The news media and many civil rights activists are addressing the tragic death of an African American teenage as a case of pervasive prejudice. For Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, their disgust over the shooting presents also a chance for front page and prime time TV coverage. Hmmm.
In a strange way for them, Ferguson is a gift that keeps on giving.
Without diminishing the tragic nature of Michael Brown’s death, there is another message which hopefully will not be lost. The message is about what we should expect of those we allow to carry weapons. As a nation, we think little about placing a hand gun on every law enforcement officer (not to mention the group we know as “security guards”).
If these public and private servants receive any training, it almost always on how to use the gun in its most deadly application. Where is the training on when to use a gun and when to use other means to keep the law?
We know from our everyday world that many brilliant (or at least highly gifted) people fail in life, either outrightly or fail to achieve their potential. These shortcomings often arise from the person’s inability to manage themselves or their ability to interact with others (hot temper, bullheadedness, weakness for drink, etc).
Why should we not expect the same possibility to occur with law enforcement? Why was it necessary to shoot at all, and why six shoots if any were justified?
Once the demonstrations and looting began, we witnessed another good idea gone bad. The local police turned out with military assault weapons and mechanized equipment. And what soon became apparent, these Iraqi soldier lookalikes were untrained and seemed not to have a clue on when or how to use their equipment.
There certainly have been situations where drug and street gangs confronted local authorities and this type of equipment was necessary. Even in those situation, however, training and an experienced command structure was necessary in order to confront the gangs and protect innocent bystanders.
Nationwide we are living under (in my opinion) a misguided Supreme Court 2nd Amendment interpretation. Everyone (with precious few restrictions) can own and carry a weapon. There is no training required on how to use the weapon. There are no required lessons on when and where using a weapon is safe. And with many States proudly boasting “stand your ground” laws, gun owners are almost encouraged to shoot first and ask questions later.
Against an armed public, the rush by police departments to pick up second hand military gear is understandable. Training their officers to shoot to kill if the police officer feels threatened, most likely arises from the desire to protect the officer’s life. Police work goes hand in hand with law and order. All this seems to make sense… until there is a Ferguson.
The NRA has a small window of opportunity to bring commonsense to its lobbying. There must be reasonable hurdles enacted for the use of weapons (no open carry, strict qualification for concealed carry). Emphasis for weapons should shift to sport and hunting protection with self defense within ones home permissible.
With the legal use of weapons better regulated, police forces could focus upon differentiating their tactics around gun carriers and the unarmed. These military equipped police forces, in turn, need to develop strict rules for when these methods can be used and then only with “stable” commanders who have passed high levels of command and control training.
I am not under any allusion that these thoughts will carry the day.