Watch Where You Point That Weapon!

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The
other night I was watching television, fixated on the DC area sniper
shootings. They were showing footage of the lock down on I-95 after
one of the shootings. The footage included a scene of a man who
was pulled over in a white van. Just for driving a white van, the
man had the pleasure of being forced out of his vehicle by three
police officers at gunpoint. The three officers pointed their weapons
directly at the man even though he posed no immediate threat to
the officers. The man proceeded to lie down on the pavement. With
that, the footage ended.

This
brings us to a disturbing trend that has been occurring in police
agencies and departments across the country. Police are more apt
to brandish weapons and aim in on the citizens they have sworn to
protect. Much of this can be explained by the recent militarization
of U.S. law enforcement. The spirit of posse comitatus has
been weakened by incidents like: Ruby Ridge, Waco, Elian Gonzales,
Amidu Diallo, and now the DC sniper. All these incidents have shown
just how much the government is willing to threaten us in order
to "protect" us.

Let's
say Congress decides to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act and allows
for an overtly military stance amongst law enforcement organizations.
That would still not excuse the pointing of weapons against innocent
civilians. Why? Even in the military, unlike the recent illustrations
by U.S. law enforcers, there are strict rules regarding the use
of weapons and deadly force. Let's examine some military rules for
weapons safety and apply them to a militarized law enforcement.

The
U.S. Marine Corps represents the best marksmanship techniques and
philosophy of any branch of the U.S. armed services. Here are the
safety rules, which govern Marines in the handling of all firearms
whether on the rifle range, in garrison, in field training, or in
combat. These rules are universal and should be applied by any handler
of firearms. First, it is important to note that these rules assume
control of a firearm by an individual.

  1. Treat
    every weapon as if it was loaded.
  2. Never
    point a weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
  3. Keep
    your finger off the trigger until you intend to fire.
  4. Keep
    your weapon on safe, until you intend to fire.

Violation
of any of these rules could lead to punishment as a safety violator
with a punch in the face by an NCO, a written reprimand, or prosecution
under the UCMJ, depending on what may have occurred during the violation.
You will notice that these rules do not mention if the weapon is
loaded or not. It does not matter. All weapons are assumed to be
loaded. What matters is intent and responsibility for individual
actions. The Marine Corps knows well that weapons are inanimate
objects, and are powerless without human actions to employ them.
In a logical manner, we can correctly make the following implications
to the following rules.

  1. If
    your weapon is off safe, then you intend to fire.
  2. If
    your finger is on the trigger, then you intend to fire.
  3. If
    you point a weapon at anything, then you intend to shoot it.

Whether
an individual "means" to or not, that individual is responsible
for the weapon he is controlling, and his intent is quite clear,
especially when in violation of the rules. The last rule's implication
is the most important. It will be granted that a weapon has to be
pointed in some direction when not employed, and that direction
is either directly up or down to maintain a safe situation. Most
importantly, a weapon should not be pointed at other people, unless
the individual intends to shoot at other people. Which leads us
to the next logical implication.

If
you point your weapon at a person, then you intend to shoot that
person.

These
rules are quite simple and easy to follow. Now let's apply them
to some actions recently taken by law enforcement officers.

In
this first picture we see an officer standing in the middle of traffic
after one of the recent DC sniper shootings. The weapon he is carrying
looks to be a carbine version of an AR-15 or M-16. Let's look for
any rule violations. It looks as if he is treating the weapon as
a loaded one, with a magazine inserted, with his finger extended
off the trigger in good technique. From this picture, it is hard
to decipher if his weapon is on safe. So like good Americans, we'll
assume he is innocent until proven guilty, even though this is something
he is not doing for the owner of the red truck. Where is the officer
pointing the weapon? In this case he clearly points the weapon at
the red truck. This officer, whether he means to or not, intends
to shoot this red truck. Should he shoot this red truck? Probably
not, no warrant has been issued nor has any probable cause occurred.

In
this case, using the weapons safety rules combined with the highest
law of this land, he is in clear violation. Looking to the Fifth
Amendment of the Constitution we see, "No person shall be…deprived
of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."
It is clear in the case of this officer, he is intending to shoot
the red truck. This red truck is the property of the owner, who
is most likely the driver or someone associated with the driver.
Shooting the property in this case is tantamount to destroying the
property. Destroying property is another way of depriving someone
of his property. It is clear that this officer intends to deprive
the red truck from its owner without due process of law. With this
intent, he is threatening to civil society.

Let's
look at another picture and apply the same weapons handling rules.
This officer working for the U.S. Border Patrol is carrying what
looks like a "MP-5." He seems to be treating this weapon
as if it was loaded, with his finger off the trigger, and we'll
assume the weapon is on safe. However, he has pointed the weapon
at this innocent child and the man holding him. The man holding
the child is not threatening the child, nor is he threatening the
officer. It is unfortunate, because the officer intends to shoot
both the boy and the man in this situation. Shooting these people
may harm or kill them.

In
this case, the Border Patrol claims it was concerned about the safety
and protection of this child. They chose to protect him by doing
what many law enforcement organizations now do. They protect him
by threatening his life. The man holding the child in the picture
did no such thing, nor did his family. However, the state has other
ideas about "protection." Once again we have an example
of an officer with an intent that is threatening to civil society.

These
examples lead us to question the true aims of current law enforcement.
Are they serving to protect, or to control? The recent lock downs
on I-95 give little indication of protection. If they wanted to
reduce people's outside exposure to the beltway sniper, wouldn't
they free up traffic to allow the innocent to seek cover? 99.99%
of the people on that road were innocent, however all were held
up and assumed to be guilty.

Are
they interested in the safety of those they swore to protect, or
their own safety? An understanding of economics may help with this
answer. In the beginning of Von Mises masterpiece, Human
Action
, he explains, "…the expectation that purposeful
behavior has the power to remove or at least alleviate the felt
uneasiness." It is quite clear in both these instances the
officers have acted to remove the uneasiness they may feel in these
situations. In both cases uneasiness is alleviated by the gear they
chose for the situations: helmets, flak jackets, bulletproof vests,
extra magazines, pistols, and rifles. Marines have served in extreme
combat zones with far less gear than these policemen have. They
also relieve some of the easiness by pointing their weapons, not
just at criminals, but at everyone. It is here where we see the
doctrine of the preemptive strike. Although these men do not shoot
these people, they certainly intend to in order to preempt any actions
they fear may happen. Which leads us to question the courage of
many that serve in law enforcement today. If they fear uncertainty
of future events, then maybe this isn't the job for them.

May
they remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty under
the laws of this land and that pointing a weapon at someone is inciting
that someone as guilty. May they also remember that, the people
are the masters of this government, not to be controlled by those
with unwarranted claims to power.

October
26, 2002

Casey
Khan [send him mail]
works as a risk analyst in Phoenix, AZ where he lives with his wife.

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