Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Pro-Gun Extremist's Opinion On "Law Enforcement" (Part I)

(Updated -- see below)

Pro-gun extremists and lobbies like the NRA like to talk about getting "tough on crime," mandatory sentencing, and "just enforcing the laws already on the books" (consider some of the "solutions" proposed by pro-gunners on my site previously, for instance). 

Yet, at the same time, they systematically disrespect our law enforcement professionals by opposing every measure that those law enforcement organizations support, such as re-enacting the Federal Assault Weapons ban, requiring mandatory background checks on all gun sales, and banning high-capacity ammo clips.  Here in Oregon, the extremist organization, Oregon Firearms Federation, even tried to remove the Oregon State Police from the background check system, bypassing an important part in identifying dangerous individuals (this is the same group who is trying to return gun rights to felons).  Pro-gun commenters on news sites and blogs regularly disrespect policemen, painting them as bungling, corrupt, or inexperienced, or out only to protect themselves.

Who would know better than our law enforcement officers about the dangers of guns on our streets?  According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 101 officers have died in the line of duty so far this year.  36 were by gunfire, plus one accidental shooting.  Just a few days ago, one young officer was shot to death in the line of duty in New York.  According to the Violence Policy Center, collected from FBI data, one in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty is killed with an assault weapon (note that the data is collected from a different set of data, from previous years, than the Officer Down Memorial Page, which uses data from this year).  Here in Eugene, Oregon, last year, we lost a motorcycle policeman, Chris Kilcullen, when a dangerously mentally-ill woman who nonetheless was legally able to purchase a handgun shot and killed him during a traffic stop.

Our law enforcement personnel are heroes every day, putting themselves in harm's way to serve and protect us.  They are highly-trained to calmly deal with conflict situations, how to identify threats, how to minimize personal bias, and to know all the complex legal issues.  They have to maintain a proficiency with their weapons, and have to be regularly re-certified.  Most importantly, they are accountable to review of their actions.  These obvious facts separate them from the average citizen and help keep our communities safer.

But pro-gun extremists live in their own fantasy world, where they consider themselves better-trained, more accurate, and better able to protect themselves and others than the police.  They would rather see a world where everyone is armed and (as if everyone is willing to be a vigiliante) ready to shoot-to-kill anyone who seems to be a threat.  Who needs the police when you can be judge, jury, and executioner?  There are plenty of examples of gun guys playing "Wyatt Earp."  Just consider the recent idiotic statements about what they would have done "if only" they had been in the theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Case in point:  Earlier this year I posted about how citizens in southern Oregon were preparing to take the law into their own hands, by arming themselves and forming a posse, to fight a rash of property crimes with lethal force in the wake of cuts to local law enforcement.

Now they've made good on their promise.  Men in southern Oregon's Josephine County have now formed a posse of armed citizens to patrol their community:

"I believe in standing up for myself rather than waiting for the government to do something for me," said Sam Nichols, a retired marina manager. 
Nichols has organized a posse of about a dozen fed-up residents who have started patrolling the small community of O'Brien, which has about 750 residents.
"We call ourselves the CAC Patrol, Citizens Against Crime," he said.

In other words, they are tackling property crimes with deadly force by strapping on a handgun and slapping a gold star on the door of their vehicles.  But it gets even more shocking....

But neither Nichols nor Dickson think the sheriff would do a better job of protecting their end of the county with more resources. 
They both voted no on a tax proposal to make up the $12 million loss and say they would do so again if county commissioners brought the issue back up.

In this Oct. 12, 2012, photo, Sam Nichols, left, and Glenn
Woodbury pose in front of Woodbury's pickup in
O'Brien, Ore. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
Did you get that?  Even though they've received NO police training, legal training, or certifications, they feel they are better than the police.  So much so that they purposely voted against bond measures to fund their sheriff's department and jail, which in turn led to loss of sheriff patrols and jail beds that led to their justifications for living out their vigilante fantasy. 

