In the ongoing national debate about whether guns create more problems than they solve, two separate incidents that occurred Wednesday in Broward County offer valuable lessons.
Let's start with the tragic death Wednesday afternoon of Patrick Lavoie Jr., a 33-year-old man who was apparently enraged by how closely the driver of pickup truck was following. Lavoie reportedly leaped from his girlfriend's white Honda Civic, then
attacked the pickup truck's driver, Cleveland Anthony Murdock of West Palm Beach. At some point during their struggle, Murdock pulled a gun and shot Lavoie dead. Murdock is arguing self-defense. But detectives are comparing his story with that of witnesses to the incident.
If Murdock was in fact tailgating the Honda Civic, was he emboldened by the knowledge that, if confronted, he could simply reach for his gun? If so, then the presence of the gun is part of what caused the tailgating to occur in the first place.
If we give Murdock the benefit of the doubt and say that he wasn't tailgating and that Lavoie attacked him without any provocation whatsoever, then the next question is whether Murdock really needed to end this confrontation by firing his gun. In other words, did he have reason to fear anything besides a bloody nose or a broken jaw?
It's not to say he didn't have reason to be terrified. It's a matter of whether having that gun made Murdock more likely to react with force that far exceeded that with which he was attacked.
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The upshot: It doesn't look like this road rage incident is one that gun rights activists should use to advance their cause.
The second incident was sparked by an even more frivolous argument. On Wednesday evening, somebody who lives near NW Seventh Street and 13th Terrace was seeking payment for videogames. Details remain sketchy, but the dispute was resolved when one of the two involved shot the other to death.
You can bet the shooter, if he's caught, will also claim self-defense. But again, this is a trivial dispute that became tragic only because one of the parties had a gun and couldn't solve the dispute through less-violent means.
UPDATE: The Fort Lauderdale Police Department just released new details about the latter shooting. It says that the dispute was between 29-year-old Edison Austin and 24-year-old Quentin Pierce. According to the release, the two were fighting over videogames and alcohol. Pierce, of Lauderhill, is alleged to have teamed with several friends in beating Austin, then shooting him.