A couple decades ago, police had a lot of credibility in the gun community. When we’d need to get a carry permit, it often would involve police-approved training, and the permit would be issued by a state or local police agency (or some division of one).
Being “into guns” was even a gateway into law enforcement for many people, including myself when I served as a volunteer. In most parts of the country, the local sheriff and sometimes even the police chief was an outspoken advocate for the rights of responsible gun owners.
While people on the political left have historically been far more antagonistic to police and folks on the right have been predominately very supportive, the image and respectability of law enforcement among those on the right is starting to take on water. This is ultimately bad for not only police (who won’t have many friends left in the community if they lose right-leaning gun owners), but for the gun rights movement at large.
In this article, I’m going to give some recent examples of things that hurt the relationship between police and the gun rights movement, and offer some ideas on how to improve this.
Tuesday’s Anti-Gun Press Conference In Texas
Probably the worst thing in recent memory was the April 13, 2021 press conference in Texas where people in various police leadership positions spoke out against Constitutional Carry. At the state capitol, the Dallas police chief, other chiefs, and some guests explained their opposition to permitless carry in Texas, trotting out the usual “blood will run in the streets” talking points, when none of the at least 16 states that have passed permitless carry have had any of the problems they predict.
While the police chiefs involved mostly came from cities with Democratic Party mayors and city councils (who appoint the chiefs), gun owners are getting tired of seeing the same lies repeated year after year about how constitutional carry will harm communities. States like Alaska, Arizona, and many others have been constitutional carry states for years, without the death and destruction these oath-breaking chiefs predict. Even academic studies bear out that there aren’t any negative public safety effects.
When invited to “back the blue” after seeing “the blue” try to destroy their rights, many gun owners on social media are giving the same response the elderly time-traveling Captain America did:
Biden Putting a Waco Man In Charge of BATFE
I’m not going to go into great detail, as The Truth About Guns already covered this, but Biden’s BATFE nominee is absolute garbage.
Not only was he involved in the controversial mass death at Waco in 1993 (dozens of women and children were burnt to death), but he has since been caught lying about the incident. There are pictures on the internet of him proudly posing with his rifle next to the burnt bodies of children.
The relationship between the ATF and gun owners has never been stellar, but if you ask around you’ll find that most gun shop owners and others in the industry have pretty darn good working relationships with their local agents. Shoving someone as awful as David Chipman down the industry’s throat is a great way to sour and destroy what progress has been made on both sides of this.
Recent Uses of Force Against Gun Owners and Others
Up to this point, you could reasonably tie the things straining gun owner-police relationships to left-leaning politicians. Police chiefs are political appointees often appointed by Democratic Party mayors, and I don’t think I have to explain who Joe Biden is.
However, police misconduct at the “boots on the ground” level is also starting to sour the relationship, and that behavior falls squarely on LEOs themselves.
Here are some recent examples:
In Virginia, police officers assaulted and pepper-sprayed an Army officer, after giving him conflicting commands and confusing him. The few willing to defend this misconduct try to claim that the lieutenant had a gun, but that’s not illegal in Virginia and the police couldn’t have known that when they started assaulting the Army officer unless they had X-ray vision. The police officer was fired, but the public relations damage is done.
There’s also the recent killing of a man by a police officer who mistook her gun for a taser. At best, this was extreme ineptitude, and at worst this was a lame way to attempt to evade responsibility for murder. Assuming it was a mistake, we are seeing a lot of mistakes and “mistakes.” The 2019 Miramar shootout shows us that police have no qualms about using their fellow citizens’ vehicles for cover (at least one man died due to this). The sketchy killings of Duncan Lemp, Daniel Shaver, Breonna Taylor, and Ashli Babbitt leave us wondering whether the police are too incompetent to be carrying guns or are intentionally participating in extrajudicial killings that go unpunished. Neither conclusion is acceptable.
We May Actually Need Some Police Reforms
While most of us here wouldn’t want to “defund the police,” it’s becoming clear that there are issues we can’t ignore. The politicization of policing, as we saw in Texas and in Biden’s ATF nominee, can be quite dangerous. That needs to be addressed. Nobody should be working in policing who clearly can’t be impartial. If an agency like the ATF can’t be reformed, complete elimination (through lawful legislative processes, of course) should be considered a reasonable option.
At the same time, police need to fix the problem of misconduct on the ground, too. Attacking gun owners, doing stupid things that get innocent people and petty criminals killed, and the possibility that intentional extrajudicial killings occur are all unacceptable. Whether these things are happening intentionally or due to negligence, it still falls squarely on the people and the departments involved, and they bear responsibility for fixing their training and their cultures.
Maybe gun owners have been too kind to police, and have “backed the blue” until we’ve become enablers instead of friends. While most of us certainly don’t want to get rid of policing, it’s clear that changes need to be made. Gun owners should be among those calling for rational reforms.