Finley: Free Siwatu-Salama Ra

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

If the National Rifle Association is looking for a cause to unite it with some of the left’s most virulent anti-gun groups, it can find one in Detroit, where Siwatu-Salama Ra, a pregnant 26-year old environmental activist, is in a jail cell awaiting the arrival of her baby.

So why should an incarcerated African-American Muslim who’s been immersed in progressive activism since she was a teen interest the NRA?

Because she’s also a legal gun owner who was convicted of using her weapon to fend off what she saw as a threat to her child. Before you judge the gun-toting do-gooder as a contradiction, remember she lives in Detroit and has a family to defend.

Her story is tangled, and depending on who you believe, she can be seen as a reckless gunslinger, a poster child for Michigan’s Stand Your Ground law, a victim of a racist system that sets a different standard of self defense for blacks, or an argument for why mandatory sentences work against the cause of justice.

Published accounts lay out the basic facts: Earlier this year Ra was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a 2017 confrontation with another woman outside her mother’s Detroit home.

Ra says the woman, upset that her daughter was not allowed to visit with Ra’s 14-year-old niece, showed up at the home and rammed her vehicle into Ra’s car. Ra’s 2-year-old daughter was inside the car.

That’s why she says she retrieved her gun, which was apparently unloaded, and waved it at the woman, who then fled.

Her accuser has a different version of what happened, and she was first to arrive at the Detroit police station to file a report. When Ra got there, she says she was not allowed to file a counter complaint, and instead was charged with two counts of assault and a firearms violation.

Jurors found Ra guilty on one of the assault charges and the firearms felony.

Wayne Circuit Judge Thomas Hathaway expressed a reluctance to send Ra, who was well along in her pregnancy, to jail. But Michigan’s mandatory sentencing law forced a two-year term on the firearms conviction.

A number of progressive groups, including Black Lives Matter, are protesting her jailing, contrasting it to the treatment of white defendants who successfully argued self-defense. She contends the jury was rushed to its decision, and her counter claims were never weighed.

I suspect Ra fell victim to Wayne County’s preference for expediency over justice in moving criminal cases. It’s also odd that the Stand Your Ground law, which allows the use of a gun to protect life, did not apply. The woman did seek out Ra to raise a ruckus, and she did drive into a car containing her daughter.

There are enough disputed details in this case to make sorting out the truth hard. That’s likely why the judge indicated probation was merited over jail time. But when a state mandates a sentence for a specific crime, the individual intricacies don’t matter. Expect more of these rigid sentencing requirements as the anti-gun mob pushes through its wish list.

The NRA lobbied hard for Stand Your Ground laws. It would be something to see its members march arm-in-arm with Black Lives Matter activists to ensure it applies to Siwatu-Salama Ra.

Catch The Nolan Finley Show weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.