A gun is not the answer to a gun. But what is?

Imagine how much greater a country we would be if we could protect young Black men, religious minorities and random movie-goers, students and tourists the way we protect the semi-auomatic handgun and the right to own one.

Another gun death.  Another semi-auto for the evidence facility.  I am guesstimating that we could probably arm a small country’s military forces — say Bolivia’s 46,000 personnel — with the just the number of semi-automatic handguns currently in police evidence facilities.

We have to find a new way to come to terms with guns in America.  Previous posts also made this argument.  Civilians in the US possess about 270 millions guns of all types.  That’s a lot of firepower in the hands of a set of civilians who cannot possibly train well enough to handle firearms safely in chaotic settings.  And gun owners are humans like the rest of us slobs: we who manage to kill and maim unintentionally with cars, snow-blowers and lawn mowers.  Add booze and a gun and look out below.

Neither Democrat nor Republican is going anywhere near the subject until at least November 7, 2012.  But maybe at some point we can get a dialogue going about how to reduce and prevent harm.  As argued before let’s start with this goal: zero handgun deaths of children 16 and younger. I may be naive.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking that there is a broader set of views among gun advocates and there are elements who would be open to the save-the-children dialogue.  Those who have sewn up Congress for Glock can help us do the same for children.  There is no sarcasm here.  I think someone needs to make the invitation.

We are armed and we are dangerous.  We need to help each other.  I am an advocate for strict gun regulations but if I had influence in the national debate I would gladly sit with gun ownership advocates and stay until we got some new ideas on how to protect kids.

Not to scuttle dialogue, but today’s incident does illustrate one fallacy about guns and crowds.  The fallacy I have in mind is the ideal of the armed hero-citizen being capable of stepping up and blasting away with his handgun to save the innocent.  Two highly-trained NYPD officers, operating outdoors in broad daylight, could not avoid hitting innocent parties as they sought to bring down the murderer.  Even a civilian with the highest accuracy scores at the local gun club is many times more dangerous in the chaos of a mass shooting scene.  Just figuring out who the bad guy(s) is just about impossible. Police check out these salient passages from today’s New York Times web site.

Several People Shot, One Fatally, Outside Empire State Building

NY Times, August 24, 2012

Police C0mmissioner Raymond W. Kelly said that nine bystanders had been “wounded or grazed” and taken to hospitals. The mayor said that some of the injured may have been hit by police bullets during the confrontation with the suspect, whom Mr. Kelly identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 53, a former clothing designer at Hazan Industries. Mr. Kelly said he believed that some of the shooting victims had been shot by the officers “based on the number of people shot and the capacity of”’ the shooter’s weapon.

The sudden spasm of violence shattered the calm of the morning near one of the world’s major tourist destinations and set off pandemonium at a busy intersection that was filled with pedestrians and cars. Visitors had begun crowding into the lobby of the building waiting to ascend to the observation deck, which had already opened.

Mr. Johnson, the commissioner said, was carrying a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun “in a bag under his arm.” It had a capacity of eight bullets, officials said, adding that Mr. Johnson had fired three at the former co-worker.

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About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at www.sergeantsleadership.org. I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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