In today’s “March for Our Lives” the emphasis is on taking military rifles out of the hands of civilians and other measures to curb the lust to sell weapons from the out-of-control gun industry. Absolutely right. Yet, there’s another demand that should be made: Sharply limit the number of police with guns.
A few days ago a young man was shot to death in Sacramento. He was in his own backyard. It was dark and police were looking for someone suspected of break-ins. A policeman said he saw something and yelled, “Gun, gun, gun.” Police shot Stephon Clark 20 times. All he was holding was a cell phone.
Last May in Bridgeport, Conn., 15-year-old, Jayson Negron, evidently stole a car and went joyriding with some friends. He was chased by police almost immediately, drove the wrong way down a street, was stopped, a policeman challenged him and within a few minutes Negron is shot dead and a passenger wounded.
Angry protests broke out after these killings as they did after Michael Brown and so many others were shot. Demands were made for severe punishment of police, but in all but a few cases, the police were found by prosecutors or juries to have used “reasonable” force.
But what if the officers involved with Clark and Negron did not have guns? If they thought their lives were in danger, they could have backed up and taken cover and called for reinforcements. They could have lit up the areas and taken photos. They could have surrounded the suspect, waited him out and talked him into surrendering. Yes, maybe the suspect could have escaped, but we’re not talking about suspected murderers here. The crimes being investigated were stealing, car theft, and in Michael Brown’s case taking something from a store. None of these crimes carry the death sentence. With streets and highways full of cameras and with questioning of witnesses suspects would get tracked down sooner or later.
Plain and simple take away guns from the average police officer. Only arm special squads of police with pistols and rifles and only call them into action in grave circumstances.
Is this some fantasy? No, it’s the normal way things go in Great Britain. Only 5 percent of police there carry firearms. And British police don’t want to carry guns. A poll by their union found 82 percent want to keep things are they are.
A few years ago Metropolitan Police Brian Paddick explained front-line officers would not be keen to face the agonizing, split-second decisions faced by their counterparts in specialist firearms units.
“In terms of the police being approachable, in terms of the public being the eyes and ears of the police, officers don’t want to lose that,” he said.
According to the British Home Office, there were 14,753 police firearms operations in the year ending March 2016 and seven incidents in which police discharged their guns. You read that right, seven incidents where the police shot the guns. And that year was no exception in the years immediately before 2016 it was often six or four and once just three.
The UK is no paradise of civilization. You recall they’ve had a number of terrorist incidents and lots of other serious crime over the years. Yet they have a way of dealing with crime that doesn’t get a lot of civilians (and police) shot.
So let’s chill not only by taking AR-15 away from civilians but by removing Glocks and Smith and Wesson’s away from police, too.