Man Charged with Crime for Making 'Finger Gun' Gesture


Stephen Kirchner and Elaine Natore were strolling outside when an encounter with neighbor Josh Klingseisen landed Kirchner in front of a judge.

Kirchner and Klingseisen weren’t on friendly terms. Neither were Klingseisen and Natore. In fact, Natore had a no contact order against Klingseisen.

According to The Washington Post, Kirchner stopped and made the finger gun and recoil gesture as if he were shooting at Klingseisen.

The Hill reported that surveillance camera footage showed Klingseisen acting first, flipping off Kirchner with both hands after which Kirchner made the finger gun gesture.

Judge Maria McLaughlin found Kirchner “acted with a reckless disregard of creating a risk of public alarm, as evidenced by the fact that an eyewitness on a neighboring property contacted 911 because Kirchner’s actions caused her to feel insecure.”

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Neighbor Yvonne Rodriguez was the one who witnessed the exchange and called the police.

“We conclude that there was sufficient evidence that Kirchner’s act of mimicking his shooting Klingseisen created a hazardous condition,” the judge wrote.

This was not the first time a finger gun has led to a guilty verdict in court.

The Miami Herald reported on a 2017 case in which a Florida court ruled a man pointing a finger gun at a police officer was not protected by the First Amendment.

Do you think people should ever be charged with a crime for using a finger gun?

The Post reported that in 2018 a man was arrested in Ohio for aggravated menacing after using the finger gun gesture in traffic at another driver.

Based on these cases, it’s clear that finger guns, like seemingly everything else in American society, have become regulated, which brings up a good point not addressed nearly often enough in conversations about politics and rights.

The American republic wasn’t built to control the crimes of a corrupt people. It was built to protect the freedoms of “a moral and religious people.”

In a letter to the Massachusetts Militia, former President John Adams wrote:

Because We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by … morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition [and] Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

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A moral and religious people need little supervision. Yes, mankind is fallen and even the best among us are fatally flawed. But on the whole, a decent people don’t need as many rules: They self-correct through self-discipline or the requirements of their faith.

A morally bankrupt people, however, require strict supervision. They are oriented not toward moderation and responsibility, but toward excess and selfishness.

That’s why the simple act of making a finger gun can now lead to criminal charges. Had Kirchner and Klingseisen both behaved responsibly, it’s likely none of this would have ever happened.

But undisciplined people require more — and harsher — rules.

A finger gun should never land a man in front of a judge. But neighbors should never end up flipping each other off and getting restraining orders. Bad behavior leads to lots of laws.

If we want freedom, we have to buy it with morality and responsibility. If we’re not willing to pay that price, our freedoms will be taken from us.

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Josh Manning is deputy managing editor for assignment at The Western Journal. He holds a masters in public policy from Harvard University and has a background in higher education.
Josh Manning grew up outside of Memphis, TN and developed a love of history, politics, and government studies thanks to a life-changing history and civics teacher named Mr. McBride.

He holds an MPP from Harvard University and a BA from Lyon College, a small but distinguished liberal arts college where later in his career he served as an interim vice president.

While in school he did everything possible to confront, discomfit, and drive ivy league liberals to their knees.

After a number of years working in academe, he moved to digital journalism and opinion. Since that point, he has held various leadership positions at The Western Journal.

He's married to a gorgeous blonde who played in the 1998 NCAA women's basketball championship game, and he has two teens who hate doing dishes more than poison. He makes life possible for two boxers -- "Hank" Rearden Manning and "Tucker" Carlson Manning -- and a pitbull named Nikki Haley "Gracie" Manning.
MPP from Harvard University, BA from Lyon College
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, tiny fragments of college French
Topics of Expertise
Writing, politics, Christianity, social media curation, higher education, firearms