A simple defensive gun use sent her to prison, but now, an appeals court has granted her freedom. Stories like Siwatu-Salama Ra’s don’t happen every day, but they occur far more often than they should.
It is always easy to criticize the left and their allies in the establishment media for their continued efforts to disarm law-abiding citizens. But what happens when a lawful owner of a firearm is wrongly accused and convicted of a crime? And what happens when those who value the 2nd Amendment ignore the story? This is the type of situation that would make the blood of any pro-gun American boil. But in this instance, it didn’t.
In 2017, Ra, an environmental activist, was involved in an incident in which she was forced to use an unloaded firearm to defend herself, her mother, her two-year-old daughter, and unborn son. The incident was an altercation between Ra and Chanell Harvey, the mother of a friend of Ra’s niece.
During the dispute, Harvey allegedly attempted to threaten Ra using her car as a “battering ram.” At this point, Ra brandished her firearm – for which she had a concealed carry permit – in an attempt to scare off Harvey. It worked. But after fleeing in her vehicle, Harvey drove to the Detroit Police department where she filed a report.
Due to what Ra’s attorney called a “parade of errors” during her trial, the mother was charged with assault and a felony firearm conviction, and sentenced to the mandatory minimum two-year sentence. To make matters worse, the judge refused her request to delay sentencing, so she could give birth to her son – despite her pregnancy being high-risk. This meant she was forced to birth in chains.
According to Attorney Wade Fink, the lawyer who represented Ra, Judge Thomas Hathaway, who presided over the case, should have asked the jury to consider Ra’s actions as a use of nondeadly force, instead of deadly force. He argued that Ra’s trial attorney should have been allowed to cross-examine Harvey, who already had a criminal record, including assault charges.
Last Tuesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed Ra’s conviction. They explained that “the trial court’s failure to give the jury instruction regarding the use of nondeadly force in self-defense was erroneous,” and that the court’s failure to give these instructions “probably affected the outcome of the case.”
In a press release, Fink said: “Siwatu acted in self-defense and if this case is brought again, we intend to prove it – this time in a fair trial where Siwatu is permitted to present a defense.” The case will proceed to the Wayne County Circuit Court. County officials will decide whether they wish to pursue another trial.
But one of the more troubling aspects of this case was the relative silence from the pro-2nd Amendment crowd. While the story was covered in detail by numerous left-leaning outlets, The National Review, Fox News, and RedState were the only major conservative news outlets who addressed the matter.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) was also remarkably silent, even though they helped craft Michigan’s Stand Your Ground law that should have protected Ra. Given the reality that firearms are used for self-defense overwhelmingly more often than they are used to commit homicide, the notion that those who defend themselves could be sent to prison is alarming. RedState’s Sarah Quinlan explained:
“This case is also one that demonstrates how, even in a Stand Your Ground state, mandatory minimum sentencing can result in lawful gun owners being sent to prison for arming and protecting themselves. And now, as a convicted felon, Ra is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.”
Of course, it is not difficult to see why left-leaning news outlets would hone in on a story such as this; it gives them the perfect opportunity to scream racism. These types of stories – even with the legal use of a firearm – are their bread and butter. It is not clear that racism was involved in this particular case, but either way, it does not adequately explain the silence on the right.
It is difficult to imagine why the NRA and conservative media would have passed on this story; it represented a potential violation of an American citizen’s right to bear arms. When a mass shooting occurs, we oppose the hard left’s cynical attempts to push for gun control. But mass shootings should not be the only time we defend the 2nd Amendment. Even smaller cases such as Ra’s are important, and those who value the Constitution can’t afford to pass them up.
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