Planned pardon in fatal shooting is the GOP's latest retreat from law and order

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS)

Apparently, it’s open season on Black Lives Matter protesters in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t even bother waiting for the sentencing of a man convicted of shooting and killing a protester supporting the movement before announcing he plans to pardon the shooter. Never mind that a jury has unanimously determined that the shooting was not, as the man claims, in self-defense. The case confirms yet again that the GOP’s once-consistent stance for law and order is now politically situational. It also spotlights the dangerous environment red states have created with stand-your-ground laws and open-carry permissiveness on guns.

Most of the facts aren’t in dispute. During a July 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Austin over the killing of George Floyd that summer, Daniel Perry drove his car into the crowd. Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster approached the car. Both men were white military veterans and, under Texas’ wide-open gun laws, both were legally carrying firearms. Foster had an AK-47 rifle strapped to his chest and Perry had a handgun in his car.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during the Houston Region Business Coalition's monthly meeting on Oct. 27, 2021, in Houston, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images/TNS)

Perry fired five shots at Foster, then sped off, then later turned himself in. He maintained at trial that Foster pointed the rifle at him. That assertion was disputed by witnesses and called into question by Perry’s own interview with police, in which he told them he fired because “I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me.” The fact that Perry had earlier posted social-media comments expressing his desire to shoot protesters didn’t bolster his claim of self-defense.

The jury convicted Perry of murder Friday. Abbott was urged to intervene by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others who apparently believe the “culture wars” metaphor should be made literal. On Saturday, Abbott obliged, announcing on Twitter that he would begin the process of pardoning Perry. His strained reasoning was that “Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand your ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or progressive district attorney.”

The jury didn’t nullify Texas’ stand-your-ground law, it merely found — based on a trial the jurors sat through and Abbott didn’t — that that law didn’t apply here because Perry’s claim of self-defense wasn’t believable. It’s unlikely Abbott thinks that anyone who shoots another person is automatically protected by that law. Maybe that dynamic applies only when the victim was a member of a left-leaning political organization and Tucker Carlson is heckling from the sidelines.

Republicans in red states like Texas and Missouri have made this kind of dangerous confrontation more likely, with open-carry laws that introduce firearms into social conflicts and stand-your-ground laws that give self-styled Rambos legal footing to use them. Granting pardons based on the political leanings of the victims was perhaps the inevitable next phase of this deadly project.

— From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS).