William H. “Skip” Holbrook (above) is the Chief of the Columbia Police. Writing for thestate.com, Chief Holbrook wants the citizens under his protection to know that “the right to bear arms is fundamental to our democracy.” But —
The sale, purchase, ownership and carrying of guns comes with great responsibility and use of common sense, and I firmly believe an open-carry law will significantly complicate police interactions with citizens, resulting in many unintended consequences.
And how might that happen?
Open-carry law or not, when citizens see someone with a gun, they will call the police. When responding to “person with a gun” calls, officers have few details to help them quickly determine an armed individual’s intent and whether that person poses a threat to public safety or the individual.
They could, I dunno, ask? Observe? And doesn’t the Chief’s qualifier — “open-carry law or not” — indicate that the police face the same “problem” whether or not there’s open carry? I protest! Oh wait . . .
Also let’s not forget the numerous and frequent protests, demonstrations and marches in our city. Open carry could make it extraordinarily difficult for police to protect those exercising their right to assemble and protest peacefully. There is no denying that easily accessible firearms add fuel to already emotionally charged situations, which too often results in tragedy.
God forbid protesters should exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms while exercising their right to free assembly. Practically speaking, it might prevent violence.
Chief Holbrook really isn’t happy with South Carolina’s move to gun rights restoration. But even he knows his argument sucks. So . . . time for a meaningless anecdote!
Recently, Columbia police officers answered a call about a “person with a gun acting erratically” at a local Wal-Mart. It was just the second day on the job for one of the responding officers.
Upon their arrival, the officers were easily able to identify the suspect, but because he was in a store with many innocent people nearby, the officers allowed him to leave the store before engaging with him. Obviously, this was a tense, dangerous situation, putting a large number of our citizens and our officers at risk as the armed suspect moved from Wal-Mart through a parking lot and into another business, ignoring officers’ commands.
Imagine this same scenario if South Carolina had an open-carry law.
Conceivably, there could have been many individuals with weapons displayed when officers arrived, making it extremely difficult to distinguish between the suspect(s), accomplices and innocent bystanders.
Police would have had to make very quick judgments about whether each armed citizen was a threat. What looks like erratic behavior by the person who called the police could look like perfectly normal behavior to others. Then the split-second decision our officers have to make will be judged by others who have the luxury of time, information and a controlled environment.
So South Carolina cops wouldn’t be able to distinguish between a suspect — presumably described by the 911 caller and identified by witnesses — and law-abiding citizens. Who might have a gun! And if cops couldn’t make that determination they’d shoot the wrong person? Which has happened when?
The simple truth is that some cops don’t like armed citizens. They consider open carry — which deters crime — an affront to their authority. It isn’t. And even it is, so what?
But in the end, police opposition to open carry is a matter of optics, not reality. Chief Holbrook’s closing statement makes that perfectly clear.
I hope that if our state senators decide to take up this bill, whey will consider the unintended consequences and potential impact to our state’s image and reputation that an open-carry law could have.
I hope the South Carolina Senators consider their sworn duty to uphold both the U.S. and their state’s constitution. Watch this space.