I’m ready at last to support gun control. I believe every police agency in the United States — local, state and federal — should be disarmed.
After all, the gun-control people have been saying for years that we private citizens have no need for firearms. Well, if that’s true for us, it’s true for the police. We are the inhabitants of the country. We live in the neighborhoods, we are the victims of crime, and if we don’t need guns, then who does?
I’ve yet to hear of a police officer being mugged or raped, and certainly not an FBI agent, as the feds spend most of their time in offices, except on weekends and holidays.
The Secret Service doesn’t need guns. Look at the bad record it has. Even with guns, we’ve lost more heads of state than any industrial nation I can think of. If somebody tries to shoot the president, the agents can stand in front of him. Whether they do so promptly or with slow deliberation will probably depend on the personality of the president. It’s safer that way for everyone concerned.
We will still need tough penalties for those who use guns to commit a crime, but as soon as criminals realize they’re not going to be shot by the cops, many of them will ditch their guns. Why risk an extra-heavy prison sentence when all you really want to do is steal something?
Naturally, police could still carry pepper spray and clubs. I wouldn’t even object if they wanted to carry a pocketful of rocks for throwing. If you practice, you can get to be a pretty accurate rock thrower.
I believe this effort is necessary to stop the militarization of our police. Some police departments these days will turn out a crew of people who look like Darth Vader, with bulletproof vests, masks, helmets, submachine guns, sniper rifles, hand grenades, etc., even if the call is for some little old lady who had too much to drink or a mouse heard in a gun store.
There is a fundamental problem with Special Weapons and Tactics teams (SWAT). They train more than they are ever needed, and therefore they begin to show up when they really aren’t needed. For example, if there is a rowdy drunk in one apartment, you don’t have to empty out the whole apartment building.
In saner days, a policeman, usually wearing a plaid jacket and rayon slacks, would go to make an arrest with only a snub-nosed .38 in his coat pocket. If he had to, he’d shoot you, but he didn’t show up yelling and cursing. He came on reasonable and friendly, and tried to talk you into surrender. Most of the time it worked.
Nowadays, if one guy wants to off himself, a whole SWAT team will show up, block off the street, tie up traffic and diddle around for hours. I’ve never understood why police wish to interfere in somebody’s suicide in the first place.
Naturally, I know that we once had a better class of criminals in this country. Even in the heyday of gangsters like Bonnie and Clyde, they were generally careful not to shoot civilians, and there was practically no crime against ordinary people. My cousins and I, even when we were not long past the toddler stage, often went to downtown Atlanta on the trolley and spent a pleasant and safe day.
I suppose, with our society growing increasingly authoritarian, there is no hope for disarming the police. Well, then, leave the guns for private citizens alone. If the sorry, no-good criminals are going to act without restraint, then let’s make sure the few remaining good people can defend themselves.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.