Once upon a time, I played basketball. I wasn’t a good basketball player, but because of school rules, I was still on the varsity team my senior year. I was the last guy off the bench, but we were a pretty good team so I got to play a fair bit.
One game, I got to play more than usual because we were crushing the other team horribly. I got the ball and sank my shot and the crowd erupted. They liked seeing the school geek score. Then I nailed another basket and started getting cocky. I made my fingers into the shape of a gun and did the whole “six-gun” thing with them.
It was stupid and arrogant, especially from a kid who sucked at the sport, but I was young and stupid.
If I did that today, at least in some parts of Pennsylvania, I apparently could be charged with a crime.
A Pennsylvania court ruled Tuesday that making a “gunlike hand gesture” is a crime after a man made the hand motion during an argument with his neighbor — an act which reportedly made several nearby residents nervous and prompted a call to police.
Stephen Kirchner, 64, made the gesture toward his neighbor in Manor Township in June 2018, according to surveillance video. Kirchner, walking alongside a female neighbor, “stopped, made eye contact with [the male neighbor] and then made a hand gesture at him imitating the firing and recoiling of a gun,” according to court documents.
Now, in fairness, the context was different from my youthful arrogance. For example, Kirchner and the neighbor had apparently had some confrontations in the past. That context does explain how someone might find the gesture threatening.
However, the problem with the gesture really seems to be that it wasn’t useful or something.
The 64-year-old was found guilty, but appealed, arguing the hand gesture didn’t “create a hazardous or physically offensive condition.” Kirchner said he didn’t mean to cause public alarm, and there wasn’t really any harm done to the neighbor or others.
On Tuesday, however, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania found the gesture “served no legitimate purpose, and recklessly risked provoking a dangerous altercation.”
It served no legitimate purpose? Seriously?
Singing Macarena at the top of my lungs while I’m showering–don’t judge me–doesn’t serve a legitimate purpose either, especially with my singing voice. Are we going to make that illegal? (Just don’t ask my wife for her opinion. If so, I’m going to prison.)
Look, there’s no doubt Kirchner’s gesture was inappropriate and probably misguided. However, I fail to see how it rises to the level of disorderly conduct in any sane world. As Kirchner noted in his appeal, it didn’t cause a public disruption and no one was actually harmed. It was a gesture and arguably was a more polite one than the gesture the neighbor gave him.
So what really happened here? Why is this even an issue?
At play here, at least in my opinion, is that people are so completely on edge that they see everything as a threat. The wrong word here, a gesture there, everything is a threat.
Now, some of his vigilance is good. It’s how potential mass shooters are stopped. However, that vigilance can go too far as people become hypersensitive to anything and everything, even harmless gestures.
The world has gone mad and we’re still stuck living in it.
Hat tip: PJ Media