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I was heading back from the range last night. I pulled up behind a cop waiting at a red light. A few seconds later, the police officer switched on his cherries, drove through the traffic light, switched off his overheads and continued on his merry way, leaving a half-dozen little people behind. This on the same day that I received my first ticket in ten years—for speeding on a clear, four-lane road in bright sunshine on a stretch of road whose speed limit was carefully calculated to enhance the Johnston Police Department’s revenue stream. What does this have to do with guns, you ask? First and most obviously, there was my initial encounter at the “barrel” of a laser gun . . .

After they shot me, they shot me, bang-bang they shot me, I spoke to Ralph about my run-in with the law. After listening to me rant on about illegal search and seizure, innocent until proven guilty and various other constitutional concepts gleaned from the internet (if nowhere else), Ralph assured me I didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. “Pay the fine and be glad they didn’t beat you up for being a wise ass,” he counseled.

Message received. But it still bugs me that the cops can aim a laser speed gun at any random car (without establishing probable cause other than you happen to be driving through a speed trap), electronically “interrogate” your vehicle, and then play cha-ching with your license to drive. And do it with the kind of condescending arrogance that made Marie Antoinette so popular with French peasants.

Is this how the police want solid citizens to see them? As jack-booted revenuers with a bad attitude? In fact the police don’t give a flying you-know-what how taxpayers see them. Hello? They’re unionized. They’re all but completely insulated from accountability. If they’re rude to you or blow off a light just cause’ they want to what are YOU going to do about it?

Truth be told, the cops in my neck of the woods see solid citizens as sheep. The only people they fear are hardened criminals, crazies and people with political juice (easily identified by their low number license plate). The cops don’t respect law-abiding citizens because they don’t have to.

I’m not saying the police hereabouts would show more respect to taxpayers if we were, as a group, armed. That would imply that armed citizens and cops aren’t on the same side against the criminals and the crazies. It would also imply some sort of dangerous antagonism between the sheep and the shepherds. Neither is true.

But this much is true: a free society is all about mutual respect. And mutual respect is about a balance of power. And power is, ultimately, about violence. I do not condone violence against police by anyone ever. I’m simply pointing out that our society functions because of the threat of violence.

Don’t pay your taxes? The state will force you to do so under the threat of incarceration. Drive without a license? Same deal; carry your papers or face the consequences. The gun on a police officer’s hip is a powerful symbol of this implied threat; a reminder of the state’s power to kick your ass if you don’t play by the rules.

Just as the legal gun on your hip is a powerful symbol of your power as a responsible citizen; an object that says that you have a say about how society is organized and maintained.

Do I want cops to fear honest citizens? Of course not. But they would do well to understand that they don’t have a monopoly on legal violence. And that we, the people, give them the ability to use physical even lethal force. On our behalf.

So I guess I am saying that cops in my backyard would respect citizens more if we were, as a group, armed. Is it any coincidence that the worst police abuses occur in cities where the citizens are denied their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms? Or that police are most respectful to average citizens in those places where legally enshrined gun rights are a cultural given?

Maybe. Maybe not. Meanwhile, I’m all for banning the laser speed gun. B-b-but that would mean the cops couldn’t save children from being run over by dangerous motorists! Or stop crap drivers (who “somehow” slipped through the licensing system) from killing themselves and others.

Balance that against decreased respect for law enforcement by citizens who feel like their own government’s shaking them down because of simple greed and a concomitant lust for power. I know which way I come down on this one. You?

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  1. Or you could, you know, drive at the speed limit and obey the law. Why would you be complaining about ‘special treatment,’ while simultaneously demanding it?

    • I have to agree. It’s not always fair (or doesn’t seem fair), but if the law is obeyed there is no issue. If you don’t agree with the law you can take the steps to eventually change it. I understand that for most of us without political power this is nearly impossible but, we as a people have made an agreement that, in return for the privilege to operate a motor vehicle on public streets, we will obey traffic laws. At least until the zombie apocalypse occurs.

    • If all speed limits were established at the 85% rule, this argument would involve something other than obeying a completely arbitrary set of rules. We know that the absolute safest method of reducing red light accidents is to lengthen the time of the yellow light. Instead, in many jurisdictions (including Seattle) the yellow light times are reduced in order to increase the number of camera red light tickets. The average middle class English citizen had never had any dealings with the constabulary until the automobile and subsequent array of traffic laws and fines came about…in the mid 1920’s. My guess is most of you are in the same situation.

