Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Truth Can Come Out In The Oddest Ways

First of all we need to deal with some terminology issues. According to Opposing Views, the cities of Hartford and New Haven Connecticut recently held gun "buybacks" which took 179 guns "off the streets".

First of all, what is a "buyback"? Did the cops once own the weapons? If not, how can they buy them "back"?

Second is the statement that this "buyback" took 179 guns "off the streets". Why don't I ever find any of these guns lying around "on the streets"? I would be delighted to take them "off the streets", give them a nice place to live and generally treat them with the care and respect that fine machinery deserves.

Now we can move on to the truth that slipped out between the cracks of officialese:

"'The success of events like these can be measured on more than one level,' said New Haven police spokesman Dave Hartman. 'The first is obvious -- 60 guns have been taken out of the picture no longer to pose a threat. And their destruction will see to that.'"

"Hartman said even a gun that is collecting dust in an attic can become deadly."

"'If you lawfully have a gun in your home, that doesn't mean it can't ultimately become a threat,' Hartman said. ..." [emphasis mine]

Did you catch that? According to the Official Spokesman for the Hartford Connecticut Police Department any gun, even one that is "lawfully owned", any gun can become a deadly threat. While I hold the deepest respect for many cops, statements like this illustrate (and exacerbate) the growing "us vs. them" attitude that so many officers and departments are starting to exhibit.

The Truth About Guns has talked about the increasing militarization of the police, both in terms of their equipment and in the growing use of S.W.A.T. or other "dynamic entry" teams to serve what used to be routine warrants. This in the face of the fact that law enforcement deaths as a percentage of the population have been mostly dropping since a peak in 1930 (right near the end of Prohibition). There was another lower peak in the late '70s, then a steady downward trend (with a single spike on 9/11/01) until today the death rate for officers is the lowest it's been since 1875. On top of that according to Public Criminology's examination of the data "about 62 percent of officer deaths were felonious in the 1970s, about 54 percent were felonious in the 1980s, and about 46 percent were felonious in the 2000s."

So the question is: what do we do about this? And the sad answer is, I have no idea. I try to be respectful in all my dealings with the police (and as an aggressive open carrier I have had more than a few "moments of unusual interest" with them) but even within the Twin Cities (Mpls/St. Paul) metro area there is a huge variety of attitudes.

I was open carrying at a gem show once (while wearing a bright red shirt that said "SECURITY" in 2-inch high white letters) and had my permit checked by a Bloomington PD officer who, as he handed me back my permit, said "You know if we get a robbery call to this location, you're going to be the first one we shoot." Interesting Use of Force guidelines in that department I guess. A couple of years later at the same location (having learned some things over the intervening period) I showed my permit to one of the officers before the show opened and mentioned that the rooms could get awfully hot, so I might remove my cover garment. I din't get a threat this time but I did get a dirty look and a "that's what we're here for" type comment. Please note I did not tell him I would gladly leave my weapon in the car if he would guarantee me in writing that the Bloomington PD would protect me and accept full liability if anything did happen to me (a line I have used on other aggressively anti-gun officers).

On the other hand, my wife and I went to lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall we'd seen featured on the Food Network, and there were already two Saint Paul PD cars there before the place opened. So as a courtesy after we went in I found one of the officers and showed him my permit, again explaining that if I got hot I might remove my cover garment. He said something along the lines of "thanks for the heads up" and I didn't think anything more of it until the six SPPD officers (and yeah, the food really was that good) were leaving and one of them (not the one I'd shown my permit to) stopped at the table and thanked me for having a permit to carry. "It's guys like you who I can count on to have my back if it ever drops in the pot" he said.

If more cops had that attitude, or were even just respectful of my decision to be responsible for my wife's and my safety, it would go a long way to erasing comments like the one made by Mr. HPD spokesman.

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