I was heading back from the range last night. I pulled up behind a cop waiting at a red light. A few seconds later, the police officer switched on his cherries, drove through the traffic light, switched off his overheads and continued on his merry way, leaving a half-dozen little people behind. This on the same day that I received my first ticket in ten years—for speeding on a clear, four-lane road in bright sunshine on a stretch of road whose speed limit was carefully calculated to enhance the Johnston Police Department’s revenue stream. What does this have to do with guns, you ask? First and most obviously, there was my initial encounter at the “barrel” of a laser gun . . .
After they shot me, they shot me, bang-bang they shot me, I spoke to Ralph about my run-in with the law. After listening to me rant on about illegal search and seizure, innocent until proven guilty and various other constitutional concepts gleaned from the internet (if nowhere else), Ralph assured me I didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. “Pay the fine and be glad they didn’t beat you up for being a wise ass,” he counseled.
Message received. But it still bugs me that the cops can aim a laser speed gun at any random car (without establishing probable cause other than you happen to be driving through a speed trap), electronically “interrogate” your vehicle, and then play cha-ching with your license to drive. And do it with the kind of condescending arrogance that made Marie Antoinette so popular with French peasants.
Is this how the police want solid citizens to see them? As jack-booted revenuers with a bad attitude? In fact the police don’t give a flying you-know-what how taxpayers see them. Hello? They’re unionized. They’re all but completely insulated from accountability. If they’re rude to you or blow off a light just cause’ they want to what are YOU going to do about it?
Truth be told, the cops in my neck of the woods see solid citizens as sheep. The only people they fear are hardened criminals, crazies and people with political juice (easily identified by their low number license plate). The cops don’t respect law-abiding citizens because they don’t have to.
I’m not saying the police hereabouts would show more respect to taxpayers if we were, as a group, armed. That would imply that armed citizens and cops aren’t on the same side against the criminals and the crazies. It would also imply some sort of dangerous antagonism between the sheep and the shepherds. Neither is true.
But this much is true: a free society is all about mutual respect. And mutual respect is about a balance of power. And power is, ultimately, about violence. I do not condone violence against police by anyone ever. I’m simply pointing out that our society functions because of the threat of violence.
Don’t pay your taxes? The state will force you to do so under the threat of incarceration. Drive without a license? Same deal; carry your papers or face the consequences. The gun on a police officer’s hip is a powerful symbol of this implied threat; a reminder of the state’s power to kick your ass if you don’t play by the rules.
Just as the legal gun on your hip is a powerful symbol of your power as a responsible citizen; an object that says that you have a say about how society is organized and maintained.
Do I want cops to fear honest citizens? Of course not. But they would do well to understand that they don’t have a monopoly on legal violence. And that we, the people, give them the ability to use physical even lethal force. On our behalf.
So I guess I am saying that cops in my backyard would respect citizens more if we were, as a group, armed. Is it any coincidence that the worst police abuses occur in cities where the citizens are denied their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms? Or that police are most respectful to average citizens in those places where legally enshrined gun rights are a cultural given?
Maybe. Maybe not. Meanwhile, I’m all for banning the laser speed gun. B-b-but that would mean the cops couldn’t save children from being run over by dangerous motorists! Or stop crap drivers (who “somehow” slipped through the licensing system) from killing themselves and others.
Balance that against decreased respect for law enforcement by citizens who feel like their own government’s shaking them down because of simple greed and a concomitant lust for power. I know which way I come down on this one. You?