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Wife of movie theater murder victim may file suit against shooter

The United States has had more public acts of horrific gun violence in the last few years than any country should ever allow. Yet gun laws have effectively remained the same and the debate over safety vs. freedom continues with little change from those on either side of the issue.

Granted, gun violence is a complex problem that cannot necessarily be solved through legislation alone. That being said, a recent fatal shooting incident appears to be a perfect example of how quickly otherwise-civil arguments can turn into murder when a gun is within reach.

Earlier this month, a Florida man and his wife took the opportunity to see a movie together while their 22-month-old daughter was at home with a babysitter. During the previews, the father took out his cellphone to text a message to the sitter.

Sitting near the couple was a 71-year-old retired police officer. He was annoyed by the man’s texting and confronted him about it. He then left the theater to inform management. When he came back, the argument was somehow reignited and the young father threw a bag of popcorn at the retired officer.

In response, he pulled a gun from his pants pocket and fatally shot the younger man in the chest. The man’s wife was shot in the hand. The shooter is now facing second-degree murder charges, and the victim’s widow is considering a civil lawsuit as well.

Gun-rights advocates often argue that law-abiding citizens who carry concealed weapons are merely protecting themselves and can handle guns responsibly. Therefore, they pose no threat to members of the general public. Yet here is an example of a retired police officer – presumably a man with years of gun training – shooting another man over the trivial matter of movie theater etiquette.

It’s possible that the retired officer has a very short temper and chose to shoot in the heat of the moment. It’s also possible that he instinctively reacted to a perceived threat. In either case, his actions were a completely unjustifiable response to the offense he suffered and his decision to carry a gun is a clear and present danger to others.

The debate over gun control is one that will perhaps never be settled. But crime victims and their families do have legal options beyond criminal charges when they or a loved one have been injured/killed by an irresponsible gun owner. They also have the right to seek compensation through a civil lawsuit.

Source: ABC News, "Wife of Theater Shooting Victim Mourns Husband," Tamara Lush, Jan. 22, 2014

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