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Gun Control or Self Control

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by bobafett, Jan 13, 2013.

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  1. bobafett

    bobafett New Member

    We are approaching the 20th anniversary of a shooting that effected my life a great deal. Vern Smalley shot and killed Carmen Tagliere III after an altercation due to a Road Rage incident. With all of the talk of gun control recently I have been thinking about this issue for some time, and the events that took place back in 1993 crept back into my memory after many years of dormancy.

    The original newspaper article is here.

    I found a post on this site from Mr. Smalley where he outlined his defense for all to see. In one regard I admire the man for addressing the issue and offering his side of things. In another regard, the victim of his actions is no longer alive to offer a counter argument. As it stands, Mr. Smalley was acquitted of all charges.

    One statement which encompasses the entire issue of the events of that day is the Mr. Smalley made a mistake. He never should have stopped his vehicle. He was in no position to "teach a lesson" to an enraged teenager, and I will offer my respect that he acknowledged that fact. What was not realized by many is the severity of that mistake.

    You did not spill a glass of milk sir. You killed another human being. This other human being was unarmed. I concede your actions were made in self defense, but you should have never put yourself in that position in the first place. You are not a superhero, nor were you the father to a boy that needed guidance. Your background and achievements should have prepared you to make a more mature decision. Instead you offered your guidance in the form of a slug to the chest.

    I am not a legal expert, so I suppose the question here is a philosophical one. If you willingly enter a dangerous situation with the intention of having to defend yourself with lethal force, does that constitute self defense?

    I am completely in favor of the second amendment and I believe in the value of self protection in the form of firearms. What I am not in favor of is allowing the firearm to become an extension of your ego. Mr. Smalley may have made a much different choice had he not been carrying a handgun that day. Instead he was comforted by his choice of protection and made the conscious decision to enter into a violent confrontation.

    I find it hard to swallow the fact that this willing participant received no punishment for his conduct. He stated that he was unable to contact the authorities because of the lack of technology. Unfortunately some of us grew up in Colorado Springs, and we know the area quite well.

    What Mr. Smalley will not divulge is that he was within a mile of the gate to the air force base. There is ALWAYS military personnel at the gate, and they have access to telephones. The victim was driving back to his high school which was on the base and they easily could have handled the situation. Mr. Smalley had no business taking matters into his own hands. The result of this is the loss of a young life.

    Many people applauded the actions of Mr. Smalley that day. He defended himself as any good gun owner should. Unfortunately this incident did not have to happen, and I am certain there are other situations similar to this one. I hope other gun owners can manage their egos better than he did and avoid confrontation as opposed to rushing in with guns blazing.

    It seems a few gun owners simply have itchy trigger fingers. They not only expect to use their weapons, the actively seek situations in which to do so. Right now the situation is quite delicate and we do not need any more rouge vigalantes out there giving weight to the issue of more or stricter gun control.

    As responsible firearms enthusiasts, we need to use our heads, not our arms.

    Yes, as a responsible gun owner you should be willing to protect themselves and others with lethal force. Yes, you should be able to do so without infringement on your rights. My hope is that you will only use this power as an absolute last resort. Not all confrontations have to end in tragedy.

    As for Mr. Smalley, I have forgiven you for what happened that day. Just know that it was not just one life that was taken because of your mistake. The ripples of that day spread very far, and damaged people in ways no one can comprehend. The pain exists still, even 20 years later.

    R.I.P Carmen Tagliere III
    Aug. 5, 1975 - Apr. 21, 1993
  2. MOHunter

    MOHunter Member

    I couldn't get the news paper link to work so I did a search and found this recount of the story. I wanted more information. Looks like an assault took place before the shooting.

