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When Your Armed Neighbor Comes
Knocking: Guns and Muslims in Chapel Hill

| February 22, 2015

(Khalil Bendib for OtherWords.)

(Khalil Bendib for OtherWords.)

By Mitchell Zimmerman

A North Carolina grand jury has indicted an atheist with a history of virulently anti-religious statements in the murder of three Muslim American students in Chapel Hill — a young couple and the wife’s sister.

The victims’ family and friends say the killings were the fruit of anti-Muslim hatred, but local police say it resulted from a “parking dispute.”

The perpetrator, Craig Hicks, reportedly had complained to the slain couple, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Deah Shaddy Barakat, about parking and noise issues. In at least one instance, a witness recalls, he carried one of his many guns to their door.

Let’s imagine, as Hicks’ wife insists, that Hicks actually harbored no antagonism toward Islam in particular. Let’s assume for now, as Hicks’ attorney suggests, that Hicks was just a deranged guy who lost control of himself and shot three people in the head.

We still have to ask: What kind of country do we live in, where it’s legal for a man to bring a weapon to a noise complaint? Or a parking dispute?

I’m trying to imagine what young Barakat and Abu-Salha might have done after their neighbor came by, carrying a rifle or bearing a handgun on his hip. Go to the police?

Imagine the conversation:

What kind of country do we live in, where it’s legal for a man to bring a weapon to a noise complaint? Or a parking dispute?

Deah: “The man across the way came to our door brandishing a weapon. We’re afraid.”

Officer: “Brandishing? What do you mean? What did he do?”

Deah: “I opened the door, and he started ranting about how much noise our visitors make, about them parking where they’re not supposed to. All the while he was holding a rifle in front of him. We were frightened.”

Officer: “Did he point the weapon at you?”

Deah: “No.”

Officer: “There’s nothing illegal about carrying arms in this state.”

Yusor: “He’s been making fun of the way we dress — he hates us because we’re Muslims.”

Officer: “It’s a free country. It’s too bad that some people are biased, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”

Some people — most people, I would hope — understand that bringing a gun to complain to a neighbor is inherently threatening. But going to the cops wouldn’t have solved that problem.

Not in North Carolina, anyway. Or in any other state where the law enshrines a right to carry guns openly.

Mitchell Zimmerman

Mitchell Zimmerman

Should the murdered couple have armed themselves for self-defense? These charity-supporting, life-loving, model students probably couldn’t imagine themselves defending their castle, standing their ground, or shooting first the next time their gun-wielding neighbor looked at them funny.

I suppose, in the end, they told themselves, “No one would actually shoot someone over things like this, would they?”

Only in America, I was going to say. But that would be unfair. The same thing could happen in Honduras or the Central African Republic — or any other place lacking meaningful limits on firearms.

Don’t worry, gun owners. I’m not saying that anyone should take away your guns. What would be the point? The government can’t even take away your 30-round clips, which have proven most useful for murdering dozens of small children in a few minutes.

This isn’t England or France, after all. There’s a “sacred right” to bear arms in our country.

My advice to potential victims: If you’ve drawn the angry attention of a neighbor who goes about armed, move. Move while you can. Don’t tell yourself you’re being silly. Certainly, no outside authority can restrain that person if he decides to kill.

Not in America.

Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney. He supplements his work as a Silicon Valley intellectual property lawyer with pro bono work on behalf of the underrepresented.

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25 Responses for “When Your Armed Neighbor Comes
Knocking: Guns and Muslims in Chapel Hill”

  1. ted bundy says:

    the one real problem with this country is the bastardization of the bill of rights..the criminals and their lawyers have all the rights and the citizenry is SOL..

  2. Tom Jacks says:

    Your progressive hero Bill Clinton killed more children at Waco than did all shootings at schoolhouse. You conveniently forget that because it doesn’t fit your narrative. Muslims have killed more Christians in one day,than Muslims killed in all of th U.S. since 9/11, but you forget that also. You must have Alzheimer’s or just cite facts that support you preconceived notion of what’s important. Just another intolerant democrat hating on his own country.

    • Nancy N. says:

      So only the things that kill the most people are tragedies that must be stopped? Nothing else is horrible or matters?

      By that logic, we shouldn’t pay any attention to curing cancer, since it’s only the number TWO killer of women in this country. Heart disease is number one, so cancer’s no big deal, right?

  3. confidential says:

    This was a terrible hate crime…not over parking. This is what happens daily when the wrong people carry a gun. Maybe this nut case will receive his punishment, but saddly anyway three young lives are gone forever.

    • Anonymous says:

      This was not hate crime, there is nothing to indicate that.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree that he should face punishment and hope he does. I totally disagree with “hate crimes” as an added punishment. one should NOT be charged with a crime of thought only actions.

  4. Rick Gardner says:

    The second amendment includes the words “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” seems to have been forgotten by today’s “patriots”. That phrase which was added to the original draft was there to placate the southern states so they could control their slaves. Otherwise there would not have been a second amendment regarding firearms. @TomJack you’re one of those who seem to not understand from whence our country came. You need to read history not just assume that whatever Faux News or Rush Limp—- says is the end all of the discussion.

    • Tom Jacks says:

      Hey Rick, you have no idea of my background or history. Not that it’s any of your business anyway. You are a typical progressive who thinks you know what’s best for anyone you disagree with. I have news for you Rick, I am highly educated in history, the bill of rights and the U.S. Constitution. Remember Rick, even if you don’t like it I do have the right to keep and bear arms.

      • gatorboy says:

        Seems to me that you have the right to keep and bear arms only if you’re a member of a “well regulated militia” according to the Second Amendment…

    • Joe Smith says:

      Rick, you are right in that the Second Amendment starts with the phrase “A well regulated militia.” In fact, the original draft was changed so that it started with this phrase.

