Good Guys with Guns….and Mike Pence

It turns out that Vice President Mike Pence a “life long supporter of the Second Amendment” and the Secret Service aren’t buying the “good guys with guns” as a safety feature. When Mike Pence appears at the NRA convention, the NRA will have banned guns, knives, gun accessories, other weapons, and even selfie sticks, from the convention session.

There are a few ways to look at this.

  1. Mike Pence says he supports the 2nd Amendment to get votes but doesn’t really personally want anyone but his own security to have guns.
  2. Mike Pence thinks that the NRA has a number of fanatics in their midst that can’t be trusted.
  3. Mike Pence is a puppet of the Secret Service and the “Deep State.”
  4. Even the NRA is willing to accept gun-free zones in order to worship at the alter of Republican Gods.
  5. Since the NRA isn’t pushing back or claiming they don’t want Pence to come if this is the case, the NRA knows that they have some crazy ass mother-fuckers in their midst who can’t be trusted with guns.

The best part about this is the NRA claiming this has nothing to do with them and nothing to do with the Second Amendment. They claim it is all “standard Secret Service protocol.” Which is true. But this “nothing to see here. move along.” attitude is an attempt to bypass the very core of the argument. It turns out the even “the good guys with guns” can’t be trusted.

Here’s a thought……maybe if the NRA and the gun owner community would take some responsibility for regulating themselves, the government wouldn’t have to ban their guns so they can worship at the alter of their gods.

Advertisements

Open letter to the NRA

Dear NRA,

I am a former NRA member. I am a gun owner. I have grown up on households with guns. They were used for sport and for varmint removal. I was given my first gun when I was a young boy. I don’t own nor need an assault rifle or a handgun. They stay securely locked up in my house. I know literally see that they are locked up, every day. If I had reason to worry about the safety of someone in my house including my kids, I would not hesitate to give them to a family member to hold on to.

What I’m writing you about today is the writing on the wall. I don’t know if you have noticed but there is an entire generation of young people, mostly still in high school, who are opposed to your political stances. Within a couple years, those young people will be voters. And within the next ten years there will be more of them voting than NRA members.

Now I get that your power doesn’t come from voters. It comes from money you wield in campaigns. Money from gun manufacturers, gun industry, and high end financial donors. You actually don’t have much voting influence you just have financial control over candidates. But here is the rub. In ten years, that won’t matter anymore. In ten years, you will be hiding who you give money and support to otherwise they will be voted out of office by this young generation. You are on the cusp of fading.

Now, you don’t have to go quietly. You can literally hold onto your guns until they are pried from your cold dead hand. There is also another option. Rather than letting the government set up databases for tracking and deciding what laws to put in place, maybe you could step up and be a part of that? Maybe you could help be the future of a safer America with reasonable gun laws?

I realize that means back pedaling a bit. In corporate terms they call it a “pivot” now days. Some things I’m thinking you could do….

  • encourage good mental health habits among your members and their families
  • develop a system for reporting NRA members to resources if you have concerns about them
  • develop a system for a fellow NRA member to “hold” firearms of another member if there are concerns about that member
  • develop a system for reporting stolen or missing firearms
  • develop education programs that encourages people not to leave firearms, particularly handguns in unsecured locations (ex. glove box of unlocked cars)
  • develop a system for training and vetting people who want to purchase assault rifles that isn’t just “Bubba says he’s an okay guy”
  • be a partner with law enforcement in helping determine who should and shouldn’t have access to firearms
  • stop playing the victim
  • start playing the responsible citizen

These are just a few ideas. I’m sure there are other people with more. But your decision point is now. Do you want to pivot and be relevant in 20 years or do you want to got for Plan A the “cold dead fingers” option?

Sincerely,

Paul

 

…a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.

“I know he had an object and it was dark, and he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out I, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.”

Those are the words of a scared man. A man who is explaining why he shot another man. The words of a police officer who shot a man. A man he pulled over for his taillight being out. A black man who was out driving with his family. A black man who then did what he was supposed to do and told the officer he had a gun permit and had a gun in the car. Seconds later the officer shot him because the officer thought he was going to die.

