Michigan Court Case Puts 'Brandishing' Charges On Trial

Anytime you pull your firearm, you’ve got potential problems. There are a thousand different things running through your head at that moment, and whether you should or shouldn’t be pulling this gun is just one of them. When your life is on the line, though, there’s no time for second-guessing things.

However, a woman in Michigan claims she pulled her gun out in self-defense, but the police charged her with brandishing a gun. The fact that she was a black woman only made this case more fraught as it came on the wake of several high-profile self-defense shootings where those shooters walked away, and this woman was being prosecuted. Especially after she was convicted.

Recently, though, justice was served when she was released after an appeal.

As David French explains over at the National Review, we should all be happy with this outcome.

Yesterday the Michigan Court of Appeals threw out her conviction. It didn’t hold that the jury got the outcome wrong but rather that it didn’t have a true opportunity to get it right. It was improperly instructed on the law, and the trial court placed too high a burden on Ra to justify her decision to brandish her weapon.

French provides more background on the case, for those interested, but the overall point was that the idea she’d crossed a line by trying to prevent an attack wasn’t allowed in court.

The woman, Siwatu-Salama Ra, brandished her gun after she says another woman slammed into her car intentionally as part of a dispute. In my book, that constitutes justification for being fearful that more violence would ensue. Pulling a firearm to dissuade such an attack makes sense.

The kicker is that the weapon wasn’t even loaded.

Now, granted, one should always treat a firearm as if it’s loaded, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ra was apparently trying to prevent an attack by pulling her weapon.

Whether it was justified by that standard or not–I wasn’t there and didn’t see all the evidence–was something the court should have looked at. As French noted, though, that’s not what the jury was instructed to consider and that was a travesty. Ra is free today, and that is a win for everyone. Why? Because if we can’t use our gun in self-defense, if the burden of proof remains on us to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that we had no choice, people are going to be hesitant to act in self-defense.

In that kind of situation, hesitation could kill.

The appeals court may not realize it, but they may well have saved lives by releasing Ra.