There are Americans who long for European-style gun control. The correct response: the United States is not Europe. Americans have a Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms — regardless of comparative arguments surrounding violent crime. To suggest we should be more like gun control-heavy countries like France — which just extended the revocation of civil rights another 30 days after the Nice truck massacre — is insupportable.
But issues of Constitutionally enshrined individual liberty get shoved to one side when you’re hell bent on civilian disarmament. Writing for collective-evolution.com (what does that tell you?) California fitness writer Alexa Erickson gives us insight into the twisted mind of a Europhile gun control advocate.
Confrontation, sporadic violence, and arrests during protests continue to follow the surge of racially biased shooting in the United States. People are angry, confused, and above all, terrified of law enforcement. They have lost faith and trust in the justice system of a nation which prides itself on racial equality.
While it may be true that Americans have lost respect for their justice system, there’s no evidence to suggest that most people “live in terror” of police in the United States. No doubt referring to recent racially charged accusations against the police, Ms. Erickson clearly believes cops are to be feared, offering readers a textbook case of both anti-gun hyperbole and psychological projection.
[It’s also worth noting that people in Mexico do live in terror of the police force, and for good reason. Torture : American “nearly beaten to death”: and other recent torture stories at borderlandbeat.com proves the point. The fact that the Mexican government has disarmed its civilian population is entirely relevant to this discussion.]
In all the countries where police officers don’t cary guns, except Iceland, citizens don’t have access to guns either, which means police are rarely taken by surprise by a firearm. However, officers are typically trained to handle firearms when need be, and can respond to reports of a citizen with a gun by sending an armed police officer to confront them.
Gun violence is a thing in England, France, Germany, Italy and the rest of the Eurozone. Police in these countries may rarely be taken by surprise by armed criminals, but the average cops’ reliance on remote armed units gives firearms-toting criminals a key advantage, especially terrorists. The unarmed flics responding to the Charlie Hebdo attack springs immediately to mind.
Ms. Erickson’s mind doesn’t encompass ballistic outliers, no matter how deadly. To her way of thinking, the presence of guns in the hands of police — never mind law-abiding citizens — is a bad, bad thing.
Is the driving force to keep society in check the threat of an armed officer? When walking down the street of a peaceful neighborhood, standing outside a grocery store, or walking through a restaurant, a U.S. officer’s gun in sight is certainly off-putting, if not outright frightening for many, especially given the statistics. Can we trust that, if a situation escalates, innocent bystanders won’t be in the way of unnecessary gunfire?
Off-putting for whom? Hoplophobes like Ms. Erickson. To the point where she considers police gunfire “unnecessary.” To make that case, she found an academic who shares her anti-armed police point-of-view: Paul Hirschfield, associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University,
Hirschfield says that in Finland, officers must get permission from a superior officer before shooting. In Spain, they must fire a warning shot, then aim for non-vital body parts, before resorting to lethal shooting. “In the United States, you only shoot to kill. You only use deadly force,” he explains.
Wrong. Police — like their non-law enforcement civilian counterparts — are only legally allowed to shoot to “stop a threat.” They are not executioners, unless you’re determined to see them that way.
The law in the U.S. doesn’t make it all that hard for police violence to occur without repercussions. In fact, while under the European Convention of Human Rights, police are only permitted to shoot if it’s “absolutely necessary” in order to achieve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, in the U.S., police officers can shoot if there’s “reasonable” perception of a grave and imminent threat. The latter is entirely subjective.
“What defines reasonable?,” questions Hirschfield. “We have a society where it’s often considered reasonable to take a black person reaching into their waistband as a threat. The whole legal framework for determining whether lethal force is legal or not is premised on a flawed assumption that officers can determine what is reasonable.”
Wrong again. An officer’s decision to use lethal force is always subject to legal review. His or her superiors, a prosecutor and/or judge or jury must then objectively decide if a “reasonable person” would have used lethal force in the same situation. Did the person shot pose an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm?
I’m not saying justice is always done, but what other standard should be applied?Ms. Erickson and Mr. Hirschfield assertion that “absolutely necessity” is a higher standard for the use of lethal force than the officer’s reasonable belief is an invitation to hang ’em out to dry, regardless of circumstances.
In 2016 alone, the U.S. has had considerable cause for mourning, and anger has led to retaliation, as the police killings in Dallas demonstrate. But while police officers put themselves in the way of great personal risk, more training may allow them to minimize this risk, both for themselves as well as the public they are protecting.
While more police training is a good thing, Ms. Erickson’s diatribe indicates that she feels the Dallas police shooting was justified. It wasn’t. Neither is her obvious desire to disarm everyone in the United States — including law enforcement officers. But when your mind is set on a gun-free utopia, you can justify just about anything. And do.