I think everyone would agree that we all want to live in a safe community — but the problem is determining how to accomplish this.
In the wake of the May 25 murder of Eddie’s Zip Food owner Donald Claude Arnder during an attempted robbery at his store on U.S. 52, there’s reason to believe that our present methods of dealing with criminal behavior aren’t working.
Arnder’s brutal death from an assault rifle wielded by two hoodlums who entered his business just before closing time has shocked this community that prides itself on a Mayberry way of life where such events just aren’t supposed to happen.
Yet they do, and I believe one of the reasons is because there simply is no respect for law and order anymore — due to a variety of factors. One is the existence of a system of justice in this country (if you can call it “justice”) which favors wrong-doers more than victims.
Some might blame the economy for the increased incidents of theft and robbery we’ve seen here in recent years, or cite factors such as the decline of the family structure and failures of our educational system for sowing the seeds. A murderer who uses the “I killed because I was abused as a child” excuse is always one of my favorites.
In most cases, those problems ARE just excuses, because there are plenty of instances where people have overcome troubled childhoods, poverty and other handicaps without resorting to stealing from or harming others.
Why can’t we just accept the fact there are mean people in society who need to be dealt with properly — regardless of how they got to be that way? And dealing with them effectively means fighting fire with fire rather than turning the other cheek.
While there are many people who criticize the trend of increased gun ownership by citizens, Mr. Arnder had the right idea by arming himself against anyone who tried to rob his store. Unfortunately, he simply lacked the firepower to go against an assault rifle. But what Mr. Arnder did accomplish was to seriously wound one of his out-of-town assailants, which later led to his capture after the man sought medical attention in another state.
Then the alleged robber/murderer bragged from his hospital room, via Facebook, about how he got shot in the chest. The perfect ending to the story would have involved him and his two accomplices, including their female getaway driver, being the ones killed during their ill-fated visit to Mount Airy.
Of course, the innocent store owner who had the audacity to protect himself would’ve drawn fire for using such deadly force against these poor kids who came from bad circumstances and only needed a little understanding from society, don’t you know.
However, what’s likely to happen instead is the perpetrators (including one still at large) will end up languishing behind bars at taxpayer expense for years until their case finally comes to trial.
By then, the memory of Donald Claude Arnder — for whom a vigil was scheduled Friday night at his store on the one-week anniversary of the senseless murder — will have faded from the public consciousness somewhat. Sympathy at that point will be directed toward the troubled childhoods or underprivileged social status of his killers.
And if they do manage to get convicted in our joke of a court system and actually sentenced to death as they deserve, the “fun” will be just getting started — as we’ve seen time and time again. They will languish in prison for more years as appeal after appeal is exhausted, possibly including charges of racial or other bias against the jury. And if these three do happen to be put to death by lethal injection, you can bet plenty of vigils will be held for THEM.
The problem is, our system is designed to provide every opportunity for citizens charged with crimes to prove their innocence, which is a good thing, but perhaps more importantly to also convince juries that even if they are guilty, it wasn’t their fault.
While this elongated approach is meant to benefit the one criminal out of 1,000 who might have been wrongly accused, it also tends to reward the other 999 who are in fact guilty as hell.
Those 999 individuals deserve swift and harsh justice that allows the punishment to fit the crime — an eye for an eye, as the Bible states. Their cases need to be handled in a way that warns others: “If you kill someone, this is the harsh fate that awaits.”
Sad to say, that is not the message being sent now under a system more concerned with providing “due process” to criminals than striking fear in them about the consequences of cold-blooded murder.
Where was the due process for Donald Claude Arnder?
Tom Joyce is a reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.