On May 17, I attended a gun turn-in event in urban Milwaukee. That particular neighborhood is known for its high crime rate. One of the first things that I noticed was a person openly carrying a holstered handgun, who marched with those calling for an end to unjustified shootings. But that was a special occasion, and one focused on guns. A few days later, though, on Memorial day I took a picture of a young man openly carrying at a busy McDonald’s in Hayward, Wisconsin . . .
A commenter, on freerepublic.org, “Secret Agent Man,” mentioned that:
…a solo open carry guy in downtown milwaukee wold not get the same treatment. he’d be taken down and cuffed. and flynn’s said so.
Secret Agent Man is referring to the infamous statement of Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, back in 2009. It shows how far-reaching a police chief’s statements can be in chilling the exercise of Constitutional rights. In 2009, before the passage of the shall-issue law in Wisconsin, Chief Flynn, as recorded on washingtoncountysheriffwi.org, said,
“My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we’ll put them on the ground, take the gun away and then decide whether you have a right to carry it.”
I do not know of any incidents where Chief Flynn’s “troops” carried out his threat; even a Milwaukee Police Chief seems to know when to back down. The legislature changed the law in 2011, and it appears that police are mostly abiding by it, although some monetary settlements to open carriers may have helped.
William Polster openly followed the law this last weekend in Milwaukee in a neighborhood that was the scene of tragedy only a week before, when a gunfight between suspected gang members resulted in a stray bullet hitting a 10-year-old in the head.
He walked for two hours within two blocks of the shooting, openly carrying his GLOCK 21 and handing out pocket Constitutions. Most people were willing to take a Constitution from a stranger with a gun. He handed out about 30 Constitutions and talked with about as many people.
Only one person suggested that there was a potential problem with the Constitutional right to bear arms. They were concerned with the possibility of mentally unstable people having access to firearms. No one asked Mr. Polster to leave, no one was hostile. While police drove by in squad cars three times, no one stopped or questioned his right to openly carry in Milwaukee. Mr. Polster has posted his two hours of open carry to YouTube, if you wish to watch for yourself.
The unjustified homicide problem in the United States has been greatly reduced in the last 20 years. As most of the country has embraced the “Shall issue” model of concealed carry, the unjustified homicide rate has been cut in half. Many other factors may be involved, but the rise of carry permits coinciding with the drop in unjustified homicides is a startling fact most people are unaware of.
The vast majority of unjustified homicides are concentrated in specific urban areas, in a small subset of the population. From the research of David Kennedy, a renowned criminal justice professor and former Harvard researcher:
“We now know that homicide and gun violence are overwhelmingly concentrated among serious offenders operating in groups: gangs, drug crews, and the like representing under half of one percent of a city’s population who commit half to three-quarters of all murders.”
The problem with inner city urban areas is that the people there have become acculturated to not trusting the justice system. If you look around the globe, you see that lack of trust as the common factor in high homicide rates. If people don’t trust the system to be effective and dispense fairly reliable justice, the homicide rate soars.
How do you restore trust in the justice system? Perhaps one way to do it is to hand out copies of the Constitution while clearly demonstrating that the police have to respect the limitations that it places on the government.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.