The answer to this question has profound implications for LEOs, citizens, and our nation. These implications arise out of presuppositions about the relationship between citizens and their government.
On one side, citizens are seen as having been endowed by their Creator with rights that precede government and that the government’s only duty, is to secure and protect those rights within the limited scope the Constitution provides. This argument presumes that human nature, although capable of virtue under the right circumstances, when given power (especially power that is not subject to checks and balances) is very likely to abuse that power. The Constitution also presumes that when citizens are in error, given full information, they are likely to, as a whole, come to correct their error. There are other presumptions, more significant, that can be found in the Declaration of Independence.
On the other side, the presumption is that this country has evolved beyond limiting Constitutional principles. Progressive thought presumes that society, cultural and global norms have changed; therefore, governing needs have changed. The presumption is that society has become more complex and too hard for the average citizen to understand. Therefore, there is a need for “experts” to guide and manage society and individuals for the best results. The presumption is that citizens really do not know what is best for them. So it is the duty of professionals and experts to guide, nudge and finally compel what is best for citizens for their own good.
Former Miami Police Chief John F. Timony would fall into the latter category. Following the Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman shooting where Zimmerman thought Martin was acting suspicious in his neighborhood and ended up shooting him after wrestling over the gun, Timony wrote a March 24, 2012 op-ed in the New York Times. Timony is quoted as saying “Trying to control shootings by a well-trained and disciplined police department is a daunting enough task. Laws like ‘Stand Your Ground’ give citizens unfettered power and discretion with no accountability. It is a recipe for disaster.”
The fact that Zimmerman is facing 2nd degree murder charges and immense scrutiny seems to have escaped his notice. The fact that he was charged after much media coverage and resultant public outcry does not change the fact that the case was reviewed by officers and investigators having access to the scene, physical evidence and both Zimmerman’s and eyewitness statements seeming to corroborate each other lead to him not being charged initially. So “unfettered power and discretion with no accountability” is a bit of a stretch. Even without the criminal charges, Zimmerman will in all likelihood face civil wrongful death suits.
It might perk Chief Timony’s ears to learn that some police accountability groups believe that the police shouldn’t have “assault” rifles. I can personally attest that during my stint in judicial security, judges wanted the LEO’s assigned there to be disarmed because they were concerned over law enforcement shooting innocent bystanders (meaning the judges themselves) in crowded courtrooms.
That idea was scrapped after judicial authorities discovered that staff would not continue assignments to judicial security without being properly armed, even with metal detectors at every entrance. All security personnel understood that metal detectors could be defeated in a number of ways. Just because a person didn’t have a gun, didn’t mean they weren’t dangerous to law enforcement or those they were assigned to protect.
Going back to the first presumptions about the relationship between citizens and their government, has human nature has changed since recorded history began? From the beginning, the stronger preying on weaker, corruption, greed, jealousy and government’s fundamental inability to secure the safety of individuals have existed, no matter what laws are passed.
LEOs simply cannot be everywhere at once. LEOs who think like Chief Timony seem to have lost sight of the fact that there are many law abiding citizens who have to live in neighborhoods, go to work, and travel amongst the very criminals that the police carry firearms to deal with. Often they are financially destroyed by the aftermath of defending themselves as a result of over- zealous prosecutors with an axe to grind over guns in the hands of anyone other than government, or trial attorneys suing for those “victims” shot while attacking or robbing the gun carrying citizen. These facts are why the “Stand your ground” and “Castle Doctrine” laws came into existence in the first place. It goes without saying that in any situation laws can be abused by those trying to game the system. Society must sort those out.
Government authorities should consider whether they would feel the same about enforcement of a particular law if they were a private citizen subject to the effects of the law without the sheltering benefits of being within government. Looking at the laws being passed and their effects can often bring a greater understanding of the outrage citizens feel once we are no longer active LEOs.
To be sure, governing a free people is not easy. Governing is especially challenging during periods of economic downturn or political turmoil. One of the most gratifying experiences I have had is providing new and prospective gun owners with instruction in safe gun handling, sharing my knowledge, and experiences as an LEO to help them understand the immense responsibility they take on when they choose to defend themselves. In my opinion, cultivating this kind of partnership between citizens and law enforcement is a far more effective solution that both empowers and encourages responsible citizens and supports law enforcement efforts to deal with the criminal element in society. One never knows but that one of these responsible citizens may come to a law enforcement officer’s assistance when it is most needed, a few already have.
Learn more about this article here:
http://constitution.hillsdale.edu/201/Constitution-001?source=ENH0012 (This is a free online course offered by Hillsdale College, a private college accepting no federal funding, comparing the founder’s Constitution and Progressive principles of governance, includes online lectures, study material from primary sources, etc.)
http://www.amazon.com/Founders-Second-Amendment-Origins-Right/dp/1566637929/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346907470&sr=1-1&keywords=the+founders+second+amendment (This book is an excellent reference utilizing voluminous primary sources complete with footnotes for additional research)
Juli Adcock began her career in law enforcement with the Escambia County Florida Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy until she was injured in a riot situation. She transferred to Judicial Security and retired in 1998. Juli pursued career advancement training with an emphasis on officer survival, interviews and interrogation. She worked with a local Rape Crisis Center and in victim’s advocacy, complementing her college course work in psychology. She currently resides in New Mexico and is an instructor with The Appleseed Project (www.appleseedinfo.org). The Appleseed Project is a rifle marksmanship clinic teaching the fundamentals of firing an accurate round downrange every 3 to 4 seconds, out to 500 yards, as well as American history. She has trained military personnel at White Sands Missile Range who are certifying as Squad Designated Marksmen. Juli instructs basic handgun skills to new gun owners in preparation for responsible personal gun ownership and the Concealed Carry class for the State of New Mexico. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Law Enforcement Today.