Civilians, Cops and Guns

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As we all know, when certain violent events transpire most of the more liberal media, social and public, erupts with the same off-topic and generally irrelevant call for more “gun control”. Irrelevant and off-topic? Yes. If it were not, we would hear similar control calls for automobile control (automobile violence), alcohol control (alcohol violence), Catholic control (Catholic child-abuse violence), knife control (knife violence), and so forth. Why don’t we? Because violence is the issue, not the means by which it is done.

Obviously some instruments of violence are made and designed solely to kill and injure others with no other useful and redeeming purposes –  bombs, chemical warfare weapons, rocket launchers, and so forth. These weapons were designed solely for the use of military combatants, and have no personal self defense attributes outside that theatre. Guns, however, are another story entirely. Guns are, whether one likes the phrase or not, the only real equalizer available to a civilian when confronted by superior deadly force. Let’s face facts: nothing else available to a law-abiding 93 pound mother for protecting herself and child from a 250 pound violent parolee from a major prison intent on having his way with both her and her child will work as well as a gun in that woman’s hands.

I realize that this seems like an extreme example to some, but a few minutes researching cases in which a gun in the hands of a citizen protected him or her and perhaps the family from serious physical and psychological harm or death at the hands of a criminal will quickly disabuse you of that notion.

Sam Harris, a noted (and vilified, in some circles) philosopher, neuroscientist, rational thinker and atheist (SamHarris.org) has previously commented intelligently and accurately on what he termed, The Riddle of the Gun.  I have commented on Sam’s post elsewhere in this blog. In my view, the gun in American society is indeed a riddle. It can become an instrument of tragedy, salvation, protection, or evil. This is precisely the point. It isn’t the gun, it is the person wielding the gun that should be of concern. One should not want to ban a useful and, in certain circumstances, essential tool because one is both ignorant and fearful of the tool itself.

Cops obviously carry guns. Considering the types of people and circumstances they may encounter in working to protect others, it is one of their essential tools. They are trained, to one degree or another, in the gun’s use and non-use when appropriate. They are trained to a certain standard in proficiency with various weapons. Some cops are better trained than others depending mostly on the funds and resources available to their various departments. In my judgement, they are at a minimum, better trained than most civilians who own guns and certainly better than most civilian who legally carry guns. I am a military veteran who worked directly with US Navy weapons systems for eight years. I have been around guns all of my life and have trained with guns ranging from the .45 automatic pistol to shipboard 5″ caliber rifles. I own guns and have a licensed concealed carry permit. I shoot and train whenever I can, time and money permitting. I consider myself an adequate pistol shot and practiced in elementary combat shooting. I also consider my skills to be firmly in the minority of those civilians who legally carry.

This is a conundrum. I support our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I also am not comfortable knowing that there are civilians among us who carry pistols and are basically untrained, or poorly trained, and who are not likely to hit a target in a stressful, adrenaline-fueled encounter. I worry about where those rounds may end up. My stance on this kind of gun ownership has changed. I think that concealed carry permits should be “shall issue”, meaning that they shall be issued to anyone who passes a standard background check, as we do now in most states, and who demonstrates basic proficiency in a live fire test designed to show that the shooter possesses sufficient safety knowledge and can demonstrate basic marksmanship.

Guns are designed to be dangerous. That is their purpose. The gun owner must learn safety and proficiency with them before allowed to carry them in public, and the requirements to do so must be fair and realistic without prejudicing our right to keep and bear arms.

Cops. Police officers are getting an unfair bashing in the press and media these days. They have been stereotyped and lumped together as a class – a kind of unfair profiling –  being inept, corrupt and generally bad. This is a smear campaign promoted and encouraged by people to further their own aims, and is so far off the mark as to be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. This is the practice of using the actions of a few bad and, yes, some evil people to denigrate the rest. Some of the issues are the result of poor training, or circumstance. Some are not actual issues when the context is understood. There are some bad cops out there, but, surprise, there are some bad people everywhere. Doesn’t make us, or the cops, all bad.

Sam Harris recently had a long conversation with Scott Reitz about these topics. In Sam’s words: “Scott Reitz is a thirty-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police department. He worked in the elite Metropolitan Division and finally as a member of ‘D’ platoon (SWAT). He remained there for ten years until he became the primary firearms and tactics instructor for the whole of Metro Division and all LAPD advanced in-service firearms/tactics training. In addition to his work with the LAPD, Reitz has worked with U.S. Department of Energy, US Marine Corps, U.S. Army Delta, Naval Special Warfare’s Team 6 and Air Task Force assets that support special operations. He is also one of a very few firearms instructors who is a Federal and Superior Court qualified expert in deadly force, training, safety, and police tactics. Reitz has testified in the defense of police, F.B.I., U.S. Secret Service, and B.A.T.F., and consulted in many high profile cases. Reitz is also the author of The Art of Modern Gunfighting: The Pistol (Volume 1).”

I recommend you give a listen to this intelligent and informative conversation about cops, guns and the rest of us and judge for yourselves the “riddle of the gun”.

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