Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Will police officers protect you?

Recently there was a ridiculous exchange on my blog about whether or not a police officer's job is to protect the public. It is commonly assumed that this is the case. And yet, the "gun guys" who comment on my blog have provided me with websites and court cases to show that it is not required in the law that a police officer must protect you, as a citizen. Here is a good description of the duties of a police officer. If I went out and interviewed people on the streets of my city, these would be the duties they would surely mention. So, along that line, I decided to do a very unscientific poll by asking some of my friends by phone and by Facebook what they thought the duties of a police officer are. Here are the results: The top 3 duties of police officers were: Preserve public safety, protect the public, and upholding the laws of the municipality. Some included all of the choices in an "all of the above choice" which added: keeping the peace, helping people in need of assistance, and encouraging a civil and respectful society. I asked several retired police officers and the County Attorney in my area who agreed with the above opinions of other citizens asked in my small and informal survey.

The reasoning of the gun guys on my blog, if any, is to justify having guns in the home for self defense and carrying them wherever you go. Since the job of the police is not to protect you, you need your own guns. This self serving and circular argument is false. I'm sure I don't have to provide you with all of the times officers are shot in the line of duty while protecting citizens from each other or themselves or protecting the community from a dangerous situation. There was even an exchange about whether police should have arrested two guys who decided to float down flooded Philadelphia area streets in a raft during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. As proof, he linked to this article. Check it out. 

Here are some of the remarks about police officers and whether or not it is their job to protect citizens:
  • " I would consider it hysterical to claim we are on the way to the old Soviet system of arresting people for "hooliganism," but it concerns me that any policeman would consider arresting a few guys who are hurting or endangering no one a reasonable thing to do."
  • "That area got hit badly by rain and the cops are so bored they're harassing the innocent. As a side note, no, the police are there to enforce the law, which, as we have learned from the "war on drugs," regularly has zero connection to any one's safety. It is the shire reeve, or sheriff, who is responsible for working with the people to maintain peace in the community."
  • When the law, morality, and the people are in agreement, then police officers are working towards the safety of the community. We all know this is not always the case. This discussion, though it seems tangential, cuts to the heart of the matter: What is the point of government and its agents? (Don't forget that the arrest come with the threat of gun violence against those being arrested.)"
  • Do the agents of the DEA count as police? If they do, then police are a root cause of most gun crime."
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/politics/28scotus.html "The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation."" By the way, if you read the linked article, I don't think you will come to the conclusion that it is not constitutional for police to protect citizens.
  • These are the links to various articles where police have been sued and the resulting court decisions which this commenter says proves his point that it is not the job of police to protect citizens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Rock_v._Gonzales http://hematite.com/dragon/policeprot.html 
  • In the first case, above, here is the decision of the court: " By a 4-3 decision the court decided that Warren was not entitled to remedy at the bar despite the demonstrable abuse and ineptitude on the part of the police. The court held that official police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for a failure to provide adequate police protection." In the second one, here is the court decision: " The Court's majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia held that enforcement of the restraining order was not mandatory under Colorado law; were a mandate for enforcement to exist, it would not create an individual right to enforcement that could be considered a protected entitlement under the precedent of Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth; and even if there were a protected individual entitlement to enforcement of a restraining order, such entitlement would have no monetary value and hence would not count as property for the Due Process Clause." Whether or not that means that it is not the duty of police officers to protect citizens, various interpretations could be made here. Suffice it to say that the Domestic Abuse organizations were very unhappy with this ruling. And as for the third case linked above, this conclusion is drawn by the blog writer: "Many states, however, have specifically precluded such claims, barring lawsuits against State or local officials for failure to protect, by enacting statutes such as California's Government Code, Sections 821, 845, and 846 which state, in part: "Neither a public entity or a public employee [may be sued] for failure to provide adequate police protection or service, failure to prevent the commission of crimes and failure to apprehend criminals.'' In other words this means the only people the police are duty-bound to protect are criminals in custody, and other persons in custody for such things as mental disorders. YOU have no recourse if the police fail to respond or fail to protect you from injury!" 
And thus went the back and forth with my countering these statements. I have great respect for police officers, Chiefs and Sheriffs. I have known many of them through my work in the area of gun violence prevention. All of them have been supportive of my efforts to get sensible gun legislation passed and speak out to prevent gun injuries and deaths. They have spoken at events and rung the bell in our memorial bell garden ( see photo on this blog) for fallen officers. I know that some of the "gun guys" on my blog just do not like the police and are particularly suspicious of and derogatory towards the Chiefs in particular. That seems to be because Police Chiefs tend to agree with my positions rather than those of the gun lobby. Most recently, I posted that the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association and my local Police Chief sent letters to the Minnesota Congressional delegation in opposition to H.R. 822, the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act Packing Heat on Your Streets Act. Would that our Congressional leaders respect the position taken by police officers and Chiefs since they are the ones who will have to deal with the permit issues and trying to figure out who is a valid permit holder or from where they come. But the gun lobby doesn't care about such issues since all they want is to have an unfettered right to carry their guns around wherever they go just in case. I wonder how the majority of us who don't carry loaded guns around all the time survive? And why does Congress ignore law enforcement?

