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Opinion: Cops Should Only Use Guns Defensively

Letter to the editor: I am troubled by the 'mistaken identity' shootings by officers in the Southern California manhunt.

By Chris Nicholson

I am troubled by the recent “mistaken identity” shootings by cops involved in the manhunt for Chris Dorner in Southern California. But I was in shocked disbelief to hear, on the same day (though not in reaction to the shootings), that the policy of at least one local police force is to use their guns offensively and not defensively.

While visiting Sacramento to advocate for a fresh batch of gun control laws to ensure that California is not one-upped by New York, Emeryville Chief of Police Ken James said that the notion that guns were useful as defensive weapons was a “myth.” He went on to say that police officers do not use guns defensively to protect themselves or others, but rather to “face any opposition that we may come upon.” See the attached video at 6 minutes 30 seconds.

Do we really want a regime where citizens cannot use modern guns to defend themselves, yet police can employ deadly force with guns for reasons other than self defense or defense of others?

Chris Nicholson is a resident of Orinda.

Dan Perkins February 10, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Are you really advocating the use of assault rifles to protect ourselves from the police? regime?
Chris Nicholson February 10, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Did I say that? I find it ironic and troubling that a Chief of Police is seeking to disarm citizens with the argument that citizens don't need guns for defensive purposes, yet cops should have them for offensive purposes. I am still not sure he means/understands what he said, but he said it several times. Of course, the Constitution (per the Sup. Ct.), virtually all law enforcement agencies and common sense say that cops can only use deadly force to protect themselves and others (in contrast to Chief James' assertion that offensive use is appropriate). http://www.justice.gov/ag/readingroom/resolution14b.htm
Dive Turn Work February 10, 2013 at 06:57 PM
I'm a "shoot first ask questions later" proponent. I'm very skeptical that bans on weapons accomplish any serious goal. There are simply too many ways to acquire illegal weapons and the human race has never managed to find any countless number of ways to harm, maim, and kill their fellow man. However, at the same time, I'm not opposed to people, particularly cops, using their weapons offensively. Some occasions warrant it. The world is much more 50 shades of gray than it is black and white.
Chris Nicholson February 10, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Which occasions would warrant it (summarily killing citizens for purposes other than defending innocent lives)?
Dive Turn Work February 10, 2013 at 09:07 PM
The Colorado theater shooter, a Sandy Hook style shooter. If such individuals were running away from you then shooting them in the back would, technically, be offensive not defensive. I wouldn't have a problem with such a shooting. You have a known killer. He has proven himself dangerous. If police open fire and shoot him in the back, I could understand. This may not be the moral answer that people seek but again the world is not black and white, no matter how much we may all like it to be.
Chris Nicholson February 10, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Those examples are under self defense / defense of others. If an armed man has just killed several people at random and runs away, it is very reasonable to conclude that shooting him in the back will protect others who are under imminent danger of being killed by the same guy. No one would call this "offensive," but rather "defense of others." Watch the video. The Chief says his cops do NOT primarily use their guns for protection of self or others. Again, I think he said that to further his gun control agenda and his doesn't really mean it, but still shocking if he he really does mean it, no?
Dive Turn Work February 11, 2013 at 04:42 AM
I would note that cops have reacted offensively for decades. Perhaps, not always with their guns, but most certainly with their night sticks and boots & arresting powers. This is why, as a general rule, I avoid cops. I don't trust them. I saw how they behaved in the 1970s. Deplorable.
Dive Turn Work February 11, 2013 at 04:49 AM
But, even with that said, I'm willing to give some leeway to cops who react offensively (rather than defensively) in high crime areas. As we saw in Star Wars, Han shot first and a good thing he did, too. I suspect many high crime areas may require similar behavior. But, of course, such behavior must be closely monitored. Although, in the 1970s, nobody seemed to give a hoot when the cops were targeting, harassing, and beating innocent civilians and raising money to give to murderers who needed help paying for defense attorneys.
Chris Nicholson February 11, 2013 at 05:16 AM
Use of offensive force to effect an arrest is traditionally allowed, but DEADLY force is normally NOT allowed for purposed of arresting someone. The exceptions all basically collapse into defense of others (although the Sup Ct requires a warning when possible). Suppose cops found Dorner for sure unarmed (maybe they find him in the shower). If he runs away, they can probably shoot him in the back, but they are supposed to yell "stop or I'll shoot" first (no joke). This edge case is prob kosher given unique circumstance. As for Solo, if Texas rules applied, he would be entitled to use deadly force to protect the Falcon. I don't agree with this general rule other than the related Stand Your Ground rules for your home.
Dive Turn Work February 11, 2013 at 05:24 AM
Are you truly surprised to learn that the police are behaving offensively? I'm a bit surprised if you are. Nothing, good or bad, about the police surprises me. I've seen the police at their worst - raising money to defend murderers, beating innocent people, bragging about beating innocent people, etc. Still, I'll give them some leeway in high crime areas, mainly because I wouldn't want anything to do with such areas and don't want those areas bleeding into my neighborhood. Again, it's a gray area. I have little trust for the police but recognize they provide a valuable service. Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em.
Jose February 11, 2013 at 05:35 AM
In response to your question: "Do we really want a regime where citizens cannot use modern guns to defend themselves...?", I would simply note the unintended collateral damage that happens when trained professionals are firing weapons in public, recently in Southern CA, and previously at the Empire State Building area in NYC . CNN headline from late August: "2 dead, 9 wounded in Empire State Building shootings, police say". I didn't re-read the story carefully, but in essence, the trained professional police officers were responsible for virtually all of the deaths and injuries as they attempted to kill the shooter and stop him from causing further harm. If this is what happens when trained professionals engage a shooter, I shudder to think what would have happened if "citizen deputies" had been at Sandy Hook or Aurora. To arm more citizens more powerfully is lunacy. As to the powers of the Emeryville Police Chief, real or imagined, he is accountable under the law. And YOU are totes scury on this one.
Dive Turn Work February 11, 2013 at 05:44 AM
I wouldn't say we need to arm more citizens but I would say we absolutely don't need to disarm citizens through weapons bans. Besides a smart police officer wouldn't use a gun offensively. He would simply run you over with his patrol car. As we've repeatedly seen, the police are free to blow through traffic lights, striking and killing innocent civilians and it's been ruled ok because they were chasing petty criminals. Never use a gun when your night stick or patrol car can accomplish the same goal.

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