Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) has condemned the “gun violence and injustice” evident in the shooting of a Kansas City, Missouri, teenager who went to the wrong house last week to pick up his siblings.
“As someone who is still recovering from a gunshot to the head, I am heartbroken and infuriated that Ralph Yarl now faces a lifetime of recovery,” Giffords tweeted Monday. “At 16 years old. For simply ringing a doorbell. We cannot continue to be a nation defined by gun violence and injustice.”
Ralph Yarl, a Black high school junior, was shot in the head and arm on Thursday night after ringing the doorbell of a home in Kansas City. According to his family, he had mistakenly arrived at the address thinking it was the house where he was supposed to pick up his younger brothers.
Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old white man, has been charged with two felonies in the shooting: assault in the first degree and armed criminal action.
Lester allegedly fired his .32-caliber revolver through the glass of his front door, striking Yarl in the head. According to Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson, Yarl never entered the home and the two had not exchanged any words when Lester opened fire.
Thompson said he believes there “was a racial component” in the shooting.
In 2011, Giffords was shot in the head when a gunman opened fire at an event she was hosting at a grocery store in Tucson. Six people died, and 12 others were wounded. She suffered a brain injury and underwent intensive speech and physical therapy. She stepped back from Congress and went on to become a vocal advocate for gun safety.
The organization she founded to combat gun violence, named Giffords, also tweeted about the Yarl shooting, writing: “This is fringe gun culture at work. It’s built on the false, and often racist, foundation that it’s ok to shoot first and ask questions later. And it must end.”
Missouri has controversial “stand your ground” laws that make it legal for a person to use physical force “to the extent he or she reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or herself” from what the person “reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful force by such other person.”
The laws have been fiercely criticized by anti-gun violence groups. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, for example, says “stand your ground” laws disproportionately harm Black people and “perpetuate the decades-long brutalization of Black lives while protecting and promoting unjust and unwarranted violence in America.”
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the law, which was adopted in Missouri in 2016, should not apply in this case, according to The New York Times.
“If Stand Your Ground really lets somebody just shoot somebody that rings a doorbell,” he said, “that puts the life of every postal worker, every campaigner, every Amazon delivery person at risk in this country.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Lester’s age as 85.