This video with Brady Campaign Acting President Dennis Henigan, about the H.R. 822 hearing at the House subcommittee last week, shows that police are generally opposed to unneeded gun bills such as H.R. 822. ( By the way, here is another example of the gun lobby's hypocrisy - the state laws for conceal and carry were passed by state legislatures, often in opposition to local law enforcement. Now we have the laws and, for better or worse, are living with them. Why not just enforce the laws already on the books and let the states decide what they want in their own states? The laws are working and a federal law is not needed.) But the gun lobby uses the argument about States' Rights and enforcing laws already on the books only when they want to. Otherwise, I guess their talking points don't apply.

We should be supporting the efforts of law enforcement rather than discounting them. As in any other profession, there are bad apples. Police officers have been found to be corrupt and accused of using too much violence or of racial prejudice. Naturally we all find these things to be abhorrent, just as we do when a doctor, lawyer, Mayor, Senator, Congressman, teacher or anyone else is found to be guilty of wrong doing and corruption or other unacceptable behaviors. But since police officers put their lives at risk every day in their profession, which many other professionals do not , we owe them a modicum of respect. There are efforts to help officers keep the public even safer. Isn't this what we pay our officers to do? They are important to our communities and most especially, to public safety.

Read here a commentary from the mother of a woman shot during a confrontation after police chased a robber to her daughter's home in Duluth. In her words: " To the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day, from the chief of police to officers who carry out community patrols, thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my daughter’s life. Duluth is fortunate to have an incredible police force led by one of the best police chiefs in the country." And following this article, you can read the account of the incident here and the findings of the St. Louis County Attorney about the incident. Here are the words of Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay,Ramsay said Wick acted to protect his own life as well as others’. “We don’t pay police officers to take a bullet,” he said." This was a clear case of justifiable homicide on the part of the police officer who was acting to protect himself and the people inside of the home. Common sense tells us that law enforcement officers are integral to community safety, security, protection from harm, peace and justice.


  1. Better to be safe than sorry. You can't argue with that.

  2. I agree Japete and said so in the other thread. We should remove all Federal gun laws and restrictions and leave them up to the states. I am glad you have come around to the side of states rights and have now seen the error of your ways when to comes to federal gun laws.

  3. No Anthony- I actually believe we should have strong federal gun laws to avoid having the patchwork of laws that lead to all sorts of problems. I am well aware that it's very difficult to get them passed through Congress so States go ahead and pass them if they can. But you guys are hypocrits here. You don't like federal laws but in this case you love them.

  4. Oh- and if we had strong federal gun laws, we wouldn't have loose carry requirements. They would be restrictive in every state so a law like this wouldn't matter to public safety.

  5. No one here argues that police aren't needed. Nor that police generally do a good job, at personal sacrifice - they aren't paid enough, and have to put up with too much crap.

    No one here likewise pretends that CC is a replacement for, or imagines we are, law enforcement. That is purely your spin.

    However -

    1. Police chiefs are politicians, not cops. Want to know what cops think? Talk to cops. Cops support legal CC. Overwhelmingly. Chiefs do what their political masters tell them.

    2. The case law is clear; I don't have to spell it out, because you did so. The readers you ridicule are in fact correct. Police have no duty to protect any particular person, even in cases where police should absolutely have know that there was an ongoing danger.

    3. No matter how dedicated police are, they cannot be everywhere. There is simple truth in the statement "when seconds count, the police are minutes away." That's not criticism, that's simple fact.

    4. National reciprocity under HR822 sets aside no state right. States still decide under what circumstances persons can carry in their state. It sets aside no state law. And 20+ years of legal concealed carry has made absolutely clear that legal concealed carry does not increase any danger; the cries of "blood in the streets" and "wild west" have been proven very wrong, every single time.

