In anticipation of his upcoming eleventh birthday, Shawn Moore of Carneys Point, New Jersey, bought his son Josh, a spiffy new .22 rifle manufactured to look like an assault weapon. He then took the photo of Josh that you see above, and proudly posted it on Facebook. According to Mr. Moore, someone claiming to be a neighbor saw the photo and anonymously reported him to the Carneys Point Police and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, (DCF) because they feared there might be unsecured guns in the Moore home that the children could access. Acting on that complaint, a representative of DCF, with an escort of police dressed in riot gear, pushed their way into the Moore’s home and conducted a warrantless search, looking for guns. Moore says police demanded he open his gun safe, threatening to take his children into protective custody if he refused, but that he called their bluff.
It could have happened that way, right?
I am not normally an overly skeptical person. I don’t think George Bush knew about the Twin Towers ahead of time, or that Dick Cheney has the heart of a Bagram prisoner beating in his chest, but I have been having a hard time convincing myself that Mr. Moore’s story is exactly as advertised. It’s not just that the complaining source is anonymous. I could understand and sympathize if there really were a neighbor fearful of making a charge against a family so enamored of guns that they gave one to their ten-year-old. It isn’t just that Mr. Moore didn’t wait for Josh’s birthday to give him his birthday gift, though that is usually the custom. It isn’t the serendipitous happenstance that Mr. Moore had handy the phone number to an attorney specializing in Second Amendment issues, or that he was able to get him instantly on the phone at 9:00 in the evening, when he was informed by his wife that the police were at his house. It isn’t even that Mr. Moore and his son were sitting on the sofa complaining of police overreach before you could say FOX and Friends. My problem is, I can’t believe any father who loves his son would buy that particular gun for him, at this particular time, except to make a political statement, and perhaps even to try to manufacture “proof” to substantiate the paranoid fear so many gun enthusiasts seem to harbor; the government is coming for their guns.
Take a look at that photo of Josh and his early birthday present. He looks like a friendly kid. It’s hard not to smile back at his “look what my dad bought me” grin. Now age Josh 5 years in your imagination. Not such a congenial image is it? How is a teenager who looks like he has an assault weapon going to be perceived by all the trigger-happy George Zimmermans out there, or by a policeman who might think he’s outgunned? There was a reason we made it illegal to sell toy guns that look like the genuine article. Just carrying that weapon from the house to the car would be a greater risk than carrying a .22 that looks like a .22. I understand completely why a bank robber would want that particular gun, but choosing that weapon for your pre-teen son in the wake of Sandy Hook seems like a very odd choice to me, especially for a father who claims to be a gun safety instructor. Why would you ever choose for your 10-year-old, a gun that was even a shade less safe to own than another model, unless you were looking for a confrontation?
Moore’s lawyer, gun advocate Evan Nappen, has been full of bluster about suing the police and DCF for what he called their “overreaction,” even though he knows New Jersey law says DCF MUST respond to any complaint that a child may be in danger. Is it his contention an unarmed case worker, warned that an assault weapon may be in the hands of a child, should have knocked politely and inquired if it were true? In a post he made to the Delaware Open Carry Forum, Moore complains that the investigating DCF worker would not identify herself or show her ID. He never considers that any social worker investigating a report of a child with an assault rifle has good reason to consider an uncooperative parent to be a possible danger. Nappen also made the preposterous observation that Josh’s exceptional gun safety skills are evidenced by the fact his finger is not on the trigger in the photo his dad took. He’s ten. That’s like saying, a ten-year-old behind the wheel of an Indy car could be shown to be a competent driver by noting that his hands were in the 10 and 2 positions. But the most telling statement by Nappen was his assertion that the police response “taps on a lot of fears that law abiding gun owners have, that they will be subject to an irrational raid by the government.” I think we have a winner. And I think that paranoid sentiment was exactly what Moore and Nappen had planned to arouse from the outset.
Because of Shawn Moore’s complaints, Governor Christie has asked the New Jersey Attorney General to look into the Moore incident. I hope the investigators not only scrutinize the response of the police and DCF, but the actions of Shawn Moore that brought them to his door. I think Moore bought that gun not because Josh was coming up on a birthday, but because he was looking for exactly what he got, a reaction he could use to influence the gun debate. I think Moore callously used his son as police bait. I think his “gun blindness” kept him from considering what his scheme might do to Josh: the friends he might lose, the parents who would no longer allow their own children to associate with him, or visit the Moore’s home. I also think there are very few law abiding parents who would risk having their kids put into the system rather than cooperate with police, but after reading his own description of the police visit, I am convinced Shawn Moore, like Gollum with his “Precious,” would have let his children be taken by DCF rather than show them his precious guns.
Things are not always what they seem. What’s wrong with this picture?