I don’t have access to hard statistics on this, but I would guess that there was more than one gun-related crime in Des Moines, Iowa on March 27, 2008. Not hundreds of gun-related crimes, to be sure — this is Des Moines, not Detroit, after all — but likely more than one. But the only one I’ve heard about is the attempted armed robbery of James William Spiers III.
Spiers is a pizza delivery man who was out on an order when an assailant put a pistol to his head and demanded that Spiers hand over his money. Spiers reportedly grabbed the gun from his assailant, pulled his own weapon, and fired, hitting the would-be robber no fewer than three times.
Spiers himself was unharmed. He called the police, who took a report and later arrested a man with multiple gunshot wounds who had called for medical help. But after the incident, Spiers received another shock: Pizza Hut was suspending him for violating a company policy against delivery drivers carrying weapons. Spiers was out of a job.
A fair number of electronic and print media outlets have been covering this story. Rather than the attempted robbery itself, it is Spiers’ suspension and the company policy behind it that account for the attention this case has garnered. The comments of readers responding to Spiers’ story at numerous internet sites are nearly as hostile toward the pizza guy’s employer as they are toward his assailant.
Summoning a pizza delivery man and then holding a gun to his head and demanding money is certainly no joke. Many people would sympathize with Spiers and ask themselves if they would have acted any differently in his situation; most would probably say they would have done the same.
But as a Des Moines resident — who like many people across the country frequently exercises my God-given right to order pizza and have it delivered to my door at any hour by a stranger — this is where I start to get almost as wary of the delivery guy as I am of the alleged assailant. They’ve both got guns, and neither is afraid to use them. Lots of people would say that is a good thing. All I’m saying is if that’s true, it is too much of a good thing.
To those who would respond that the best solution to the problems posed by the prevalence of guns is to increase the prevalence of guns, I would refer you to another shooting incident. This one didn’t receive as much public notice as the one involving James Spiers.
David Powell, a guy I sang with in my church choir in high school, had a twin brother named John. Both were smart, funny, and well-liked kids. David eventually became a Sheriff’s Deputy, a job he held for 18 years, and which required him to be an expert with firearms of every description. While on duty the morning of November 30, 2002, David Powell responded to a call to investigate gunshots in a neighborhood. He arrived to see an armed man burst into a home and take a woman hostage. Kicking in the door to try to rescue the hostage, David was fired upon twice, one of the bullets hitting him in the right arm and passing through the opening of his bullet-proof vest to lodge in his chest. David Powell died 90 minutes later in the trauma center of the hospital where I was born. The man who killed David Powell was himself shot and killed at the scene by other law enforcement officers. The hostage escaped unharmed.
My point is that despite whatever an individual’s depth of experience and proficiency with firearms, there comes a point at which countering guns with guns becomes little more than Russian Roulette. I’ve got to think there are better public safety options than that.
Which brings me back to ordering pizza. Among the internet reader comments on James Spiers’ story are more than a few urging a boycott against Pizza Hut. I don’t think a boycott, per se, will be necessary. More likely, the next time I think about ordering pizza, part of me will be reminded that the delivery guy may be armed, and I’ll hear a whisper of Dirty Harry’s own voice asking, “Do I feel lucky?”
So I won’t be doing any boycotting. But wondering whether the pizza delivery guy trotting up my walk is packing heat along with my pepperoni isn’t likely to do my appetite any favors.
Dave Musgrove is a Democratic voter and blogger. Dave’s own political blog can be found at http://ipol-2008.blogspot.com.