Talk about deafening silence; that’s what often happens when you ask police to talk about guns and their control – the very guns that are killing them.
But I want to break the silence and talk about how the present proliferation of handguns –both open and concealed – makes the job of a police officer perceptibly more dangerous. In my early days as a police officer, the weapon that I would most frequently find was a knife, not a gun. People who illegally carried guns went quickly to jail. We did not expect to be confronted by assault rifles and a host of other dangerous paraphernalia associated with drugs and gangs.
So, if we are serious about asking police not to be so reactive when they spot weapons — firearms, knives, and blunt weapons — we, as a society, need to get serious about taking handguns off the street.
Sometimes it takes a poke at us from a foreign comedian to make the point as Australian Jim Jeffries does in this 16 minute stand-up piece on gun control:
If police seem too wary today, too militaristic, maybe it’s because of all the guns they seem to run into. Throughout my career, I could not understand the uncomfortable silence among my colleagues when I started speaking out against the irrational and dangerous positions of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
I can understand why politicians are reluctant to take on the NRA, but why should police? A society that has a lot of guns is a dangerous society.
The last straw for me was when the NRA wouldn’t support the effort many of us were making to ban Teflon bullets — a.k.a. “Cop Killers.” Why this type of ammunition? Because they are specially coated bullets able to pierce the body armor we were beginning to wear. And the NRA wouldn’t support us. Regular bullets can be stopped by the layers of Kevlar cloth in flexible body armor. Slippery Teflon bullets go right through and kill cops.
You don’t hear much about Teflon-coated bullets today. Some states still outlaw them. But, for the most part, it was just another battle lost in a long line of legislative losses when it comes making any efforts to control guns like background checks, waiting period, and possession of assault rifles with high-volume magazines. Where we seem to be today is that almost ANY control efforts is opposed by the NRA, and, therefore, political suicide for any elected official who supports any measure of gun control. For example, even an established control measures like a 48-hour waiting is under attack in my home state of Wisconsin.
Handguns are especially dangerous to police because they can be easily concealed and then quickly used to take down a law enforcement officer. It would seem that a rational society would make some reasonable efforts to limit or control them if not a ban on them.
The public discussion seems to go like this: the NRA is opposed to just about any control of firearms, the other side works to ban them. One would think there would be room between these two polar positions to come to some kind of reasonable controls. But it doesn’t seem to happen, does it?
In the meantime, the NRA has successful ground down the percentage of people in America who are in favor of gun control. It was almost 80 percent in 1990. Since that time, and despite numerous school and workplace shootings, the Gallup Poll shows that number is now at 47 percent.
During the past half-century, the presence of firearms in American homes has ranged between 40 and 50 percent.
This is puzzling until you realize the political muscle the NRA continues to exert in Congress. On top of this there is the U.S. Supreme Court’s definition of the 2nd amendment’s wording “the right to bear arms” as being an individual rather than a state’s right to maintain a militia.
So why couldn’t a modern society populated by reasonable citizens restrict the possession of handguns in public and, at the same time, support the use of long guns for hunting and self-defense of one’s home? Wouldn’t that be a tenable position? Other free societies do so around the world. Why are we so different?
Do we really want more people walking around with concealed guns? Sure, they get permits, and somekind of background check, but do they have competency in marksmanship, legality, emotional stability, and the ability to make the kind of force decisions that we expect from our police? Most assuredly not.
I have a sense that the battle for any reasonable control of firearms in our society is an uphill fight. Each legislative season from New York to California and in our nation’s capitol, the dogged NRA with their deep pockets are at work and regardless of continuing neighborhood, school and workplace tragedies, most Americans still seem to oppose most gun regulations. I was puzzled as a police officer and recreational hunter, and I remain so today.
In the meantime, not only are citizens shot and killed, often in their own homes, and sometimes by their own children, but I fear police officers have become more wary and tense in street encounters as more and more citizens are permitted to carry firearms in public and possess high-capacity military-style assault rifles.
Firearms are dangerous. They are dangerous to those who possess them and those who live with them. They are also dangerous to those whose job is to protect us as police officers.
I believe the best position for both police and citizens is this: carrying a handgun in public or possessing a multiple-shot “assault-type” rifle should be illegal. Let’s start with that. Citizens can possess game rifles and shotguns for their specific purpose — hunting and for sport. For those concerned about home defense, these weapons are more than adequate but remember that they tend to make you home less safe.
In the meantime, don’t try to enroll me again as an NRA member, I quit years ago when the NRA didn’t represent my interests as a police officer. Today, I would still say the same thing, the NRA doesn’t represent the interests of police. The proliferation of deadly weaponry in any community makes the job of a policy officer more tense and difficult and puts the public’s safety in jeopardy.
In the meantime, police leaders, on behalf of their officers, need to make the case for sane and rational laws regarding guns and their control.
For some more interesting facts on public attitudes and facts about possession of firearms from the Pew Research Center, CLICK HERE.
I also need to add this excellent video about guns and their histories: