Scott wrote yesterday about a tragic shooting incident in Minneapolis. At about 11:30 last Saturday night, a 40-year-old woman named Justine Damond, a native of Australia, thought she heard a sexual assault in progress in the alley behind her house. She called 911 and a Minneapolis Police Department squad car with two officers responded to her call. She left her house in her pajamas to talk to the officers. While she was standing next to the driver’s door and speaking with him, the officer in the passenger seat shot her, fatally.
The officer who shot Ms. Damond was Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American who joined the force in 2015. Bizarrely, nearly three days after the incident, we don’t know whether Noor shot Damond accidentally or on purpose. My assumption is that it was an accident resulting from almost incredibly inept handling of his firearm by Officer Noor.
If the races of the participants had been reversed, Black Lives Matter would be shutting down highways, politicians like Governor Mark Dayton would be denouncing racist police officers, and newspapers around the world would be writing about racial bias in policing. But those things are not happening. Governor Dayton, who issued incendiary denunciations of the police when the races were reversed, has declined to comment.
And newspapers are forgoing any race angle. In fact, the Washington Post published a long article on the shooting that doesn’t identify the police officer or mention the fact that he is a Somali. Instead, the Post focuses on the fact that a gun was involved, headlining: “‘AMERICAN NIGHTMARE’: Australians react to fatal police shooting in ‘very risky’ United States.” With race out of the picture, it’s all about gun control:
Nearly 9,000 miles away, in Australia — where lawmakers have passed some of the world’s most restrictive gun-control laws — people were struggling to make sense of Damond’s death.
“Why on Earth did U.S. cops kill Aussie who called for help,” the Courier-Mail, an Australian tabloid, asked on its cover.
“AMERICAN NIGHTMARE,” blared a headline on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, a Sydney newspaper.
The Australian government passed strict gun control legislation in 1996, after a gunman opened fire in a Tasmania cafe, then hunted down more people in his car, killing a total of 35 and wounding 19 others. The National Firearms Agreement banned the possession, manufacture and sale of all semiautomatic firearms and pump-action shotguns other than in “exceptional circumstances,” notably military and police use.
The article goes on and on about Australia’s gun control laws.
But wait! This makes no sense. Police officers in Australia carry guns, too. So there is no relevant difference between the laws here and the laws in Australia.
There is a hierarchy at work, obviously. If it can be about race, it’s about race. If it can’t be about race, it’s about guns. I’m not sure what comes next. How far down the line do you suppose the Post would have to go before the issue would be whether affirmative action is causing police departments to hire unqualified applicants?