Virginia shooting draws attention to local gun laws

By Emma Crutchfield, Senior Writer

CHS students have heard about 16-year-old Caleb Gordley who went out drinking with his friends in Sterling, VA March 16. At the end of the evening, he accidentally walked into the wrong house. The owners of the house shot and killed him. In the midst of a national conversation about gun rights and restrictions, this incident has CHS students talking.

According to the law in Virginia regarding defending property, if someone is in a residence without permission, then the residence’s owner has the right to defend and protect himself and his property.

“What happened to the teenager was a devastating loss,” senior Christina Lee said. “I think that his mistake of consuming alcohol was what turned into this tragedy. It was all just a series of unfortunate events.”

According to a March 19 Washington Post article, Donald West Wilder II, the owner of the house, heard his burglar alarm and went up to Gordley. Wilder warned Gordley to leave, and when Gordley did not follow his instructions, Wilder shot and killed him.

“I believe that people should be able to shoot intruders on their property, but if they wish to have a firearm for the purpose of self-defense, they should undergo training as to alternate forms of self-preservation,” junior Dominic Singer said.

Although the Virginia law does not directly state that one is allowed to shoot someone on his or her own property, it is still more lenient than the law enforced in Maryland.

According to the Maryland law for defense of property, one cannot use “more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against the victim’s interference with the property.”

“Maryland gun laws are already incredibly strict, as they should be, and bar most individuals not competent with firearms from owning them in Maryland,” Singer said.

However, some CHS students disagree with the reasoning behind this law.

“I think that Maryland should allow its citizens to shoot on their own property,” junior Matthew Collins said. “If it is for their own protection and the protection of their family, then it needs to be allowed. Marylanders should not be left defenseless and waiting for the police to show up if their house is broken into. One accident should not restrict a Constitutional right to bear arms.”

Regardless of either of the state laws, the teenager did break into a house that was not his, and the homeowner did take another person’s life.

“I do not think that there is a right or wrong to the situation,” Lee said. “It is a double tragedy. The homeowners now have to live with the fact that they killed an innocent man and the parents will have to live with the fact that their son is gone forever.”