      Unfortunately, we do not live in a country of written law; we live in a country whose law is defined by legal precedent. This means that judges such as Justice Scalia can redefine the law to ignore “well regulate” in spite of the fact that Hamilton (see Federalist #29) writes that “well regulated militia” is a state-level trained militia. This can lead Scalia to write that the right to bear arms is for all people, “not such merely as are used by the militia,” even though this right is placed in the context of a well regulated militia by the writes of the Second Amendment.

      I wish the ultra-conservative “Constitutionalists” would fight as hard on this issue as they do on Executive Orders or Taxation.

  5. Downtown says:

    There is a big difference between “open carry” and brandishing a weapon. Open carry is legal but brandishment is a crime. The difference is, “open carry” is done in a non-threating mannor where brandishment is displaying that you have a weapon and have the ability to use that weapon. Or maybe this better explains. We all have hands that we can make into a fist. If were face to face and I have my hand balled up into a fist hanging by my side there is no crime. But if I hold my fist up and shake it in your face then I have assaulted you even though I did’nt strike you. I brandished a weapon, my fist, and showed that I can use it.
    Try again Mr. Zimmerman you can do better.

  6. confidential says:

    Applause to Mr. Gardner above!

  7. Mondexian Mama says:

    The shooter may have been an atheist,but I’ll bet the farm the unsympathetic officer was a Christian.

  8. Doug Chozianin says:

    To paraphrase John Wayne… A good Islamic-Terrorist is a DEAD Islamic-Terrorist.

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    Great article and right on! The sheer proliferation of guns in the USA is creating a culture that is becoming just as paranoid and dangerous as the societies some of the worst 3rd world countries.

    The second amendment doesn’t say that EVERY person in the USA is entitled to carry a gun and use it with complete impunity to intimidate others. The second amendment doesn’t say that gun safety laws cannot be enacted. We desperately need regulations that would require guns to be used in a “responsible” and “safe” manner. . . to protect all citizens from the misuse of such weapons.

    • Tom Jacks says:

      The second amendment DOES say the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. According to the Oxford dictionary infringe means “actively break the terms of a law, act so as to LIMIT or UNDERMINE (something); encroach on: his LEGAL rights were being infringed”. So YES it does say gun control laws cannot be enacted. It’s just that people like you Sherry, and your fellow bleeding heart progressives think you should make all the decisions for the people you disagree with because you think you are superior to all others. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of gun control laws already on the books. As you progressives are fond of saying, the law is settled, you lost so get over it already.

    • Just me says:

      We already have “regulations” or Laws on the books for misuse or illegal use of them.

  10. Alex says:

    Remember, guns were needed to kill Indians before, during and after the Constitution was adopted.
    Do we need guns now for such purpose?

  11. David B. says:

    Perhaps Muslims should wear clothing more adaptable to what someone would wear in North Carolina or any other State. I don’t know how or what a person dress likes could bring a threat to someone, but it cause this guy to snap.but

  12. Anonymous says:

    I believe those who use the term ‘Militia” when showing there dislike of the gun should learn what was the “Militia” at the time of the Founding and adoption of the Constitution.

  13. just me says:

    Amazing how our far left extreme media and many Ds jump all over this horrible crime to say Americans somehow just hate muslims and its all about the faith then BUT when like the fort hood killings or the beheading’s by muslims it then has NOTHING to do with their faith even when those who commit such acts tell us it is ALL about there faith

  14. Downtown says:

    Just remember, it was because American citizens were armed that stopped Japan from invading the mainland during the war. That speaks volumes as to why every American citizen should own a weapon and fight to uphold the 2nd Amendment.

  15. Lancer says:

    …the sad, pathetic attempt by leftists to use the old “militia” excuse. Pray tell…who makes up the “militia”?? That’s the ordinary citizenry. Then, Rick says the law was intended to keep slaves, essentially, in check. That may have been one reason, but it was, by far, not the only reason.

    Rick says we should study or history, but has forgotten (purposefully or ignorantly??) that when our country was founded, there continued to be a westward expansion. That frontier had little regard for law and order…hence the need for arms…basic self preservation.

    Criminals with firearms do not seek out others with firearms, generally speaking. Criminals intending to do harm seek out soft targets. While law enforcement responds as rapidly as possible. There have been countless times when an armed citizen has stopped an ill intentioned perpetrator.

    We are a nation of firearms. There is no dreamy la la land where that won’t ever be the case. So, leftists…who are ones of tens who continue to watch Msnbc, cnn, cbs, abc, nbc, breitbart, and the other news programs that preach your love of state, you have two choices:
    1. Leave the country for another, who loves government control as much as you do. OR
    2. Do not own a forearm.

    Pretty easy…

  16. Sherry Epley says:

    Just Remember. . . It was a thoroughly trained USA military (a constitutional militia) who stopped Japan from invading the USA. Also, those guns were issued and owned by the government. Just remember, unfortunately, a large percentage of our population lives in the paranoia and fear created by those that control them through media manipulation. We need to be courageous enough to use our own intelligence to seek out the truth, instead of allowing spoon fed fear to keep us under the political thumb of those who would destroy us from the inside.

    Not EVERY US citizen has the non-criminal background, maturity, mental stability and training to reasonably be responsible for safely owning a gun of any kind, Having such lax gun safety regulations is slowly taking away our rights to live a safe and peaceful life.

  17. Sherry Epley says:

    Ahhhhh. . . “name calling”. . . the refuge of the emotional debater who has no facts or logic to prove their point. How common! How disappointing! How sadly indicative of too many of our citizens!

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