The last couple of weeks have witnessed too many fatal shootings of law enforcement officers: seven in six days. They were killed while making arrests, serving warrants, responding to routine calls, and eating in restaurants. Friends in law enforcement have called it open season on cops, and they are not happy about people who have been so vocal about police use of excessive force yet seem to have no regard for what’s happening. I agree. However egregious excessive use of force in some locales may be, those who use it to denigrate all police everywhere demonstrate appalling ignorance about what goes on in police work. Routine events can turn deadly in seconds, and in America's gun happy culture every incident, no matter how routine, has to be treated as having potential for deadly confrontation.
Why? How has it come to that?
We’ve endured at least a decade of propaganda by guns rights enthusiasts, backed by the NRA and gun manufacturers, who have created a gun culture in America that feeds on two sided paranoia. Side one lives in unreasonable fear that their precious Second Amendment rights might be in jeopardy. Side two lives in unreasonable fear that unless they are armed, some other person who is will shoot them. They are aided and abetted by so called “stand your ground” laws that encourage the potential for gun play for any spurious reason. After each round of non-stop publicity about some shooting, gun sales sky rocket. Yay for the gun industry! Alternative attempts to enact common sense gun regulation are met with pugilistic intransigence more stubborn than the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives.
The result is a heavily armed public. Among them are those who are unwilling to control angry outbursts, who are accustomed to abusing and bullying others, and who are intolerant of laws and law enforcement that impedes their freedom to do whatever they want to do regardless of consequences to others. You know them. You’ve known them all your life. Some are criminals. Many are not. And they are armed. They are armed and inclined to act irresponsibly. They are armed, inclined to act irresponsibly, and the gun culture doesn’t give a damn! The best their leaders can do is mumble something about mental health, which, for a bunch of tough guys, is pretty wimpy. As an aside, those of us who have been working on mental health issues for years are glad for the heightened awareness even as we know that gun right advocates don’t intend to anything about it. It’s just a red herring for them.
And so, every encounter that every cop has with every member of the public must be treated as potentially deadly. What impresses me is the polite, good humored way that our local officers do that knowing that they can’t be too careful, even with people they know well. Maybe yours are like that also. I hope so.
It isn’t just common sense gun regulation that we must have the courage to enact. We must reveal the gun culture mythology for what it is: wantonly corrosive of the national ethos we claim for America. Several organizations are urging citizens to wear blue on Friday, February 12, as a sign of respect for those who have died, and in solidarity with those who are out there on the streets doing their job. That’s nice. Go ahead and wear blue. But more important, do something useful that will help to unravel the insanity of the popular gun culture.