Look at the picture of these two yahoos posing with their "patrol vehicle," taken from the article.  Do you see the haughty look on their faces?  Do you really want these guys protecting you?  Vigilante justice didn't work so well for Trayvon Martin, did it?  What sort of biases do these guys have?

And what does their sheriff think of their "patrol?"  From the article:
Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson says he's glad for the help but warns that law enforcement is dangerous work. 
"They need to really understand there are consequences that can be very costly, physically as well as legally," he said, explaining that volunteers could get sued or shot if they pull a gun on someone or make a false arrest.
"Most of them haven't had what I feel is an adequate level of training to do that they do," he said. "But if they serve as eyes and ears and only report what they see to law enforcement, I think they can keep themselves at a safe level." 
Policing expert Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, says neighborhood watch efforts can be positive but turn into problems when volunteers "decide that instead of supplementing law enforcement, they are going to replace law enforcement. Then you cross potentially into vigilantism."
Kenney said vigilantes tend to get "out of control - especially when people are armed." 
He added that "people drawn to this sort of thing are the kinds of personalities more likely to take it too far."

Naturally, these gun guys deny that it's "vigilantism."  But the line was crossed when they decided to arm themselves.  Neighborhood watch is a great idea.  Preparing yourself to shoot robbers to death, on behalf of other people, is vigiliantism.

I'm waiting for the inevitable news article to come, telling me about a shooting down there in Josephine County, with one of these "Citizens Against Crime" vigilantes getting shot to death, or some innocent being targeted by them.

UPDATE (11/5/12):  Read Part II of this posting.

ADDENDUM (11/4/12):  As example of the pro-gun extremists' disrespect for law enforcement, see the comments left at the Ceasefire Oregon Facebook page for this blog post.  In response to the comment "How comfortable are you with the idea of armed posses roaming your neighborhood? That's what's happening in southern Oregon," a pro-gunner calling himself "Anthony Wilkes-Booth" posted the following reply:
A hell of a lot more comfortable than the armed and often belligerent gangs called police officers. At least the average citizen doesn't get to hide behind the powerful shield of qualified immunity and can be held accountable far more easily when they act inappropriately..

ADDENDUM (11/14/12):  Here is a better option than vigilante "posse" patrols:  Sheriff volunteer reserves, which are being used just north of the area mentioned in this post, up in Lane County, where I live.  The reserves are volunteers who have been trained by the Sheriff's department and are overseen by the Sheriff's department.

UPDATE (2/16/13):  Now a second "posse" has been formed in Grant county.  What could possibly go wrong?

UPDATE (11/6/13):  Once again, citizens in southern Oregon have rejected a public safety tax increase that would have funded their law enforcement and jail facilities, further reinforcing their vigilante mentality and sinking the county into increased crime rates.  It's so bad now that the county commissioners and governor may have to declare a public safety emergency and impose a tax.  The state (and it citizens) will have to pay for the rest.  This is quite ironic that they voted against the tax increase, given that these same southern Oregon citizens already enjoy the lowest property tax rate in the state.  Now they will live on the welfare provided by the rest of the state.  So much for those Libertarian ideals.

UPDATE (12/27/13):  As stated in a recent article, forces in Josephine County are increasing armed "citizen patrols", using the failed levy (which they wanted to fail) to justify the action.  The mythical Wild West is a reality in southern Oregon, instead of a civilized society ruled by law.  From the article:
Though the “response team” members do carry legal firearms, Selig said the team’s main goal is to provide a deterrent presence, and that none of them have ever fired a shot. He said those involved in his group believe there is no substitute for well-trained law enforcement, but they feel they have no other choice but to protect their community. ... 
Heck said though he supports neighborhood watch groups and citizens being vigilant in their community, the rise of increasingly “aggressive” community watch groups make him worried the situation could escalate to violence. Watch groups have been under increasing scrutiny nationally ever since the George Zimmerman case in Florida.  
“These things seem good on the PR side but fail a little in the reality side,” Heck said. 
Heck said the only real solution is for the county citizens to approve more funds.