If you haven’t watch the police dash cam footage of the Philando Castile shooting, you should. White people, black people, red people, blue people. Everyone should watch it. It’s scary. Not because of the violence and death of Castile, but in how quickly the officer goes from a friendly tone saying “hey you got a light out” to fearing for his life because Castile tells him that he is legally armed. His fear seems to rocket up because it turns out he pulled over an armed black man. (Note that he reaches for his gun the moment Castile mentions being armed.)

It seems that many officers fear for their life upon meeting someone else that is armed, particularly if that person is of color. We are considerably less concerned with armed white men who blatantly use the threat of violence to get what they want (you do remember Y’all Qaeda and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff right?). We are willing to give them some space and “respect their rights.” But a black man clearly does not get the same right because an armed black man inspires fear in people including many police officers. Even if he is just out for a drive with his family and was stopped as a courtesy about his brake lights.

I’ve grown up around guns my whole life. I’m a former NRA member (I gave up on them about the same time George H.W. Bush gave back his lifetime membership.) Rule number one that I was taught (by cops!) was that you should always let an officer know that you are legally armed. Clearly, this only goes for white folks. But to be honest, now I’m a bit worried too.

I have known a bunch of cops in different agencies and types of places throughout my life including now. Most of them are really good people. But what I’ve noticed over the years is that more of them have become afraid. They are more and more convinced that they have to shoot first or they won’t make it home. More of an “us or them” mentality. When talking about even the most mundane situations, they switch to language I associate with war in foreign countries even when they aren’t veterans.

I have yet to figure out what has changed in our culture in the last 20 years that has made our officers so scared. The 1980s cop movies were Police Academy, Beverly Hills Cop, and Dirty Harry. And CHiPs and Hill Street Blues were on tv. Then suddenly we had Colors. But the 1990s had lone cop movies like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. And NYPD Blue was on tv. But then back to the Colors-esque genre of Training Day, End of Watch, The Departed, etc. Even the tv shows about cops now days reflect this change with mass shootouts and over the top adrenaline in every show. Some of this reflected a growing population of heavily armed drug gangs, particularly in urban environments but the societal impact was much wider.

My anecdotal-based hypothesis is that we are attracting a different type of person to being in law enforcement today and cultivating a different mindset among our officers. (This mindset varies widely by department culture!) We used to attract people who were interested in solving and preventing crime first and foremost. People who lived in and were vested in their community. People who saw policing as a mental exercise to help their community. Now, many of the newer officers seem to be primarily interested in just being a bad ass, wanting respect “for the badge,” and constantly seeking that adrenaline rush of confrontation. Therefore, I hear older officers lament how the newer ones don’t bother with the non-adrenaline stuff like paperwork, cold cases, working with the homeless, and non-violent crime. (And the officers who do those things are looked down on.)

Maybe both of these types were always there. Maybe in the past, law enforcement did a better job of self-regulation to control for these things. But most of the questionable shootings done by officers today seem to come from this newer generation of officers. I’ve not floated this theory among my law enforcement friends. But when I talk to that older generation about the younger ones, I see the often silent acknowledgement that things have changed even if they can’t put their finger on it.

How do we change this? How do we reverse this trend as a society? There is no one solution. Part of it is internal to the law enforcement community. Another part of it is on us. I think law enforcement officers need a wider breadth of experience before becoming law enforcement. They need more time with the general public, outside their own comfort bubble. More time spent around people who are different from them – socially, economically, culturally, racially, etc.

One system already in place to do this is higher education. We could actually require college degrees for law enforcement. A 2010 study from Police Quarterly found that officers with a college education are less likely to resort to use of force compared to those without a degree. Nationally, the rate of officers with a degree is very low. Stats vary widely but I’ve not see any above 40%. This isn’t new. In the 1960s, the federal government studies of law enforcement were recommending bachelor’s degrees.

I also think we need to change the system. Taking 2-3 years for someone to go from job application to officer on patrol is a lot of time. During that time, we need to find ways to build in this cross-cultural experience. They need to work in the community and get to know people. We also need to diversify our police officers as much as possible and building in programs that support applicants from underrepresented groups in the population.