    One day in April of 1993, 17 yr. old Carmen Tagliere III and a buddy were racing some friends to school in his car along the roads of Colorado. While trying to get around one vehicle, he almost ran the guy off of the road with a very deep drop off of the shoulder down to a rocky bottom some thirty feet below. Vern Smalley, the driver of the vehicle became incensed over the incident and sped up to take the lead again just as the two vehicles were approaching the freeway on ramp. Instead of getting on the freeway, Vern, 52, pulled off the road onto a turnout and waved the high school students to follow. Vern was really going to let the kid know what he thought of his driving that morning. Carmen obliged, turned off as well, parked ahead of Vern, left his passenger in the car and got out to confront Vern.

    Carmen came charging back to Vern's vehicle, angry and frustrated. Vern was upset and annoyed.

    When I first heard this story, I was in Colorado and knew the area, knew which high school the kid went to, knew where the other guy had worked, was familiar with most of the details. What do you think at this point? My first thought was: teenage high school students drive like idiots the world around. So what? Did Vern really think he was going to set the kid straight just by lecturing him on his poor driving habits? And what about Carmen? What was he thinking? Was he going to yell at the old guy and tell him to get off the <deleted> road! cause he wanted to drive by and race his buddies? It struck me that neither party had a rational plan in place and that therefore there wasn't really a reason to pull over and engage further with each other. But they did. Couldn't Carmen have just gone on to school? Couldn't Vern just taken down the plate number and called the police and complained? Of course they could have, but they didn't.

    According to his testimony, Vern pulled his loaded .357 S&W revolver out of the glove box and put it in his lap until he determined that Carmen did not have a weapon. Carmen charged up to the car and immediately began punching Vern in the face and side of the head, breaking his glasses and possibly knocking him out. Then he walked away from the car. Stopped, and returned. This time he climbed halfway into the car through the open driver's side window and began punching Vern again. Only Vern had slumped over to the right, the passenger side and for Carmen to keep hitting him, he needed to get halfway into the car. Oops. The gun went off, although Vern isn't saying if it was deliberate or not, and tore a hole in Carmen's chest through the left lung and the major artery coming from the heart. He left the car, staggered off toward his vehicle, collapsed, and died.

    Now what do you think? Fault? Blame? Terrible tragedy? Hot headed kid meets vigilante Charles Bronson wannabe?

    Turns out neither party was exactly a saint. Vern turned out to be a retired Air Force officer that decided to engage with the kid that day for whatever reason. The kid turned out to be an angry bully, kicked out of schools, malls and with a police record for threatening to kill other students.

    Regardless, Vern was charged with 2nd degree murder, manslaughter.

    Vern Smalley was acquited of all charges and sent home, he didn't spend a single minute in jail.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2013
  3. Screamin'Eagle

    Screamin'Eagle Well-Known Member

    This discussion has come up on here before. There is no point in rehashing it unless someone would like to use it as support for a new argument.
  4. boatmanschneider

    boatmanschneider Well-Known Member

    Sounds like the courts made the right decision.
  5. mnrivrat

    mnrivrat Well-Known Member

    Some folks would not consider this the behavior of a "victim" .

    And just how would he have been able to predict the level of violence that Carmen producted ?

    I get your point and agree that with more thought put into the events of that day the situation could have been avoided. Hind sight is usualy 20/20 and its not always easy to do the most correct thing for all situations, every day.

    I disagree with calling Carmen the victim ,other than him being the victim of his own behavior in a sense.
  6. brboyer

    brboyer Well-Known Member

    Humm, attack someone, get shot! Hot headed violent punk DRT. I don't see an issue here. :confused:
  7. pa350z

    pa350z Well-Known Member

    Run-Hide-Fight is my mind set if I am armed.
  8. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Interesting rehash of the old discussion.

    We universally say the first step to self-defense is to AVOID. Anyone who does not do whatever they can to AVOID a situation that has every indication it could escalate into violence is FAILING the first step to self-defense.

    Clearly Mr. Smalley did indeed fail. In some states, places, and situations he could have shared some of the legal culpability for the death of the other party in that his actions directly contributed to the escalation of the situation. "Mutual combatants" do not get to claim self-defense.

