Why Do We Let Cops Carry Guns?

              The town of Northampton, MA has always been a center of racial, gender and cultural diversity; hence, it’s no surprise that the town is, apolitically speaking, about as liberal as you can get.  Their liberalism was on display this week when the City Council criticized an offer from the local Wal Mart which wanted to donate $13,000 in ammunition that could be used for training the town police. This led to a nasty exchange at a City Council meeting, which made Wal Mart’s withdraw from the deal.

              What caught my eye in the reportage was a statement from a local attorney, Dana Goldblatt, who got up at the Council meeting during the public comments period and made this remark: ”We should be able to say fewer police, fewer guns, less ammo, and somehow we can’t.”

              The entire episode got me thinking about gun violence and the degree to which the discussion never seems to focus on whether the cops should actually be walking around with guns. In fact, the United States is the only advanced nation-state which grants its local police the same free access to small arms that we grant to every adult who hasn’t committed some kind of serious crime. In effect, we extend to our police the same Constitutional protection for carrying guns that we give to everyone else, even though there’s nothing in the 2nd Amendment about using a gun to enforce the law.

              Several years ago, our friend Frank Zimring published a really good book, When Police Kill, which pointed out that not only is the annual body count from police shootings at least double what we get from the official reports, but there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the number of police shootings and controlling crime or crime rates at all. What Zimring suggests, and the evidence certainly sustains his argument in this respect, is that other countries which have a similar rate of violent crime exercise tight control over when and how local police can carry guns.

              It’s all fine and well that Wal Mart wanted to give the Northampton Police Department free ammunition that could be used for training the cops how to use their guns, but many, if not most cops rarely, if ever practice using their guns.  Research on this issue is spotty at best, but even a pro-cop, pro-gun blog like Bearing Arms had to admit that, “the overwhelming majority of police officers are not competent shooters.”  And take it from me, that’s an understatement if there ever was one.

              I don’t think it would be such a bad idea if Gun-control Nation would begin asking themselves why are the cops exempted from concerns we all share about the risks of walking around with guns? To be sure, the gun-control contingent has no problem aligning itself with the various public-interest and community groups who decry police violence practiced against members of the ‘less-than-fortunate’ class. But the usual strategy here is to demand more sensitivity training and more time spent on the proper use of lethal force.

How about considering the idea that cops simply shouldn’t be walking around with guns?  This is exactly the point made by Attorney Goldblatt at the Northampton City Council meeting, but I don’t hear it being said anywhere else.

I have been arguing, largely against a brick wall, that until and unless we get rid of handguns, particularly the handguns which account for more than 80% of all gun violence, so-called ‘reasonable’ restrictions won’t do much at all. And while gun researchers continue to pretend they can preserve the 2nd Amendment by using synthetic controls regression analysis to come up with a ‘scientific’ proof of how some new gun law will reduce shootings, there’s about as much science in that nonsense as the science that Pope Urban VIII used to lock up Galileo in 1633.

Want to end gun violence?  It’s simple. Take away what causes the problem, and the problem is caused by guns.  Gee, that was tough one.

5 thoughts on “Why Do We Let Cops Carry Guns?

  1. Mike, I think there’s pretty good evidence that tight background checks and safe gun storage would greatly reduce gun violence. We may see these become federal laws in the not-too-distant future. While a handgun ban would save more, you’d first have to pass it and then collect all the extant handguns. And it’s a fight the NRA would love to have.
    Politics, as they say, is the art of the possible.

  2. I wonder if Northhampton has fewer bad guys with guns running around. Here in the Wild West if you took away the sidearms for the Albuquerque Police Force, I suspect the cops would be the only ones walking around unarmed. Until we disarm the folks the cops have to arrest, this is a pipe dream. To be sure, if the Northampton cops are to be armed, they ought to be trained.

  3. I wonder if the number of people getting shot by law enforcement people would drop if they went back to S and W Model 66s or other revolvers. Lower capacity and harder trigger pull might help.

  4. Brent,
    The measures you mention are unlikely to effect anything at all because they both unenforceable.
    Safe storage laws are essentially dependent on voluntary compliance unless random police home invasions are part of the plan.
    Back ground checks do nothing but filter law abiding folks from the opposite. See, everyone knows in advance whether or not they can pass. It is totally against logic for someone to start the process when they know they will fail and thereby get in trouble. That is why hardly anyone ever fails them in fact… apart from clerical errors… which are common.
    Bad guys get their guns from the same channels as operate for other illegal stuff. I mean, why not ask drug dealers to undergo back ground checks…

  5. I just stumbled across this quote “There is a society where all weapons are totally banned, the police are constantly patrolling and never more than a few yards away. And all the houses have state-of-the-art security. Yet, this society has a higher per capita rate of violent crime than any other. This society is found in our American prisons.”. It is from the book ‘Time to Kill by Greg Hopkins. Probably not too many handguns in this society in the hands of the citizenry.

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