Ralph Yarl Shooting Has Nation Debating Race and Gun Laws. Again.
Photo: Maria Lysenko / Unsplash

Ralph Yarl Shooting Has Nation Debating Race and Gun Laws. Again.

Missouri's stand-your-ground law was already being criticized before the 16-year-old was shot last week

The story of 16-year-old Ralph Paul Yarl, a Black teenager who was shot in Kansas City, Missouri, last week after inadvertently ringing the wrong doorbell, has blown up across the nation. The teen was attempting to pick up his younger twin brothers and went to the wrong address; he was shot twice by an 84-year-old white resident, who apparently opened fire only a few seconds after seeing Yarl at his door.

Yarl is alive. He's recovering at home with family and is doing well given the circumstances.

As of this writing, almost $3 million has been raised in a GoFundMe to cover Yarl's medical expenses.

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Yet across the country, parents are having hard conversations with their kids and once again, racial discrimination in the U.S. and lax gun laws are part of the discussion. Prosecutors who will be pursuing the case say there's a "racial component" to the shooting and in Missouri, protesters have already been on the streets, voicing their opposition to the state's "stand your ground" law.

The Kansas City Star reports, "anger has been building in the wake of the shooting, in part because of a sense among Democrats, gun control activists and some residents that the state’s gun laws have contributed to an atmosphere where residents feel too comfortable pulling the trigger." It's unclear if the state's stand your ground law will come into play in the Yarl case; the defendant's lawyers would need to use that defense in court. Missouri and Kansas have both seen gun homicides increase since these types of laws were passed.

Yarl's family immigrated to the U.S. from Liberia to flee violence and found it instead in the middle of the United States. Yarl's aunt has described the incident as a hate crime and activists are expecting the case to be argued as a civil rights case; the family has already brought on civil rights attorneys to represent them.

We'll be hoping for Yarl's speedy recovery and for justice to get served.

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