    I'm still undecided on HR822. However, the fact that you fear it so much makes me lean toward it. As the saying goes, you know you're over the target when you're taking flak.

  6. Gotcha you are for strong federal gun laws when they fit your agenda and against them when they are pro gun. I think that pot meets kettle.

  7. Nope Anthony. I have always been in favor of strong federal gun laws ratheer than the mish mash of state laws. In this case, however, because we don't have strong federal laws, H.R. 822 is a terrible idea. I think your side is caught here in a conundrum. You want states rights in general and for gun rights but not in this case. At least my side is consistent. We have been mostly against loosening CCW laws in states. We are in favor of a federal background check bill and a federal bill to limit the size of ammunition magazines. We were against the federal guns in parks bill- it's a bad bill.

  8. The gun guys love to ridicule the police and downplay their role in protecting us. I think it goes beyond justifying gun possession. I think, generally, the extremists are anti-government insurrectionists who view all in authority with suspicion.

    And, as they have so often commented on my blog, they, in their vanity, tend to think they are better trained than the police, too!

    Of course, when they get in trouble and actually need the police to come to their aid, will they suddenly change their tune?

  9. Yes, consistent. The Brady Campaign and Mayors Against Illegal Guns have consistently cried for "strong federal gun laws," ostensibly to avoid your "mish mash of state laws." Now that H.R. 822 is on the table, Brady and MAIG are against it. Why? It's a simple federal gun law that would help reduce the "patchwork" of state laws.

    I can tell you why: because H.R. 822 is one of the few federal laws that actually supports the fundamental, God-given, Constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms.

    The truth is that both sides have an agenda, and will support whatever proposals support that agenda.

    You said, "You want states [sic] rights in general and for gun rights but not in this case." Let me flip that about the magazine-limit: You want states' rights in general and for gun prohibition, but not in this case. Does that sound accurate?

  10. It's always nice to have my readers put words in my mouth and change my views. Did I say anything about gun "prohibition"? I have stated my position in several comments. But I guess you guys just want to keep harassing me to get me to say something different. What I said is what I said. Nice try, though, Archer. Just read my post and several of my comments and you won't have to keep asking me the same questions about my views.

  11. @Baldr:
    When have you ever seen me ridicule police? I have a profound respect for anyone willing to put themselves in harm's way to promote the general welfare of my community and society at large. This includes police, EMS, and military.

    However, the FACTS are that the police have a duty to uphold the law, investigate crime, arrest offenders, and protect society. Society needs them to fill these roles. They do NOT have a duty to protect me as an individual, or my family. That duty falls on me and mine. If trouble comes knocking, will I call the police? Absolutely; it's their duty to investigate crime. But I will not sit idly by and let harm come to my family while I'm waiting; it's my duty to protect them.

    I honestly couldn't tell you if I'm better-trained than the local police. I've not gone shooting with them or compared skills. I don't - and won't - claim one way or the other. But back to FACTS: there have been news stories of trained police officers missing their targets from as little as 12 feet. I'm not saying she didn't act admirably under pressure, telling the others in the salon to get down while she went out to face the robber, but I'll make a couple points about this story:
    1. She fired five shots from 12 feet. One hit the robber in the hand, one hit the front doorknob (by accident or intentionally, we don't know). The other three shots? Who knows?
    2. The robber was a 19-year-old with a prior arrest record and was armed with a handgun, which he undoubtedly carried concealed until he arrived. He CANNOT legally obtain a handgun or carry permit due to his age (even at a gun show), and probably would fail a background check. This clearly shows a failure of every applicable "gun control" law currently on the books.

    BTW, nice job repeating Ladd Everitt's (CGSV) tired line about pro-gunners being "insurrectionists," merely for exercising our First Amendment rights in the exact same manner you do. I'd like to note that I'm not in the habit of accusing you of "treason" just because I don't agree with you.

    May Peace favor you.

  12. Right- and pro gun folks NEVER repeat tired old lines from the NRA. Guns don't kill people, people do. If we take guns away from the law abiding, ony criminals will have guns.........

  13. Archer- have a good Saturday evening and leave my blog off of your list of things to do. You are close to harassing me. Perhaps you didn't get that I don't publish comments that go over and over the same old thing and that are already covered in what I said in my post or my ensuing comments.

  14. "Packing Heat on Your Streets Act"

    Oh yeah, this phrase is much more scary sounding.