FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police

by

shutterstock_382238725

On February 5, 2015, Jeremy Lett was physically attacked, then shot in the torso five times while walking outside his apartment. He died in the hospital the next day. His attacker, David Stith, had a history of violent, erratic behavior – at one point a little over a year earlier, Stith entered a Girl Scouts of America office and began “acting aggressively and screaming obscenities”. On February 27, a grand jury cleared Stith of all wrongdoing in the shooting.

David Stith was (and still is) a police officer.

There’s a lot of discussion going on right now about gun violence. There’s also a lot of talk about police brutality. Why, then, are the two issues raised together so rarely? In most instances, police violence is gun violence, and in a significant percentage of cases, gun violence is police violence. According to the Guardian, over one-thousand people were shot and killed by the police in 2015. In that same year, there were a little over eleven-thousand gun homicides. What this means is that about one in every eleven gun homicides was committed by a police officer. One in eleven. What that means is that any serious discussion of reducing gun violence in the U.S. needs to include proposals to reform the police. To address the first, we need to address the second.

The mentality behind the conservative myth of the “good guy with a gun” is fundamentally the same as the one that leads people to want the police armed. At best, a police officer is just a good guy with a gun, a badge, and more leeway to get away with it if he makes a mistake. Here’s the problem with the “good guy with a gun” – whether or not that guy happens to be a police officer: “just shoot him” is very rarely the solution to any problem. Indeed, responding to a gunman by shooting back can often make the situation worse – as gun control advocates have been quick to point out. Examples of innocent bystanders shot by “good guys” trying to defend themselves abound – Tremain Hall, Marco Candeleria, Willard Ross, etc. In many cases, the police have done the exact same thing – in one particularly tragic instance, a police officer shot and killed six-year old Jeremy Mardis after his father allegedly backed his car into the officer’s.

So, here’s what I’m getting at with the link between gun policy and police reform; here’s where policy proposals about the two can intersect: much of the time, police officers do not need to be armed. Resource officers, who work in schools throughout the country, probably do not need to carry guns regularly. Many on the left have (rightly) derided perrenial conservative proposals to arm teachers – why are so many of those same people willing to accept almost exactly the same thing when the person with a gun is a police officer? If you want to keep guns out of our schools, why not start with the police? Other cases where the police probably don’t need to carry guns include dispatches on calls related to mental health – in several cases, calls to the police by the suicidal have ended with a police officer shooting the person they were supposed to help. For reasons that are probably obvious, this discourages people in crisis from calling the police. Disarming the police removes the risk and encourages people who need help to seek it.

It’s important to note that disarming the police is a policy that’s already been put into practice elsewhere: in the United Kingdom, only a small, specially-trained minority of the police carry guns. Although the U.K. has almost totally banned civilian handgun possession since 1997, its policy of unarmed police dates back much further than that – in fact, the only two places (in the U.K.) where police have ever been armed as a matter of course are Northern Ireland during the Troubles and, before that, Ireland under British occupation (Ireland established its own, unarmed police force soon after it gained independence). On the British mainland, the public’s pushed back against the idea of arming the police too strenuously for the idea to ever be put into practice – with good reason; as the examples above show, police patrolling the streets with guns pose a great risk to the public. What’s true in the U.K. is true in the U.S. America needs to rethink its gun policy, especially when it comes to the police. One more Jeremy Lett, or Tamir Rice, or Michael Brown is one too many.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail