By Rick Notkin
I have watched a lot of TV in my time, including many cop and detective shows (e.g., Dragnet, Adam-12, Kojak, Barney Miller, CHiPs, Hill St. Blues). As a firearms enthusiast from childhood, I noticed how guns were used in those shows. Once I was old enough to have and shoot my own guns, I saw that realism wasn’t always the prime consideration (like when 5-0’s Steve McGarrett downed a helicopter with a 2” .38 Special). Once I received permission from the state to carry a handgun, I became much more aware of the soft and hard prejudice against armed citizens. NRA’s Cam Edwards calls it “otherizing”. Watching these shows with this new perspective, I noticed that non-police with guns were almost always either perps or people who were probably going to be perps . . .
Sometimes, the show’s writers also seemed to be against even the police using guns.
In the Peaks and Valleys episode of CHiPs, Ponch and Baricza answer a call in a remote area. While searching for the trouble, two cranks shoot up Baricza’s car with a Thompson and a shotgun. The cops’ response was to hide: Bear’s hand resting on his revolver. After the perps were out of ammo, Baricza then appeared to draw his weapon (it’s not visible on the screen). Great officer survival skills. Not.
On quite a few episodes of Barney Miller, any regular citizen who even mentioned buying a gun was told to “leave the matter to the professionals.” Even consummate cop, Inspector Frank Luger, NYPD, was never seen carrying a sidearm.
So while binge watching Adam-12 recently, I came across an episode (Log 55: Missing Child) that actually showed justified use of force by a citizen. A young-ish man, Antonio, hearing his car broken into, grabbed his father’s revolver to scare away the thief. When confronted, the thief attacked and Antonio shot him.
Malloy and Reed arrived at the apartment building to find hush-mouthed neighbors. They finally get the story and Antonio is arrested. I was pleasantly surprised when we see Antonio and his parents being released by the investigating detective. But results such as these seem to be very much the exception. Can you remember a civilian DGU happy ending? What’s your favorite cop show?