      When one wanders down a sunny freeway at 10:30 in the morning, literally the safest place to be driving, and encounters a myriad of motorcycle cops lasering the passing motorists, yet somehow on a rainy, windy morning are nowhere to be seen, one can be forgiven for thinking their actions have a lot more to do with revenue than safety.

      This entire concept of “just obey the laws and you have nothing to worry about” presupposes that there can never be unjust, unfair, or unreasonable government actions. I doubt that ANYONE reading this blog agrees with that. If your particular bugaboo is speeders may I suggest finding something else a trifle more serious to get your panties in a wad about. And police out there collecting traffic fines on clear unobstructed roads are tax agents, no more, no less.

      • For me the arguement that you should just obey the speed limit is invalid since the officer has the same disregard for traffic laws by turning on lights simply so they don’t have to wait on a traffic light. I would venture to say at least 90% of traffic citations are for revenue and the other 10% are actual safety violations. Some laws are for our protection and some are there just to boost revenue.

    • There are at least two systems of speeding laws in the US.

      In some areas, the speed limit is an absolute speed limit arbitrarily set by someone in authority. Exceed the limit and you’ve broken the law, period. The circumstances are legally irrelevant.

      In other areas, traveling at greater than the posted limit is prima facia evidence of excessive speed, but the traveler may go forward with his own evidence to show that his speed was not excessive under the circumstances.

      Prima facia limits are more difficult to understand, but make more sense and at least create the illusion of reasonableness. Arbitrary limits go up and down at the whim of — hey, does anyone know who actually sets those limits? No? Well, isn’t that problemmatical?

    • Right. Because every mindless revenue excuse created under the guise of safety is perfectly reasonable, even when ignored by the vast majority of the public. Obey, citizen!

      There’s more than a slight difference between doing 80 in a 65, and running a red light because you’re a cop. One is a relatively harmless disgregard of a mostly pointless law. The other is an abuse of a public position granted to protect the citizenry.

      Anyway, get a laser jammer and call it a day.

    • “Or you could, you know, drive at the speed limit and obey the law. Why would you be complaining about ‘special treatment,’ while simultaneously demanding it?” Submit. Obey.

      Fixed that for ya.

  2. The state forces you to participate in its programs and systems with the threat of a gun. The police are the enforcement arm of a system designed to subtly enslave, and any attempt to opt out or circumvent state monopolies are met with fines, incarceration, or death.
    Welcome to Voluntaryism.

  3. I believe in the US Constitution. It doesn’t say doodoo about your right to drive anyway you want, cry about the consequenses, and make believe all cops are out to get you.

    “Turns out the cops were stopping everyone driving down that particular sidewalk”……Ron White

  4. I think police should be responsible and accountable. I think ordinary citizens should be responsible and accountable.

    Police use radar guns because it’s more accountable to use a device to accurately measure how fast you’re going and write you a ticket than trust officers to accurate judge speeds by eye (with the possibility that they’ll go easier on some people than on others).

    What would it look like for you to be responsible and accountable? You’d try to drive the speed limit, and when you get stopped by the police for going over the speed limit, you’d act like an adult, admit you did something wrong, and graciously accept the penalty instead of posting a petulant, infantile whine about how the cops aren’t giving you any respect.

    You did something wrong. Man up, face the music, and get on with your life like an adult, instead of engaging in puerile whining about how the Man keeps on putting you down. It’s a damn speeding ticket, for crying out loud. You’ll pay a fine, you’ll pay a bit more for insurance, and your life will be essentially unchanged except (we can hope) you’ll pay more attention to speed limits for another 10 years. This is not a constitutional crisis.

    • No, he didn’t do anything wrong. He broke an arbitrary law that exists purely to provide revenue. Now, if he had been zig-zgging between other cars, tailgating, or going around bends so fast that the car was fishtailing, then yes, he’d be putting other people in danger and should be fined. However, driving safely in a straight line while keeping a safe distance from other cars puts NO ONE in danger and thus is not wrong.

      There is no such thing as “driving too fast”. However, there is such a thing as “driving too fast for the road conditions”.

  5. Officers will more often set up on “a clear, four-lane road in bright sunshine” because
    1. it is much safer for them and the people they stop
    2. there is a reasonably high correlation between speeding in that location and speeding through school zones, parking lots, geriatric wards…

  6. Of course there is always the option of not going over the speed limit. If you have an accident your car’s black box will tattle on you anyway. Part of being a law abiding gun owner is abiding by laws.