Lastly, “I felt threatened” can’t remain as a blanket defense for police officers in a court of law. It isn’t considered justifiable for the military or those working overseas, so why do we allow it as a justification for police officers in the US. It isn’t even a universal justification for non-police officers despite some notable cases like Trayvon Martin (where again, his biggest threat was being a black male.)

We have to get rid officers who have an “us and them” mentality. Police officers need to come from throughout the community they serve. They need to understand the community they serve. They need to be part of the community. Then maybe getting pulled over for a brake light being out and mentioning you are a legal gun owner won’t seem like a threat to an officers life.

 

 

Lessons in Protesting: Malheur and Standing Rock

I find it interesting to compare the treatment of Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota to the Malheur Wildlife Protestors in Oregon. Both are cases of people occupying land they don’t own but to which they claim some entitlement. Both are occurring in relatively remote areas with limited mass media and public perception of the issue. There are also a number of differences (race and cause being two) but I believe there are two very key differences that aren’t being addressed.

1) Our country has a history of dealing with people who stand in the way of corporations much more harshly than those who stand in the way of the government. Historically, police and the military (usually the National Guard) are called upon to get rid of such protests as quickly as possible and by whatever means are necessary. As opposed to those strictly protesting the government (without inferring with commerce) who are often given a “wait and see” approach. The government is typically not seen as losing anything when people protest it; where as corporations are seen as losing money and therefore urgency is required. Plus corporations have the political power to ensure their concerns are heard and acted upon. For a related example, look at how the Occupy movement was often allowed into parks for days and weeks as opposed to other protests that stayed on the streets impacting businesses and commerce. The message here is that disrupting the government is apparently an American right but disrupting other Americans, particularly corporate Americans, is not.

2) I have seen several discussions about Malheur being an exercise in white-privilege, which I generally agree with. The Standing Rock protesters are not armed like the Malheur protesters were. Force is less often used against those that can readily return that use of force. Not that I am calling for them to arm themselves, but it is worth noting that I think there would be much less interest in using force on them if that were the case. Imagine how different it would have been if the Freedom Riders or Stonewall patrons had been armed. There is something to be said for how law enforcement approaches the issue when their lives are at considerably higher risk.

I will be interested to see what happens one day when a large group of non-white Americans stages an armed protest in the same way as Malheur. Hopefully, when that happens, it will end with fewer deaths than Malheur did, which only had one death associated with it.

Image courtesy of Savege #KSAV at https://goo.gl/images/Wv0l7n

Yellow lights, guns, and white-privilege

It’s been a long time since I’ve transported any firearms around town. The recent passing of a friend changed that. I cleared a number of weapons from her house at the request of those packing the house up. It was late when I left the house to head to Wal-Mart to buy a locking case for them while I temporarily stored them. As I saw a stop light go yellow, I sped up a bit to get through and barely made it. It was late at night in a dark area. My first thought was if I get pulled over, put both hands out the window and notify the officer that I have multiple unloaded firearms (and one sword) in the vehicle. And then I thought about my white privilege.

I probably wouldn’t need to take those steps except for my own piece of mind. As a veteran, gun owner, former competitive shooter, and former public safety staff, I knew the laws. I wasn’t breaking any laws. I am legally allowed to possess firearms and transport them. But yet, I knew the officer would see the weapons laying in the back when they walked up. An officer who thought they were doing a routine traffic stop and just wants to make sure they get home to their family (like me). There was a brief moment of concern in me as I thought of the culture of fear that has crept into many of our law enforcement agencies. What sort of officer would I get? Would my whiteness and legality be enough to protect me? Would the officer assume no ill intention? Would it be different if I was a person of color? Should it be different based on the color of my skin?

I have a family to think about. I decided I probably shouldn’t risk it. I would just put my hands out and notify the officer as soon as it happened. And if they decided to have me lay on the ground or handcuff me for their safety, I’m okay with that. Although it only would perpetuate my curiosity about the culture of fear. If they didn’t ask me to do that, I would forever be left wondering if it was because I was a middle-age white guy driving a mini-van. Maybe the veteran license plate would help. Maybe not. Lots of stereotypes there too.

In the end, I didn’t get pulled over. But instead the yellow light went on in my mind that hasn’t yet gone off.