My how quickly a plan can change. While completing research for the article I had intended to write, I became distracted. A recent incident in Milwaukee involving a traffic accident in which a two year old child was hit by a car resulted in two shooting deaths; the driver of the car and the 15 year old brother of the child that was hit. The child had run out into the street in front of the vehicle and was struck. When the driver stopped and got out of his car to assist the child, a relative of the child opened fire killing the driver and the brother. The relative later killed himself after fleeing to Illinois and being located by authorities. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett addressed the media using this incident to blame Wisconsin's Gun Laws including Concealed Carry for the escalation in gun violence "by putting more guns in the streets". Of course, the Mayor is a democrat and the laws were passed by a Republican majority state legislature and when the two partisan sides are at odds we tend to get a lot of declarative statements with no research, statistical or otherwise behind them. Neither party is immune from such irresponsibility. I was prepared to offer statistical information to argue one side, the other or both depending on what I found. I was encouraged to do so based on a Mayor using a tragic accident resulting in a heinous double homicide to further his political agenda.
Then Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward Flynn chimed in. He agreed with the Mayor, who appointed him to his position, that the gun laws were causing the rise in homicides in Milwaukee this year, 41 compared to 14 this time last year. He mentioned that the law allowed anyone to "buy a gun off the street without a background check, it absolutely has caused a rise". The buying a gun off the street statement was an embellished comment referring to gun shows where dealers are federally and state licensed, not street corners but here is yet another public authority figure making statements of a misleading nature. Okay, let's do more research!
Just as I was firing up the laptop for today's rant, the direction changed again. A police officer in Tuscon intentionally used his patrol car to take out a citizen as he walked down the street; or at least that is how most of the media portrayed it. Oh the egregiousness, yet another police officer crossing the line using unreasonable, unjustified force. This suspect had stolen a rifle from a store, committed three felonies and was walking down the street randomly pointing the gun in the direction of the officers attempting to stop him or at himself. He was not responding to directives from the officers and no one was challenging him. He was approaching a large shopping center that was not secure. He fired the weapon in the air just as the gun shop owner was heard saying over the radio "there's a trigger lock on the gun, he can't fire it". When the shot went off you can hear the shop owner say "never mind". A veteran officer made a decision to eliminate the threat to other officers and a large, potential pool of hostages by running over him with his car. The result; threat ended, no innocent citizens hurt or killed and the bad guy went to jail two days later after being treated at the hospital and released. The video of the car hitting the suspect without the facts is horrifying to the general public; the entire video with the facts should get the officer a letter of commendation for his creative and effective solution to what could have been a huge problem had the suspect been allowed to continue.
After seeing the news report from Tuscon, I decided to save the stats for another time; for now let's go with perspective.
I will start by admitting I am not a "gun" enthusiast. I have one gun. I do not necessarily live to go shooting. Given my background I admit this is a bit unusual but I have never been one to invest time and money on firearms. That doesn't mean I will be selling my weapon any time soon. I just don't need more than one gun. Every election we hear about the need for more gun control. Why? In Milwaukee, where the Mayor is blaming the rise in violence on the new gun laws, none of the suspects to date have been reported to have Concealed Carry permits. If even a third of the suspects had their permit the argument may have more validity. One radio talk show host and gun control advocate stated that the public carrying concealed weapons is not necessary and all that needs to happen is more detailed background checks for those purchasing a gun. It would be interesting to know how many of the 41 "shooters" went through the background check process. If any of the suspects were under 21 years of age, they didn't. If any of the suspects were convicted felons, they didn't. No matter how "detailed" the background checks are they have no effect on people that don't submit to the gun permit processing. We already have laws in place and have for years that address these two scenarios. What other laws could be enacted that would have any more effect than the ones we have now? If the people that have Concealed Carry permits aren't the ones killing, how can that law be the cause for a rise in homicides? If stricter laws on all citizens is supposed to reduce gun violence, why is Chicago's murder rate so high as they have some of the strictest gun possession laws in the country? Maybe, just maybe it has something to do with this; criminals by definition are law breakers! They don't care what the law is. Make all the laws you want. Law abiding citizens are NOT the ones killing people; criminals are! This seems so "simple" to me and I do not need any statistics to verify it.
The event in Tuscon when put in perspective was a bold yet correct decision by a veteran officer. There is no difference between shooting the suspect or hitting him with a car as both are considered deadly uses of force. Officers had the suspect surrounded on all sides making the possibility of crossfire killing an unintended target more likely if they shot at him. The car was a safer option. One defense attorney on TV grudgingly admitted that because the suspect had "fired" the gun he admits the officer "probably won't be charged". Really? The suspect had committed three felonies, pointed the gun at officers and was headed toward a shopping center full of people and we expect the police to wait until he fires the gun? He also said he had a problem with the "speed" at which the officer was driving when he hit the suspect. Was he supposed to drive "slowly" so he would hurt him less? Would that have given the suspect more time to get off shots at the officers? If a rifle shot misses an intended target, does it just stop right there or continue until it hits something? Who is in the path of that bullet? Would these factors indicate that getting to the intended target faster would lessen the chances of anyone but the suspect getting hurt or killed? What would you call it if the police stood by and allowed an armed suspect into a heavily populated civilian area and he shot one or more citizens? I would call it "dereliction of duty". The attorney went on to say that the suspect's family would absolutely sue the police department. So what? In most places he wouldn't stand a chance of the case even being heard. I'm sure the Tuscon Police Department would be just fine with one bullshit lawsuit as opposed to many legitimate ones from the potential victims had the suspect been allowed to continue.
So where am I going wrong? I realize the media in general loves controversy and that they believe "shock" journalism sells; that's what they do. Do the majority of citizens in this country buy the argument that more gun laws will stop criminals from getting guns? Do they honestly believe the officer could have "negotiated" the end of an armed suspect incident given the information and circumstances they were presented? Is there so little common sense left in this country that talking heads can get away with influencing public opinion with no facts to back their positions as outlandish as they may be? Is our society so apathetic that they lazily base their opinions, positions, ethics and moral beliefs on a TV show or worse, a political party line? If the answer to these questions is "yes" then we have truly become sheep; and we should all be afraid of the shepherds.