What a sad, horrifying and bizarre way to begin 2012. From a media standpoint, there has been a lot of news to cover. A young mother shot and killed an intruder in Oklahoma, LEOs in Brownsville, Texas responded to a report of an armed suspect in a school on lockdown and shot the suspect, and three LEOs were murdered. Through all the commentary, there is a theme: Protecting our children.
The teen mom is being praised for being brave and she was brave. Let’s be honest though. A lot of people in her situation are brave…and deceased. Like many private citizens, she was the victim of a crime and facing an armed attacker. She called 911 to ask for help like millions of other citizens. Fortunately, she still had a right to possess, access and use a firearm to protect herself and her child. While much is being stated in the media about this brave mother who acted to protect her child, would her actions have been less brave if she was an 80 year old widow who lived alone? The media was attracted to this story because of the infant. You can read thousands of such stories at the Armed Citizen page of the NRA website. They have been publishing such stories for decades. However, the critical role of legal firearms ownership was lost on the media.
Ok, so I guess we know what to look for in news stories. People protecting children. Now I understand the rules. If you use deadly force to protect a child, the media and others will celebrate your efforts. Irrespective of their political opinions or beliefs, people will praise your actions. Well, not so fast….
On January 4, 2012, a school administrator in a middle school called 911 to report that a student entered the school with a gun. First, I did say middle school. Second, this tells you that it is highly unlikely that the school had an armed LEO on the property. Parents were surprised that a child was able to get a gun into the school and “thought they had more security.” The responding LEOs formed a team and entered the school that was on lockdown when they arrived. Yes, I said lockdown. The audio from the numerous cellphone calls and recordings is becoming available and it appears there is no dispute that the LEOs ordered the student to drop the weapon numerous times. Then they fired three times. They hit the suspect three times and he died. When it was released that the weapon the student pointed at the officers was a pellet gun, the controversy started.
No other students were injured; none. No officers were injured; none. The only person who was injured was the person who violated state law and numerous regulations and brought a weapon to a school. This only took place after he refused to drop the weapon and pointed it at uniformed LEOs who were giving loud verbal commands while pointing firearms at him. As the chief in charge of the jurisdiction stated, “He pointed the weapon at the officers, at which point the officers that were actively engaged by the suspect fired at least twice.” Kudos to the department for holding a press conference and showing a picture of the gun. However, within 24 hours, the second guessing and criticism began.
The news outlets are carrying stories of people demanding to know why the LEOs shot the suspect three times. The parents are claiming the LEOs used excessive force, the media is demanding to know why the pellet gun was not marked with a red tip, and other the news stories are blaming the pellet gun! The link in the last sentence will take you to a news story with a sub heading announcing, “Air pistol that looks like real gun costs teen his life.” The LEOs acted not only in self-defense but entered the building to protect 700 children, teachers and staff. Why is the notion that they used excessive force being entertained at all? So, now I’m confused. Clearly, it is not about the children?
Time and time again, we’ve seen LEOs criticized for using excessive force when they shoot a person who refuses to drop or points a “non-firearm” at LEOs. Keep in mind that a pellet gun can and will cause a serious injury or death at close range, especially to a child in a middle school. Remember also that the mother in Oklahoma shot an intruder who was armed with a knife! The reason for this insanity, I believe, is a focus on the firearm as the cause of crime and the “evil” to be remedied. Think about it, if the weapon held and pointed by the suspect in Brownsville was a firearm, little if any controversy would have seen the light of day. While you would have the routine clamor from the voice of collective ignorance that believe LEOs should never use deadly force, such stories would have been short-lived.
To prove my point, let’s look at the deaths of LEOs so far this year. Agent Jared Francom with the Ogden PD in Utah was killed while serving a search warrant. Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed while attempting to stop a fleeing suspect near the Longmire Ranger Station in Mount Rainier National Park. The killer was a suspect in the shooting of four people just prior to Ranger Anderson’s death. In Puerto Rico, Sergeant Abimael Castro-Berrocales was shot and killed after stopping a speeding vehicle. In each case, there is a media firestorm about the ownership and use of firearms. I will not link to those websites or pages because I do not want to be associated with them, including one that blames Ranger Anderson’s death on a recent change in the law that allows private citizens to carry firearms in parks. Never mind the fact that the suspect fortunately died before he was able to kidnap or attack any other park visitors.
When law enforcement efforts and public policy focus on the “evil” of firearms, there is a cost. Stay at home moms are not able to protect their children. Schools do not have armed resource officers on campus and suspects are more likely to bring weapons to a school. Money and resources that should be spent on salaries and equipment are wasted on programs to “end gun violence” and “reduce gun crimes.” The pinnacle of this misdirected effort is the now infamous “Fast and Furious” program that led to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. You can read my comments about this program here
. Make no mistake, the groups that want to disarm the public want to disarm LEOs as well. They are the same groups that believe you should not use deadly force.
So what is the take away? What should LEOs make of all this coverage? Well, I believe I was right at the outset. It is all about protecting our children. The children of citizens who call for help, the school kids locked down and hiding under their desks and perhaps most important, the children of the LEOs in our country. Ranger Anderson’s children will never again hug their mother. Those children lost something that cannot be replaced. That is why I am so passionate about convincing LEOs not to be hesitant. From all accounts, Ranger Anderson, Agent Francom and Sergeant Castro-Berrocales did not have a chance to defend themselves and that is an all too common thread in recent shootings of LEOs. Do not let a single news story cause you to hesitate to use the appropriate level of force. The world will have years to debate your actions. You have the rest of your life to make up your mind.
In Graham v. Connor
, Justice Rhenquist wrote, “The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight” and “[t]he calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” So, while you can expect second guessing by the grossly uninformed, you can find some comfort that the USSC still recognizes the realities of law enforcement. The Court also recognizes your right to own firearms
and protect yourself, as a citizen and
a LEO. Work hard to protect that right on both fronts as your life, and the lives of your spouses and children, may one day depend upon it.