The Cost of Living

This past week in Charlotte, North Carolina, an armed robbery at a Seven Eleven convenience store was derailed by a customer carrying a legally concealed weapon. According to initial reports, Brenna Harris and Qwanterrius Stafford entered the Seven Eleven with ski masks and armed with a handgun. After robbing the [still unidentified] customer, the pair turned their attention to the store clerk, at which point said customer opened fire, fatally wounding Stafford and injuring Harris.

Stafford was sixteen. Harris is seventeen.

Across various Charlotte-based Facebook sites, the reaction to this story has been largely unanimous: Good riddance. I love a happy ending. That will teach them. Another thug off the street.

The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Lost in the celebration is the question of the dollar amount that Stafford and Harris would have made off with if their heist attempt was successful. Though there are no exact figure listed, we can make an educated guess.

The Loot:

  • iPhone x 2 (one each from the customer and the store clerk) ~ $700
  • Wallet x 2 (one each from the customer and the store clerk) ~ $200
  • Cash register money ~ $200

Obviously these are just estimations, and the actual figure could be higher if either the customer or the clerk had a new iPhone 10 or was carrying a large amount of cash on their person. Conversely, the number could also be significantly lower if either phone was old or in poor condition, or if either man was not carrying cash.

But, for the purposes of this experiment, let’s go with the original amounts I posted… so eleven-hundred dollars worth of stuff, total. Most of it cash.

$1100 is, according to this situation, the approximate value of a human life. Factor in a slight improvement to aim, and that value could have very easily been halved to $550 per human life.

Five hundred and fifty dollars. Or less than half the cost of a new iPhone.

Good riddance. I love a happy ending.

Except, was it? A sixteen year old is dead. A deeply-troubled sixteen year old, sure, but still a sixteen year old. What were you like when you were sixteen? Did you ever do some stupid shit?

There is no excuse or justification for attempting an armed robbery, regardless of the age, race, or circumstances of the accused. Stupid games win stupid prizes, etc. But rather, the questions we should be asking are as follows:

  • Did that kid deserve to die?
  • Should we celebrating on social media that he did?

Harris and Stafford had their backs turned to the customer when he [the customer] opened fire. The customer has said he attacked because the duo had just pushed their handgun in his face, and that he still felt his life was in danger. As a gun owner who has carried before, I cannot say that I would not have done the same thing in a similar panic.

Does that make it right? I’m not in a position to claim either way, and I don’t want the focus to be on the terrifying circumstances of the event and a choice that the vast majority of us will never be forced to make.

Instead, I want to go back to the reactions, the jubilant Facebook posts. Another thug off the streets.

A sixteen year old was killed over an extremely ill-advised and criminal attempt to rob a convenience store. And yet, in the court of law, armed robbery is not something that results in the death penalty. Stealing some petty cash, and eleven-hundred dollars is petty cash, does not result in the death penalty.

And people celebrate, it’s a feel good story if you like guns. After all, that’s the narrative, isn’t it? A good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun. Nevermind that the same laws that allowed the customer to carry a gun also resulted in Stafford and Harris being able to get their hands on one too. Yeah, sixteen and seventeen year olds aren’t able to buy a gun, I know, but that pistol had to legally start its journey somewhere in the Land of the Free.

People celebrate because a kid is dead, another victim of the endless gun violence in this country, and it makes us feel safe, right? From the refuge of our gated communities we can look down upon these grim realities of life for those struggling in forgotten communities, communities that we only hear about when there is news like this, and we can all thumb our noses and think good-fucking-riddance to another dead thug, right?

Eleven-hundred dollars is the cost of living in West Charlotte, in case anyone was wondering.