  7. I concur on the prevailing attitude among LEOs in the Ocean State. We are considered subjects, not citizens.
    Keep in mind, though, this sort of thing always starts at the top. The LEOs show the citizen no respect because their bosses (Mayors, Reps, Governors) have precious little interest in requiring it of them.
    Why? Because THEIR bosses (the aforementioned citizen) display the same apathy.
    We let them treat us like nothing but an ATM they can walk up to and make a withdrawal from whenever they feel like it. It’s why the better half and I will be moving along precisely as soon as circumstances permit. There are things I truly love about Rhode Island. However, they are all things I can stand to miss from the Live Free or Die state.

  8. This article is not proclaiming that I have a right to speed. I do not. (Any more than the cop at the top of the piece had the right to use his emergency lights to avoid adhering to traffic laws.) It’s about the relationship between the police and the population hereabouts, relative to the right to armed self-defense.

    At least that was what it was supposed to be about.

    • Sorry. That point kind of got lost in your post. Do you suppose there is some kind of law prohibiting the police from doing what you described? And if there is, how could we enforce it? Interesting questions!

    • That’s why you included the dubious legal argument about how radar guns are unconstitutional search that ‘interrogates your car’ without probable cause. And why you included the bit about how it was ‘for speeding on a clear, four-lane road in bright sunshine on a stretch of road’.

      It wasn’t because you were trying to excuse or justify your own irresponsible behavior. No, it was because you were making a point about how the police don’t respect you the way they ought to.

      Sorry, I don’t buy it. You went too fast, you got caught, and now you’re all about how, by God, you’ve got RIGHTS that are being VIOLATED.

      You’re well on the way to winning the Irresponsible Car Driver of the Day award.

  9. Having a bad day, huh? We have a street here where the speed limit is artificially low at 25 mph. The 1 and only time I got tagged I was zipping along in my 912 when the cop literally jumped out of the bushes and leveled his radar gun at me- damn near lost it, as all I could react with was “COP! GUN!”. Got off with a warning. Damn cop and his buddies probably still have a good laugh over my reaction……Pretty good rant Robert- let’s see what you come up with April 15th!

  10. You are lucky enough to live in a nice, low crime area and only interact with the police when you get a traffic citation. Live in an area where you personally need the police and you might see them differently than you do. Other than a whiny rant, not sure what point you were trying to make.

  11. We live in an overregulated society where, sooner or later, almost everyone becomes a lawbraker, mostly against their own will.

    If the grass in your front yard is too long , you’ve broken the law. If your garbage isn’t kept in an approved container, you’ve broken the law. If you don’t recycle enough, you’re Clyde Freaking Barrow. We are told what color to paint our houses and where to smoke a cigarette. In some states, we have a duty to retreat from our own homes rather than defend it against an intruder. And what isn’t overregulated is overtaxed.

    Under the circumstances, it’s no wonder that to some, cops are the face of the enemy. Even when cops try to so something reasonable, like enforce the safety rules of the road, we’re pissed off at them. That anger isn’t a byproduct of overregulation, its a direct product of it.

    This country and its political subdivision enact thousands of new laws every year and tens of thousands of new regulations. There cannot be any among us so gullible that they think such laws and regs are actually needed. If they were necessary, then how did we ever get along without them?

    So it’s cops on one side, and citizens on the other. Too bad for the cops. Too bad for the citizens. Too bad for the country.

    • +1 again Ralph.

      As I read through the various replies and try to formulate my thoughts your post does it perfectly. My personal need for law enforcement is minimal at best. They should get rid of 90% of them and disarm 50% of the balance. Seriously. Then they’d be too busy with real crime to bother with speed traps, brutalizing jaywalkers, and shaking down the local Dunkin Donuts.

      Of course, as you said, all these cops and agencies are necessary to enforce the multitude of ridiculous laws and regulations enacted every day, as well as protect the politicians responsible for doing so.

    • Yep. The scary part is that there is virtually no one who doesn’t break a few federal criminal statutes frequently, unknowingly. That means if they want you and are willing to watch you, they can bust you. Street cops say “I can ticket any driver within seven blocks, legitimately.” It’s true. Now we’ve got the same situation in all other aspects of business, agriculture, and many areas of family life. A bunch of heroes pass statutes, and then do their coke and professional women off shore or in a bought-and-paid-for jurisdiction. From governors of NY to Congressmen and Senators, it’s in the record. Sure, this is liberty.

    • Yep. Selective enforcement. I know you don’t generally like to talk about race here on TTAG, but hearing the whining of a white guy who got a speeding ticket…while speeding, I mean really. I guess it’s a positive thing that conservative white folks are starting to resist the police state.

