First published in The Hedgehog Review, Vol. 19. No. 3 (Autumn 2017)
Ready, aim, fire, kill. A single shot was all it took. Every morning of his adult life, Gail Gerlach, a fifty-six-year-old plumber from Spokane, Washington, would strap on the holster of his 9mm handgun before going to work. But on March 25, 2013, he wouldn’t just carry the gun; he would use it.
Brendon Kaluza-Graham was a twenty-seven-year-old convicted car thief. He must have thought this would be an easy one. Gerlach had left his vehicle idling in his driveway—a 1997 Chevrolet Suburban jammed full of his tools and supplies. All Kaluza-Graham had to do was jump in, slam the door, and take off. The rush, the thrill of it all. As he drove off, he probably thought he’d got away with it until…crack…a bullet shot from at least forty yards away pierced the rear window and struck him in the back of the head. Killed instantly, he slumped over the wheel. The vehicle lurched on for two blocks before finally careering into a garage.
In court, Gerlach pleaded self-defense to a manslaughter charge. Even though Kaluza-Graham was driving away from Gerlach, he claimed to have been “in imminent danger of substantial bodily injury to himself.” Eventually, the jury found Gerlach innocent (and subsequently reimbursed more than $220,000 for legal bills and expert witnesses), but not all were celebrating the outcome. “He had hopes and dreams,” said Ann Kaluza, Kaluza-Graham’s grandmother, but “was made into a poster boy for the angst of the community, a sacrificial lamb. That’s not right.” Another friend of the dead man’s family gave his interpretation: “I’m worried that the community hears it’s OK to shoot someone. His perceived threat was reality. They said that was good enough to shoot someone.”
Gail Gerlach is not only an outspoken gun advocate but also a passionate antiabortion activist. As an avowed Reagan conservative, he cannot fathom how a society that prohibits prostitution, class A drugs, even driving without a seatbelt, can tolerate the killing of an unborn child. He belongs to the lobbying group Pro Life Rocks. In one Internet post, he gave passionate expression to his views: “It is a human right to have life, and no one’s right to take it away at any stage.… No one would be safe if we can not [sic] protect the right to life.” Continue reading