    The other thing to take away from this is that, laws aside, there are no guarantees when you tee off to straighten someone else out. This could have ended in several ways, and Mr. Smalley clearly came close to serious injury or death HIMSELF at the hands of a violent individual who deserved every bit of what came to him in the end. Very fortunately, Mr. Smalley was able to defend himself effectively. And the world is clearly better for having fewer out-of-control bullies in it, and no sympathy can be extended to the deceased. He reaped, he sowed. Q.E.D.

    But Mr. Smalley's case does indeed exist as a serious warning to every one of us who go armed. We are the meek ones, the patient ones, the long-suffering. We do not rise to the bait. We do not "settle someone's hash." We retreat, back off, and do all we can to avoid violence, because if we allow ourselves to be pushed to the point of having to use force, someone's life is likely to end.
  9. danez71

    danez71 Well-Known Member

    This reminds me of the Zimmerman case.
  10. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    I would hope that I would AVOID the whole affair if I were in the same position. This is something I am not comfortable even posting. But here goes.

    This is not a game. You assault somebody and put their life in danger. Expect that the injured party WILL DEFEND themselves.

    There are no rules in fights and there is no such thing as "fighting like a man".

    My suggestion.... don't pick fights with older guys. They know that they often can't or won't stand toe to toe with an enraged 21 year old man or woman. They will often do what is necessary to defend themselves. This has been true for a long time even before the surge in popularity of concealed carry permits.

    The problem here it seems is that Mr. Smalley had already been assaulted through use of a motor vehicle. I hope for myself that you find peace. And Yes, I see that there could be a question about self defense. Many lives are affected by acts of violence whether they be judged "in the right" or not. One needs to think about that.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  11. swathdiver

    swathdiver Well-Known Member

  12. bobafett

    bobafett New Member

    Like I said, you don't have the other side of the story. You have the version given by the survivor of the confrontation, not the victim. This is not an issue of what the courts decided. This is an issue of avoiding the situation in the first place.

    Are you to tell me that I can come to your house, provoke you into hitting me, then I can shoot you in self defense? So long as I have witnesses to attest to the fact that you assaulted me that makes it okay for me to provoke you into a confrontation for the sole purpose of being able to use my firearm?
  13. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    If someone hits me in my house, I have to make a judgement about the situation. One reactive choice would be lethal force. As you said... self control.

    Why on earth would you hit me? I would view someone hitting me as a threat to my life. Nobody has hit me since I was in like 3rd grade with the intent on hurting me. Bully! I didn't like it much then and I don't like it now. I wish that one person who hit me the worst that life can sling at them. Today, many years later.... if that same person did that, I would respond immediately with lethal force.
  14. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Well-Known Member

    He was not a victim. He was the agressor. No sympathy here.

    I now refer you to my signature.
  15. Coop45

    Coop45 Well-Known Member

    So the dead guy told you the other side of the story? Sounds to me like he got his just reward.
  16. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Well-Known Member

    But "the other side of the story" is a comprehensive one.

    There is more to any story than just the instants involved in the incident.

    It would appear that, sadly, Carmine had quite a violent history of his own, evidence that his chosen path in life was on quite a violent road already.

    I agree that this particular scenario illustrated a path that should not have been taken by Vern, with respect to chasing after and getting Carmine to pull over. However, even having taken that path, the mutual actions taken by BOTH parties should not have ended up in a violent altercation even after pulling over. There is still a mutual responsibility.

    Carmine was no innocent. He not only took an action which, had it resulted in running Vern off a 30 foot embankment to his death, could have resulted in a criminal conviction for vehicular manslaughter, he had a violent history which included death threats to peers and expulsion from school(s).

    That this particular incident could have been avoided is sad.

    However, in the overall scheme of things, Carmine's direction in life was far from that of an "innocent babe" and was actively headed towards a violent end anyway.

    Sadly, we'll never know if Carmine would have later turned his life around. But the fact remains that he had an active role in determining his own destiny. And that destiny cost him, and his family, dearly.
  17. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator


    Once again, there are two points to take away here:

    1) AVOID. Do not willingly engage in an angry and clearly potentially violent confrontation with another person if there is any other way out of the situation. Mr. Smalley failed to do this. That is a shame, a failure, and HE nearly paid with his life. As it is, he faced the SECOND WORST outcome of any such situation: having to shoot and kill another human being, and to live with all the many and varied consequences of that event.

