There is a Third Choice
As the Country convulses in spasms of anger, angst and anxiety in the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd, shop keepers, restauranteurs and small business owners across the United States are being particularly hard hit. After surviving the Covid-19 government mandated shut down, these hard working Americans are facing the loss of everything they have built over a lifetime of sacrifice to roving gangs of looters and rioters bent on using the cover of legitimate protesters to promote chaos and engage in criminal behavior.
Hussein Aloshani, a Minneapolis deli owner who immigrated to the United States from Iraq, pleaded with looters “please, I don’t have insurance.” His experience was not unique. Kris Shelby of Atlanta arrived at his luxury clothing store at 5:00am last Saturday morning to find that his store had been looted and all his merchandise was gone. To add insult to injury, videos posted on social media showed masked youths of all races smashing the plate glass front windows and walking out of the store with tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise.
Kester Wubben, a black entrepreneur from Minneapolis, had saved and scrimped his whole life, working the graveyard shift seven days a week and raiding his retirement fund to achieve his lifelong goal of being his own boss. Less than a year ago he opened a printing and shipping business. The COVID-19 mandated shutdown almost destroyed the nascent business. Re-opened just a few days ago, looters accomplished what COVID-19 could not, destroying Kester Wubben’s lifelong dream.
Tony Kokozin came to the U.S. 40 years ago, fleeing civil war in Lebanon. He settled in Los Angeles and opened a high-end shoe store, offering shoes made in Italy. Saturday night, his business of 31 years was intentionally burned to the ground. Losses exceeded $450,000. After struggling for months with the COVID-19 shutdown, Kokozin is now facing economic devastation. Tony fled Lebanon to escape civil war only to fall victim to a civil war in his adopted country. Kokozin blames the city. He says that he did everything asked of him, but when it came time to protect his business, the police were nowhere to be found.
Mark Lira, co-owner of L’Opera Italian restaurant, confronted looters that were ransacking his Long Beach California restaurant that he had boarded up only hours earlier. Without an effective means of stopping the looters he was unable to keep them from stealing his appliances and raiding his wine cellar. Mark Lira had been planning on re-opening this week after months of COVID-19 shutdown. Now his future is uncertain.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands (or perhaps tens of thousands) of small business owners are facing economic ruin and severe emotional distress as hard hearted criminals engage in this reprehensible behavior. In some places, armed citizen groups have been protecting neighborhood establishments as calls to 911 go unanswered. This past weekend In Minnesota a group of armed men posted themselves outside a tobacco shop to discourage looters. “I figured that before there were cops, there were Americans. So here we are,” said one of the AR-15 toting, self-appointed security guards.
With so many armed individuals trying to hold looters at bay, it was inevitable that there would be fatal encounters. Last Wednesday night in Minneapolis, a man was fatally shot outside of Cadillac Pawn and Jewelry and later that night succumbed to his wounds. The proprietor, a 57-year old Wisconsin man was arrested and is awaiting charges as he contemplates the chain of events that landed him in the Hennipin County Jail.
Faced with this Hobson’s choice of watching your life’s work burn to the ground or defending your property with lethal force, hardworking patriotic Americans don’t know what to do. There is a third choice, however. Every time one turns on the television, they hear reporters uttering the phrases “non-lethal” and “less-lethal.” Of course they are talking about police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other non-lethal weapons systems. Police officers are trained to use a “continuum of force” ranging from voice commands (get on the ground!) to whistles, batons, pepper sprays, conductive electric devices (stun guns) and culminating in the use of deadly force in the form or their sidearm or shotgun. The concept is that officers should bring to bear only the force necessary to diffuse a situation, resorting to deadly force only when confronting deadly force.
Historically, this same continuum of force has not been available to homeowners, shop owners and other private citizens. On one end of the spectrum, private citizens have baseball bats and pepper sprays and on the other end of the spectrum handguns and long guns with nothing in between. The problem is that baseball bats and pepper sprays are close quarter combat weapons. By the time they are effective, the situation has spiraled badly out of control. Elderly and/or frail shop keepers cannot realistically be expected to fend off roving gangs of looters armed only with a baseball bats or Mace. On the other hand, using deadly force to protect one’s property will land the shopkeeper in jail facing murder (or at the very least – manslaughter) charges in most states in this Country.
We believe that the solution is CO2 fired personal security devices such as those manufactured by Byrna® Technologies, Salt Supply and PepperBall®. These handheld devices resemble a handgun to varying degrees and fire 68 caliber rounds including solid “kinetic” rounds and chemical irritant rounds containing pepper (OC) and tear gas (CS). These chemical irritant rounds, which burst on impact, will deter, disorient and disable would-be assailants and by causing temporary “blindness” and respiratory distress. These devices provide a much more meaningful safety zone than liquid pepper sprays or stun guns. The Byrna® HD, for example, is accurate at distances up to 60 feet. With no recoil, even novices can effectively target assailants before the situation escalates into hand to hand combat. Moreover, with no recoil, magazines that carry a multiple rounds and a Picatinny rail that will support a flashlight or laser sight, these are truly point and shoot devices which give store owners the ability to fend off multiple attackers before the situation gets out of hand.
These 68 caliber personal security devices provide homeowners and small business owners with a non-lethal means of protecting their families and their property. More importantly, they provide ordinary citizens with the ability to protect what is most dear to them without the risk of ending up in prison for the rest of their lives.
As America navigates its way through this crisis, everyday people will be forced to take responsibility for their own safety. Byrna Technologies and the other manufacturers of personal security devices give people a safe, effective and non-lethal way to do this.
Bryan Ganz, CEO
Byrna Technologies, Inc.