  12. For all of you who are defending the use of radar guns by police officers: I know for a fact, from officers themselves freely admitting this, that if they need to hand out tickets they calibrate their radar gun so it always reads 10-20 mph faster than the target was actually going.

    The gentleman in my area who runs the local CCW course spent time a few decades back as law enforcement. “You get used to being above the law.” His words verbatim.

    • You know this for a fact? Then prove it and have those dishonest cops lose their jobs. A bet any news channels would love this story.

    • They don’t bother mis-calibrating the guns, or as is more common never checking them per the tuning fork method per the recommended intervals.

      They just decide you were doing X mph regardless of what the gun says. Much easier to just lie than futz with the gun.

  13. Defensive Radar use….Escort Passport 9500ix. Installed software contains, Speed Traps, Red Light Cameras, and has a readout that tells you how fast you were going it you get hit with laser, K, Ka, X band. Also memorizes locations that may set off the detector. Software can be updated regularly with subscription.

  14. I think where you go off the rails is finding disregard for citizens’ twee sensibilities in jurisdictions with restrictive CCW laws. A correlation is there, but it is not causative.

  15. I’m so glad to finally see someone recognizing that we are lorded over by government rules under the threat of lethal force.
    I’m so disappointed to hear all the sheep bleating about “obey the law,” “if the law is obeyed there is no issue,” “you did something wrong” by breaking the law, etc.

    If a law restricts free men from peaceably going about their business while not harming others or their property or their inherent rights and freedoms, then we have no moral obligation to obey it.
    Illegal does not equal immoral!

  16. There are definitely too many laws and too many regulations affecting us all. That does not give a person the right to do whatever they damn well please. BTW, WTF does a speeding ticket have to do with the truth about guns. This has become nothing but a politcal rant for cry babies.

    • I agree to a strong degree. Even though I’m passionate about issues concerning the social and legal misandry in our society, I need to cut back in my comments about it at TTAG.

  17. So you want to ban radar guns becuase you can’t keep your right foot off the skinny pedal? You also want to arm the populous as a threat to police officers in an attempt to negate the power imposed by the police. (Are you aware that using siad firearm agianst the police is illeagle?) Kind of childish logic. You don’t want to get a ticket in your vehicle, then keep your tags up to date, your speed under the limit and your ass off the cellphone. If can’t do these things, then accept the fact that eventually your going to get a ticket because you are breaking the law.

    Your threat to those in charge is impotent, even if the citizenry was armed there would still be a disparity of power levied on the side of the police. They have the authority to police you given to them by the government. If you broke the law and you were carrying a firearm, you couldn’t use it. If you tried they would shoot you. If they want to, they can disarm you. There is always going to be a disparity, arming yourself isn’t going to change that becuase the self imposed authority you have given yourself isn’t recognized by those who are in power.

  18. Disappointed at all the fair weather friends of freedom around here. If you think Robert’s post is about speeding rather than the pervasive nuances of power and regulation, you missed the point.

  19. I could write volumes about speed traps and cops running red lights and stop signs to get to the fast food joint. This crap happens all the time.
    I have seen 20 mph speed limits in the middle of nowhere with a graveyard near by and the cops camped out with radar guns in it.

  20. Robert, you are ABSOLUTELY right about the cops. Paragraphs 4 & 5 sum up what happens everyday out on the road. Great post.

  21. The first time I saw a cop pointing one of those laser guns at me, it looked like an MP5 or some such from 1/4 mile away. Totally scary for a second, until I figured it out.

    FTR, I drive like an old lady (a skilled old lady with good reflexes), and I’ve gotten one ticket in the last 20 years – sneaky photo radar school zone for a small church school, 29 in a 20. I used up my fast driving karma between the ages of 16 and 23 or so.

    What amazes me here is that RF is tweaked about getting a ticket, but there is little or no mention of the massive inequity in arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of non-white people in this country. Conservatives sit idly by while black folks, Mexicans, whatever bear the brunt of the law enforcement activity. In NYC, fascist central, 85% of people subjected to the “stop and frisk” thing are not white. 93% of these people are deemed innocent of any crime.

    Seriously people! Have you just now noticed the highly militarized police? If you guys won’t stand up for young, not white people, who will you stand up for?

    • Have you just now noticed the highly militarized police?

      Been noticing them for years, actually. There’s a guy named Radley Balko who’s been sounding the horn on the issue for some time now.