    2) The legal aspects set completely aside for the moment, WHEN YOU SET UPON YOUR FELLOW MAN WITH VIOLENT INTENT, YOUR LIFE IS FORFEIT. It may not be lawful. He may not have the legal right to kill you. HE MAY DO SO ANYWAY. He may spend his life in prison for the act, but you will be dead, and few will be those who shed a tear over your corpse if you reap what you've sown.

    Look at it this way: Mr. Smalley appears to have been a somewhat hot tempered man, but more or less "law abiding." Young Carmen had no idea who he was going to go and try to brutalize. He gambled that Mr. Smalley was a weaker man who he could beat down with impunity. For all he knew Mr. Smalley might have been an accomplished martial artist, an off-duty cop, an ex-con gang member who'd already committed a handful of murders, an elderly grandfather who would die at the first blow to the head, or ... surprise, surprise, and armed citizen who ended young Carmen's little career of brutality.

    His family must have been quite sad. And, unless they were willfully ignorant, they probably knew it was coming. Some of them probably breathed a sigh of relief that the violence he brought into all their lives was finally over.

    But when someone like that removes himself from society, only the immediate family grieves. The rest of society sees the world as a brighter place rid of the social cancer his actions represented.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  18. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    This is a lesson that I tell young kids who are bullies. There is nobody in life that you remember with more disdain. It makes no difference if they are doing it to a family member or not. They are doing it to someone who can not adequately defend themselves. I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade, and the kid was in the 5h or 6th...

    Apply that to life as you age. You grow up and get strong. You live your life honestly and with high regard to others. As you age, you begin to be weaker again and potentially a victim. Guns make defending yourself a lot easier under the right circumstances.

    All circumstances are subject to review by law enforcement. That is the way our system works.

    This is about the way I see things. Treat your fellow man with compassion, understanding and respect. But if someone is out to hurt you, there are no doors that are closed to you as the victim regardless of the law. Law enforcement will not help you unless you are a famous person. Afterwards, the law can sort things out. I refuse to be a victim if I have any control over my situation at all.

    I don't know exactly how this applies to this thread, but it is a statement about life and the realities of life.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  19. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Well-Known Member

    Would the opinions expressed here be any different if Mr. Smalley were a retired police officer? An off-duty police officer?

    Did Mr. Smalley lose his right of self-defense when he chose to assert his right to be safe on a public road? I am sorry that reporting a moving violation to the police just does not get it. Without damage, civil remedies do not exist. Without a police witness, a traffic ticket is vanishingly rare. The only reasonably likely remedy to Mr. Smalley was to complain directly to Mr. Tagliere, either then or later (or to his parents perhaps). That he did not choose the latter was a mistake in judgement, but hardly forseeable as a prelude to a life threatening conclusion.

    It is tragic when anyone dies. Miscreant or innocent. I do not know what compelled the prosecution to make the decision to charge Mr. Smalley, but the jury (in possession of more of the relevant facts than we have) found him not guilty.

    I weep for Mr. Tagliere, his family and for his lost potential. I feel badly for the trouble Mr. Smalley endured and for his probable pain for having taken a life. I do not regret his acquittal.

    Having said that, after examining the story here, I would be less likely to repeat his actions in similar circumstances. The wise man learns from his mistakes. The truly wise learns from the mistakes of others. This thread is worth the space.

    Lost Sheep
  20. 9MMare

    9MMare Well-Known Member

    From the sound of it, Mr. Smalley also may have saved many others from living with tragedy as well, according to the accts of the teen and his driving and aggressiveness.

    Too late for Monday morning quarterbacking here. There are consequences for our actions. I'm sure that Mr. Smalley has paid them as well. Of course the teen's family and friends will not see it as fair but those close to such teens bear some responsibility for his actions as well.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
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