Attempted murder disguised as self-defense

A string of ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ shootings reignite debates on U.S. self-defense laws

Editorial Board

According to the Gun Violence Archive, 2023 has been an extremely deadly year for the United States — 13,022 deaths as a result of gun violence have already occurred. This is a nation where doing the mundane tasks of life can lead to injury or death for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A string of shootings in the past week has taken the spotlight out of the tens, if not hundreds, of shootings that occur weekly across the nation because of their relation to “stand your ground” and other self-defense laws. 

On the night of April 13, Ralph Yarl was sent to pick up his younger siblings from a friend’s house around 10 p.m. A wrong address and doorbell ring later, Yarl was shot twice — once in the head and once in the arm — by 84-year-old Andrew Lester, according to the Associated Press. No words were exchanged between the two before Lester opened fire on the teen, shooting Yarl through his front door. 

Lester was taken into custody by Kansas City Police, where he was held for 24 hours and then released pending charges.

This shooting has garnered national attention and has emboldened discussion around the U.S. self-defense laws — specifically “Stand Your Ground” laws that are more popular in conservative states. 

According to NPR, a similar incident occurred in Elgin, Texas, where two high school cheerleaders were shot after entering the wrong car in an H-E-B parking lot. The shooting has also garnered attention around the nation for its similarity and close occurrence to the Yarl shooting in Kansas City. 

These shootings, while seemingly isolated, represent a disturbing trend in the evolution of the gun violence pandemic in the United States. Individuals — emboldened by strong self-defense laws and politicians who will defend them relentlessly — are beginning to adopt a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Ringing a doorbell should not land you in the hospital with a gunshot wound, nor should mistaking the wrong car for your own in a parking lot. People who shoot first and ask questions later should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law; not asking questions should not allow you to get away with murder.