  22. I’ve got to admit, this one is challenging. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the car pictured above is a 2005-2011 W164 Mercedes ML350. I know, I know. It could be a an ML550 or even a GL, but I know it’s not an AMG version.

    Wait, should I have read the post first before answering?

    PS, Farago, I hope that’s your wife’s car. I’m just saying.

  23. Several months ago I received a speeding ticket when I passed a car on a two lane road with a posted 55 mph limit. I had just pulled back into my lane when the oncoming county cop came around a bend ahead toward me and hit me with the mobile radar. He whipped on his lights and turned around behind me. When he came up to my window (young Barney approached the passenger side) he said ‘you were doing 71 or 72’ . I said ‘ I can believe that, I had just passed the car in front of me and I hadn’t had a chance to slow down’. He gave me the ticket, I didn’t see much point in arguing at that time. I went to court to contest the ticket. The cop gave his version, basically just saying I was speeding and that I didn’t say anything when I was pulled over. I started to say something and the judge stopped me and swore me in, that somewhat threw me off balance. I gave the judge my explanation. He basically said I shouldn’t exceed the limit when passing. Since that was so far out of reality (I wanted to ask him what planet he drove on, but kept my mouth shut) I was left befuddled. I reiterated that I was passing on a two lane road, etc., the judge muttered something about ‘if I let everyone off…’, making me wonder if you are an individual in court, or part of some class of ‘everyone’ At least he knocked the speed down to 64. What a joke. I did receive a letter in the mail about two weeks prior to my court date from an attorney in the county of jurisdiction, stating that they handled traffic cases for $150.00 (my fine was about that, with court costs), maybe I should have contacted him. I might have been spared the points if I had ‘paid my dues’ in their local court. No big deal I guess, but Sgt. Hix went into my little book.

      • exactly. Let’s discuss how many times mr. barney has started off with “boy” when addressing me until I whipped out the bar association card with the DL. Yeah, let’s discuss fair.

  24. I don’t really see using a speed gun as a violation or anything, it is not “interrogating” your car and asking it how fast it was going, just using the doppler effect of a controlled wavelength of light. If they could not use a control laser on your car they could just make one that uses ambient light. Or measure out a stretch of road and just time you (but who wants to do math…). What I see as the real problem is highway speed limits. From what I understand, accident rates in places with speed limits and places without them are the same (within standard deviation of each other). People don’t drive too fast because they are scared, and thus do not drive recklessly. People who do drive recklessly are going to get their hands on illegal guns anyway, so additional anti gun legislation is irrelevant.

    I see what I did there.

  25. “Is this how the police want solid citizens to see them? As jack-booted revenuers with a bad attitude? In fact the police don’t give a flying you-know-what how taxpayers see them. Hello? They’re unionized. They’re all but completely insulated from accountability. If they’re rude to you or blow off a light just cause’ they want to what are YOU going to do about it?”

    Hence why most people with enough intelligence to read the newspaper or turn on the 6 o’clock news despise the police – their primary function is to be revenue agents who harass people just trying to get from point A to point B (usually from home to work or vice versa).

    I think that we need to take a page from the UK (scary, I know!) and disarm police except for extreme circumstances (such as hostage situations) where they can then check a gun out from the armory for temporary use before returning it. I think most cops would learn a lot of humility if they didn’t have the weapons on them to threaten people with.

  26. “I’m simply pointing out that our society functions because of the threat of violence.

    “Don’t pay your taxes? The state will force you to do so under the threat of incarceration. Drive without a license? Same deal; carry your papers or face the consequences. The gun on a police officer’s hip is a powerful symbol of this implied threat; a reminder of the state’s power to kick your ass if you don’t play by the rules.

    “[Cops] don’t have a monopoly on legal violence. And that we, the people, give them the ability to use physical even lethal force. On our behalf.”

    These are important points with many many political and moral implications. Too bad they are buried in the middle of this piece on radar guns. This deserves an editorial all by itself.

  27. I recall reading/seeing sometime recently that modern interstate highway speed limits were originally implemented not for safety, but for oil conservation. The idea was to limit drivers to speeds that offered optimum fuel efficiency for cars at the time. The bigger purpose was to make the U.S. better able to weather an oil crisis. Doesn’t change what such speed limits, particularly local, have become.

  28. Personally, I would support the use of cellphone killer laser guns by traffic enforcement officers instead of radar guns. It’s not the guy doing 5-10 mph over the posted speed limit that bothers me. It’s the self-absorbed, inbred fool texting, web surfing or blathering away on his cellphone, weaving from lane-to-lane and ditch-to-median.

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