Saturday, March 18, 2006

Gun Control

Fits over at shootingthemessinger had one of those “why the hell didn’t I write that” posts up a few days ago. Blogger made his blog inaccesable right about that time so I waited until I could post a link that wouldn’t be a dead end to comment on it here.

His point, which I want to endorse and expand on here, is that the NRA and the 2nd Amendment community need to rethink their approach to defending our gun rights.

Fits says:

For many reasons, hunting continues to decline, while at the same time personal ownership of guns for self defense is skyrocketing.The firearms community has long been involved in an inner struggle between many hunters who feel that if you can't hunt with it, you shouldn't be allowed to own it, and those who take the 2nd Amendment seriously. With each passing year, the remaining hunters pay less and less of the bill to keep the major support organizations afloat, but groups such as the NRA continue to treat them as if their use for weapons remains the primary, and indeed most important one.

I would add the competition target shooters to the list of dead weight as well. You know the people I’m talking about. You see them at the range with their .22’s. They have their spotting scope set up and they’ll pop off a round and check the scope. The biggest part of them would be perfectly happy to lock their guns up at the gun club when they get through shooting and go home unarmed. I haven’t had any contact with the Asheville Rifle and Pistol Club for over 15 years, but back in the ‘80s we called them “the peers on the Nile” (the range is located on a river) because of their elitist attitude. Nothing that smacked of action shooting was allowed and they deeply frowned upon anything that looked “military”. Needless to say the leadership of this bunch had no problem with J. Warren Cassidy’s administration of the NRA.

Another thing that the 2nd Amendment community needs to look at is our relationship with the law enforcement community. Traditionally cops were strong defenders of the citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. They knew the horror that criminal violence could bring to honest citizens and they knew that they couldn’t be everywhere at once. For the frequent times that they couldn’t get there in time to do anything but call the ambulance, or the coroners van, and write the report they wanted the good people to have the means for effective self defense.

This is still the norm in most places with the street level police officer, but it is becoming increasingly rare in urban and suburban police administrations and in the leadership of the large police unions. While elected sheriffs and police chiefs in rural and small town Red State America still support citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights, even to the point of supporting “shall issue” concealed carry laws, Blue State upper level law enforcement is almost uniformly anti-gun.

The reason for this attitude in the leadership of the police unions, the FOP and the PBA, are those organizations’s domination by cops from big city departments. NYPD has more police officers than some entire states do. Police officers running for leadership positions in the union know that the political leadership of their cities is rabidly anti-gun so they can trade their organization’s support for strict gun control laws for higher wages and better benefit packages.

Police administrators in large cities take the same approach to gun control for the same reason. They hold their jobs at the pleasure of mayors and city counsels so they dance to the tune that those politicians call. Many of them also harbor political ambitions of their own and know that liberal urban electorates will not reward a pro-gun maverick at the polls.

Signs definitely indicate that the pro-gun attitude of the street cop are, or soon will be, beginning to change, at least in the Blue States. The reason for this is the aggressive screening process that departments, both urban and rural, are beginning to implement to weed out “undesirable” candidates. Of course one of the things that mark one as “undesirable” is liking firearms and thinking that average citizens have the right to own them and use them for self defense.

Officers are asked questions like, “would you rather read a news magazine like TIME or a gun magazine”, and “do you collect guns”. Wrong answers on enough of these questions means you have no career in law enforcement. I have a friend who has spent a big chunk of his adult life in law enforcement in bluest of the blue states New Jersey. He tells me that he knows a lot of cops who just lie on these tests. But he also tells me that a lot of the younger officers don’t need to lie.

They were born and raised in the urban Northeast and never hunted or plinked as children. They were brought up by left wing parents who took gun control as an article of faith. They spent their youths being given the anti-gun message in school and on television (name the last time you saw a pro-gun episode of a situation comedy). To them guns are things used by criminals to harm the innocent and by cops to stop the criminals. They take this attitude with them through the police academy, where it is reinforced, and out onto the streets.

Once working as police officers there is literally no job related upside to being pro-gun for them. Their union can get them a bigger raise if they support the Mayor’s latest gun buyback boondoggle and their departmental administration will make their life a living hell if they do something so dumb as to write a letter to a newspaper supporting something like concealed carry for citizens (the paper may not print the letter, but a copy of it will find its way onto the Chief’s desk). Even if their job related firearms training shows them that they love shooting and guns their badge will allow them to own as many weapons as they please and shoot anytime they please. They can carry 24/7 and keep a loaded gun at home for their wives and children to protect themselves with. So there is just no reason for them to oppose gun control laws.

The young cop, like his older brothers in blue, still sees the horrors of violent crime inflicted upon the innocent. Unlike his older brothers, though, he has been conditioned to see the answer as more cops on the street, more surveillance cameras, more prisons, more social programs and more gun control.

This changing police attitude to firearms in civilian hands was nowhere more evident than New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina. When the Mayor ordered the police to confiscate firearms from the residents who remained in the city the department implemented the order with not one sign of reluctance. In a city in which law and order had broken down, where a substantial number of police officers failed to report for duty, some because they had fled (some in stolen cars) and some because they were out looting and others because they never really existed in the first place, the police took time out from catching the looters, rapists and murderers that were running wild and began to disarm elderly women.

They did this in violation of the Louisiana state Constitution and the United States Constitution, both of which have “keep and bear arms” written into them. They did this with zeal and with no apparent moral compunction. Then they lied about it. They denied doing what they had been caught on film doing. They lied to a federal judge when taken to court about it. They continued to lie until the Mayor and the Police Chief were threatened with jail for contempt of court.

I listen to conservative talk radio and NRA radio every day and I have yet to hear of any rank-and-file officer from New Orleans refusing to carry out this illegal order or expressing any regret for what his/her department did. Of course going public could cost one his job, but radio allows anonymity.

I do not think that the NRA and other pro-gun organizations should become reflexively anti-cop. However we should recognize, like the civil rights movement of the ‘60s did, that for the most part the police are on the other side. If the legislature of your state passes a law that makes it a crime to carry a loaded gun in your car and the cop who stops you at a sobriety checkpoint sees that you have one he will probably not say, “well the politicians had no right to pass that unconstitutional law so I’m going to look the other way”. What he will most likely do is arrest you on a weapons charge and take you to jail.