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Trigger happy cops
October 30, 2013 - John Stack
I’ve had many good- and bad – discussions with people on each side of the gun debate. No guns, some guns, some restrictions, no restrictions. Regardless of my personal stance, I am often portrayed as taking away people’s guns. Regardless. I write today about the tragedy involving a 13 year old boy who was shot and killed by cops who mistook his pellet gun for an AR-15. To me, the tragedy was that this boy had a gun that looked a lot like a serious assault rifle and died because of it. The story says the cops asked him twice to drop the gun, and he turned towards them and lifted the gun instead. A lot went through these cops heads in those very few seconds. The decision to fire or not to fire will be the hardest decision these men ever make in their life – and they had a couple seconds to make it.
While discussing this, one of the other people cavalierly laid the blame at the officers’ feet, calling them “trigger happy cops”. Had this been the first time I heard this, I would have passed it off as ignorance, but it wasn’t the first time. I’ve had a number of people mention the same sentiment. The twist is their reasoning was not as expected. One would think possibly that a gun control advocate would be the one complaining about the overuse of violence, guns and force in situations where it wasn’t needed (possibly). But each of the people I’ve heard this from are vociferous gun rights advocates.
When Rep Gabrielle Giffords was shot back in 2011, some gun rights activists argued that there should be more lenient gun laws in Arizona because of this (even though the laws were lenient enough at this event, it would not have been illegal to be carrying a firearm). Or as Wayne LaPierre of the NRA would say “ we need more good guys with guns”. It was a tragedy when 6 other were killed at this time. But, had a citizen been there, would he or she have been able to stop this? It was a large crowd of people all close in together. Unless standing right on top of the guy, who would have been certain to stop the gunman and not kill many other bystanders? I had argued that a vigilante might very well have killed many more bystanders, other gun carryers would not know if he was a good guy or bad, and possibly the tragedy could have been truly a massacre. I don’t know what would have happened. Maybe the shooter would have been killed with one well placed shot. But, I also know cops have missed quite often and wounded and killed innocent bystanders. My argument is that if trained professionals miss (often) what does the everyday Joe 6 shot have to make it better?
When I think of people I want to have guns in a serious situation, I think of 2 groups – police officers and our armed services men and women. These are people who are trained to de-escalate a situation, ones who every day come in harm’s way and have to make informed split second decisions. Yet, I have friends who will swear up and down that the cops are the worst at this. This is mind boggling to me. If I was concealed carrying at the Winter Carnival Gala Parade, and I saw what I thought was a gun crime happen, would I be the one who could stop him from 50 meters away, or would I prefer Sergeant Jimmy Law of the SLPD (and Iraq war vet) taking care of the situation in a manner that was safe?
There are things officers do that most don’t know about. More people attempt or contemplate suicide daily than you can imagine. Every one of them that has to be taken from the scene to the hospital, has to be taken by an officer, in cuffs. A friend of mine works in these situations and has told me all the local cops have been incredible in these circumstances. These people may be frightened, agitated, screaming, crying and she tells me our local cops have always been more than kind and gentle to these people, and understand the situation better than I or you could ever deal with.
Every time a cop pulls over a car, every time they get called to a domestic incident, a fight at a bar, a cop knows he or she may have to unholster a weapon, and maybe shoot. He or she almost never has to, and almost never even draws their gun. But, they face these situations each and every day, or possibly every day. I have NEVER been in this situation. I think I am at least as level headed as most, but I will never be in the league of the most junior of police officers when it comes to reacting in the most safe manner in a gun shooting crisis.
There are many valid arguments to be made on the many sides of gun control. To claim that cops are part of the problem because of their lack of training and trigger-happiness (?) is to really discredit the whatever argument you are trying to make.
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