A couple nights ago there were shots fired in my normally-peaceful neighborhood, very close to my home, just before 9PM (first one shot, then a series of three). I called 911, and police were dispatched to patrol the neighborhood minutes later. As far as I know, though, nothing out of the ordinary was found. Still, after locking my doors and turning on my house alarm, turning on outside lights, and talking to neighbors by phone, I watched the police drive slowly around, wondering if they would be fired at next. They weren't, thankfully.
I had reason to worry about them. It's a disturbing phenomenon in the last couple weeks: shootings involving attacks on policemen.
Shootings of law enforcement, many fatal: in Detroit, Michigan; Port Orchard, Washington; Indianapolis, Indiana; Lincoln City, here in Oregon; Miami, Florida; Lakewood, New Jersey; Ranier, Washington; Huntington, West Virginia; Hamburg, Pennsylvania; Savannah, Georgia; St. Petersburg, Florida; Portland, Oregon -- 12 shootings (that I have heard about, anyhow)!
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Website, we have had as many law enforcement shooting fatalities in the U.S. in just January of this year as we had for the entirety of 2010! (14 deaths)
Some are clear ambushes. Others are shootings more typical of officers investigating a crime and the criminals shooting at them as they arrive or are being arrested, which happen all year round.
Here is a good article reviewing some of the recent shooting, from CNN.com:
Our police officers put themselves in harm's way every day for our safety. They train very well and are openly armed, and yet, clearly, still able to be ambushed and (sometimes) out-gunned -- even at a police station!
We need to insure that the police are better armed than their opponents. We need to increase funding to many police forces, to insure adequate number of officers on the beat (vote for those bond measures!). We need to tighten controls to help reduce availability of guns to people like these, through better and ubiquitous background checks on all gun purchases and better NICS reporting (see today's two-step proposal from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, for instance) [Police chiefs all over the nation support tighter gun control legislation]. And we need stricter sentencing, more prison space, and better rehabilitation services, to protect against recidivism with violent offenders.
As yet there is no clear pattern to the shootings (NOTE: I am not claiming one!), other than the targeting of people in authority (let's not forget the shooting of a Congresswoman and federal judge in Tucson, as well). However, this rash of attacks on police illustrates one thing for certain: crazy people out there with guns are willing to take on a clearly better-trained and openly-armed opponent.
What does this say to the "open carry" movement and laws to allow gun owners to walk around with loaded weapons strapped to their bodies, outside of their clothing? If these criminals will take on law enforcement, wouldn't they take on armed civilians playing "Wyatt Earp"? I argue that officer shootings such as these illustrate that open-carry potentially marks you as a good target to these nutcases, doesn't guarantee you a jump on your opponent, and endangers those around you.
Related article: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/41235743/