Gayle, a loyal reader and regular commenter, noted on my last post — about a recent trip that Patty and I took to Florida — that I had missed some big news stories while I was gone.
One of those was the Shawnee gun shop shootout, which left shop owner Jon Bieker dead.
Coincidentally, a day later, my friend and fellow blogger Hearne Christopher called and asked if I would do a piece for his KCconfidential.com blog about the robbery and shooting.
I agreed to do it, even though I hadn’t gone back and read the news stories about the incident. I was going mostly on what I had heard and what Hearne told me about it.
My story ran on Hearne’s website today.
Since some of you, perhaps most of you, aren’t regular KCconfidential readers, I would like to post that story here — if, for no better reason, than to show Gayle that I wasn’t ignoring one of the most shocking crime stories our area has seen in years.
So, here’s that post:
I was out of town when the Shawnee gun shop robbery and shootout took place, and I didn’t go back and read the news stories about it. From reading Hearne’s and Rich Steele’s pieces on KCconfidential, however, I see that store owner Jon Bieker’s decision to emerge from a back room during the robbery has come under close scrutiny. I’m sure that many members of the public have put themselves in his position and thought about what they would have done.
Hearne has asked me to weigh in on this, and because I’m like him – a former reporter – I am willing to offer an opinion on just about anything. (When we were at The Star, we had to repress our opinions and approach everything with fairness and even handedness in mind.)
At any rate…I don’t pretend to possess the Wisdom of Solomon on this, but I would put my chips somewhere between Hearne’s position that Bieker should have stayed in the back room and Steele’s assertion that Bieker did the right thing by coming out.
Certainly, Bieker did the right thing by coming out. It would have been a cowardly husband, indeed, who remained ensconced in the back room while his wife was getting robbed up front. In addition, I think it’s likely, as Steele propounds, that Becky Bieker got struck in the head with a weapon before the shooting started.
Once the bullets started flying, any means of attack short of firepower would have gone out the window.
But here’s where I differ from Steele: Just as it’s logical to presume that Becky Bieker was struck before the shooting began, it’s just as logical to assume that her husband emerged from the back either pointing a gun or shooting one.
That was, in all likelihood, his fatal mistake.
Yes, of course, he should have come out. But putting myself in his shoes, my first thought would have been to cooperate. A lifetime of having been advised not to resist people pointing weapons at me would have told me to come out slowly, with my hands up and palms facing forward. I would like to think I would have said, “OK, we’re not making any trouble for you. Take whatever you want — guns, money and anything else — and, please, be on your way.”
Unfortunately, being a gun owner and gun carrier, Jon Bieker wasn’t conditioned to accommodating robbers.
To me, that’s where the pro-gun, National Rifle Association philosophy that gun carrying makes for a safer society (because you have the means to get the bad guy before he gets you) falls completely apart.
We’ve all heard the tired and lame NRA refrain, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Last Friday’s incident puts the lie to that mantra. We can all understand Becky Bieker’s devastation at the loss of her husband, but her statement that “he saved my life because he carried a firearm” is, sorry to say, totally off base.
If that incident had taken place in a hobby store or a hardware store and there were no guns around, other than those in the hands of the perps, in all likelihood no one would have died.
As a police official told Hearne, “Most of the time, they (armed robbers) are just going to rob you and be on their way.”
Given the setting – a gun store — and given Jon Bieker’s predilection for taking up arms, gunplay was almost a foregone conclusion. He probably lost his life — and could have cost his wife hers — because of his philosophy and because he was packing.
Please feel free to comment, if you have thoughts about the piece.