .380 semi-automatic pistol. As an otherwise law-abiding American citizen, he was entitled to carry that pistol for his own protection.
But there’s a tremendous difference in the justification between the threat of deadly force, which Starnes correctly used to protect his neighbor’s property, and the use of deadly force, which Bradford incorrectly implemented to end an argument that mostly was verbal.
Bradford’s defense failed to persuade jurors with either of the somewhat conflicting rationalizations it floated: that the gun went off accidentally during the struggle, or that the shooting was intentional but in self-defense.
Instead, what the jurors clearly saw is that a woman is widowed and three children left fatherless because Bradford, branded a “hothead” by prosecutors, made the conscious decision to brandish a pistol in the first place.
Vigilant, armed citizens make good neighbors. Sadly, armed hotheads don’t.