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Gun Shop Owners Near Ferguson Profiting Off Of Racial Tension As Grand Jury Decision Nears


CNN reported on Monday that gun sales in the St. Louis area, especially near Ferguson, have spiked as anxiety builds ahead of the announcement from the St. Louis County grand jury on Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s fate. It has been over three months since Wilson shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking a series of protests that has now turned into a full-fledged activist-led movement.

The protests in the immediate aftermath of Brown’s death led to a militarized police response that prompted a debate on the appropriateness of military-style gear being utilized by local law enforcement. The reaction from the police, which included armored vehicles, tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades, to mostly nonviolent protesters was heavily criticized by many and has led to a number of lawsuits being filed. Additional criticism has been heaped on local law enforcement for its treatment of reporters and journalists (especially independent) during demonstrations. Recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Turkish photographer who was arrested after taking pictures of a police officer pointing his gun at the crowd.

Despite the fact that local police are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on additional riot gear, and it is being reported that more armored vehicles and helicopters are being brought into the area, residents of the St. Louis area are apparently more scared of unarmed activists that may demonstrate on the streets of Ferguson after a likely non-indictment of Wilson than of an overreaction from police. Local and national media outlets have been ginning up fear and anxiety regarding a reaction to the grand jury decision, claiming riots are imminent, and the area will be gripped in large-scale racial unrest.

Therefore, gun shops in the area are making money hand over fist. Per CNN’s report, Metro Shooting Supplies in nearby Bridgeton sold over 100 guns over the weekend and expects sales to be brisk moving forward. The owner said that he normally sells about 30 in a given weekend. Not only are we going to have an overblown police presence armed with assault rifles and tactical gear in and around Ferguson, but we will also have a bunch of inexperienced new gunowners packing heat and on edge. Sounds like a winning combination to me!

This really centers on the expectation by everyone in the area, regardless of individual feelings on the case, that Wilson is not going to be charged with any crime whatsoever over the shooting death of Brown. This assumption was exacerbated last month after strategic media leaks from the grand jury investigation and federal authorities close to the civil rights investigation painted a picture that Wilson would be exonerated. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch has claimed that the leaks did not come from his office.

However, McCulloch’s objectivity all along has been questioned due to his family history and his long-time support of law enforcement. In his long tenure as county prosecutor, he has a history of being lenient on officers involved in shootings that could be seen as excessive force. On Monday, McCulloch ruled that a July 5th shooting of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white officer was justified. There were no witnesses to the shooting, and the officer was the only one in his patrol car. The shooting death occurred after the victim ran from his car after wrecking it at a highway exit ramp. Per toxicology reports, the man was intoxicated at the time.

The thing is, we aren’t even talking about a trial here. If McCulloch wanted to at least let the facts come out publicly, he would have brought up charges himself on Wilson and taken this to trial. Or, at the very least, instructed the grand jury on specific charges with regards to this case. Instead, he sent this to the grand jury with no specific charges being sought. With McCulloch’s history, there is a feeling that he will manipulate the evidence in a way to justify not bringing Wilson up on anything while still making it appear that it was completely the grand jury’s decision.

So, we now have a community on edge due to a local system that is ensures law enforcement is completely protected at all times. The tension is enflamed by media coverage that either does the job for the courts and police, or goes for irresponsible sensationalism. The fact that we aren’t even talking about the possibility of Wilson being charged, or a peaceful and somber reaction by Michael Brown supports in case he isn’t, just shows how this has all shaken out.

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