Does Gun Control Benefit LE?
Before we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan… before the economy went in the toilet… before our country was overwhelming consumed by our most recent historical presidential election… BEFORE all that there was gun control. My question today is whether or not gun control laws benefit the law enforcement community?
Gun Control Laws actually have existed for hundreds of years. Of course, in colonial America they were vastly different than they are today. For instance, in colonial Massachusetts, it was required that any citizen traveling more than one mile from home be armed. Get that? It was required that they carry a gun! Can you imagine? In Massachusetts no less?
Today - a couple hundred years and a lot of technological evolution later - the reality of citizens carrying guns isn’t embraced quite as strongly by most state governments and usually not by the federal government. And, although we can all be cynical and wonder what’s really behind the votes, even our current federal government seems to want to avoid gun control issues… for now. Just recently Congress passed a bill that will allow those with concealed carry permits to carry those weapons in federal parks. While this bill may have passed because it was attached to a Credit Card Reform bill, the separate vote taken indicates suprisingly large support for the carry law.
But let us return to the question at hand: do Gun Control Laws benefit law enforcement?
There are those among us who suggest that it has to be good for law enforcement that it’s difficult (at best) for the average citizen to obtain and own a Class III weapon such as a select-fire rifle or a belt-fed machine gun. Depending on which study results you cite, laws controlling the purchase of such weapons either do absolutely no good or, if they prevent sales, the percentage of those sales is so insignificant as to not matter in the real world. As a police veteran of 25+ years, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a criminal in possession of a Class III weapon. In fact, every gun I ever took in an arrest was either dangerously cheap / ill-maintained, or was fake. My favorite of all time was the .22lr pistol that was packed in mud, in a zip lock bag (the badguy was trying to hide his possession with a bag full of “soil sample”), with the magazine loaded into the pistol backwards, and the bullets loaded into the magazine backward. SO… although the bullets WERE pointed in the right direction, the magazine wouldn’t seat fully into the pistol and the slide was so packed with mud that it wouldn’t cycle anyway.
The popular argument from pro-2nd-Amendment folks is that since criminals, by definition, don’t care about the law, then no law will ever prevent them from procuring the weapon(s) of their choice. Alongside that thought is that law ABIDING citizens DO care about the law and would, therefore, most likely be surrendering weapons or denied weapons if further gun restrictions were put into effect. If a law ABIDING citizen is legally in possession of a firearm, do they represent a threat to the law enforcement community? I don’t think so, but plenty of people disagree with me. I know officers who would prefer that no citizen ever have a gun because ANY citizen with a gun represents an increased threat possibility at every encounter. My argument is that we (police) have to treat every unknown-risk encounter with proper tactics anyway - as if the citizen DOES have a gun - so whether or not they do shouldn’t matter.
What I think concerns me most - now that I’m retired - is how we law enforcement professionals sometimes tend to lump all “unknowns” into the “criminal” category until we discover differently. This is, obviously, necessary for officer survival especially during the first few minutes of any encounter with an unknown in the course of our duties. However, once the unknown becomes known and is proven to be a law-abiding citizen who supports and respects law enforcement, then why would we even begin to worry about them being legally armed?
I know, I know… it only takes a moment… a thought… and that law abiding armed citizen can turn criminal and then we’re dealing with an armed criminal. If that’s true, then isn’t the reverse also true? It only takes a moment, a thought, for the armed criminal to become a law abiding citizen right?
Obviously we can’t work under that assumption, so the former doesn’t make sense to me either.
In the end I believe that Gun Control laws are not of much benefit to law enforcement. Bad guys will get guns no matter what. Good guys - those citizens who respect and support us - present no threat in owning or carrying firearms (although I agree they need to be well trained!).
When you stop to think about how many officers are killed with knives, cars, blunt trauma instruments, etc., it’s obvious that even if the world had no guns in it at all there would still be a huge threat of violence toward law enforcement. We can’t regulate all of those other threats out of existance, so why focus on ONE segment of threat?
I really am interested in your thoughts and opinions on this. I can’t help but wonder what the majority of other officers think and feel on this topic.