Our friends in the anti-gun media know an opportunity when they see one. While the murder of George Floyd didn’t involve a firearm in any way, shape or form, the Washington Post’s Robert Gebelhoff has engaged in a bit of pretzel-like logical contortion in order to argue that you can’t expect to reform the nation’s police forces without further restricting the gun rights of all American citizens.
Reading his op-ed, you know what you’re in for when when he quickly whips out an old favorite of the civilian disarmament industry, claiming that America is in the midst of an “epidemic of gun violence.” We could fully fisk this load of equine fecal matter, but we’ve done it dozens of times. The inconvenient fact that Gebelhoff refuses to acknowledge is that America has been experiencing historically low violent crime rates at a time when the number of civilian-owned guns has never been higher.
But then we get to the good part. So to speak.
Police reform and gun reform go hand in hand. Reducing the easy availability of guns would not eliminate the problems with policing in America nor end unwarranted killings, but it would help. …
Simply put, police are more likely to use lethal force when they believe lethal force might be used against them. We’ve seen the tragic results: Police fatally shooting scores of people, including children, because they mistake their toy guns for real weapons. Or shooting an adult man because he’s holding a cellphone. Or a hammer. Or a pipe. Or a lighter.
Got that? Gebelhoff points out that police sometimes kill innocent people because they mistake things in their hands for firearms. What’s his solution?
[M]ore stringent gun laws would also represent an important step to reduce police shootings and to make communities safer overall. There are a number of remedies available — from mandating safe storage of firearms to requiring licenses for ownership, many of which states have already implemented — that can reduce gun deaths without violating Second Amendment rights.
Safe storage laws have literally nothing to do with police misbehavior or their mistakenly killing unarmed people. Not a single thing. As for gun licensure, not only is that a direct infringement on the right to keep and bear arms, but there is no other enumerated civil right — speech, voting, religious freedom — that is subject to a government permission slip.
Requiring a license to exercise your Second Amendment rights is both unconstitutional and abhorrent. To say nothing of the fact that having a gun license wouldn’t reduce a single occurrence of police misbehavior or prevent the shooting of one unarmed individual.
In a nation of over 400 million firearms, there is literally no way of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and those who might present a reasonable threat to police officers. Crooks don’t bother with niceties like gun permits, even in the few places that currently require them (ask anyone at the NYPD). So requiring licenses will do nothing to alleviate a cop’s fear that the thing in a perp’s had is a gun.
Despite what you read in the media these days, the vast number of police officers in this country are good people doing the best job they can. The few bad actors like the Derek Chauvins of the world make all cops look bad.
How would Robert Gebelhoff do something to “reform” policing? He wants to see . . .
…overdue structural and cultural changes needed to excise the bad behavior in law enforcement. That should include the demilitarization of police, a greater investment in local social services and a national reconciliation effort in communities plagued with officer-involved violence.
One out of three constitutes success in baseball, but if you want to positively affect the quality of policing in this country, that’s a dismal batting average.
Demilitarization would be a definite plus. The over-use of SWAT teams and the use of de-mobbed military gear by cops around the country is a serious problem that increases the us vs. them mindset among police forces and officers. But dumping even more taxpayer dollars into “local social services” (the federal government alone spent $361 billion in 2019) as well as setting up some kind of ill-defined, airy-fairy “national reconciliation effort” would no doubt have zero practical impact on the conduct of the average cop on the beat.
If you really want to get bad cops off the streets and make all of them think first before they act, there are two surefire changes that need to be made. First, eliminate police unions that protect the jobs of bad cops like Chauvin. He’d been involved in two prior shootings, was the subject of 20 complaints and received two letters of reprimand in his 19 years on the job. It’s difficult if not impossible to fire problem cops…until something like George Floyd happens.
The second remedy for bad policing is the elimination of qualified immunity. That’s the judiciary-created doctrine that protects government employees from being personally liable for constitutional violations. Violations like the use of excessive force. If police officers — or their civilian superiors in the mayor’s office — were held personally liable for infringing on individuals’ civil rights, there would be a lot less of that kind of conduct.
Somehow, however, Mr. Gebelhoff didn’t mention those solutions. Why? Did they just not occur to him? Some might say it’s because they violate two dearly held features of government in this country that are jealously defended by liberals; Democrat vote-generating labor organizations combined with a lack of individual accountability. But we couldn’t possibly comment.
In any case, Gebelhoff’s fatuous prescriptions for somehow improving police officer conduct by limiting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans are irrational, incoherent and would be wholly ineffective. In other words, they’re exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Washington Post columnist opining on the subject of gun rights.