This is the second post in what, depressingly, may become a series of posts about arming the police. Regular as clockwork the suggestion keeps coming back, here’s the latest version:
Call for ‘guns on hips’ renewed after rifle aimed at cop
The Police Association has renewed its calls for “guns on hips” after a rifle was allegedly aimed at a female officer in the Bay of Plenty early yesterday morning. … The officer left immediately and called for back up, before armed offenders squad members were deployed in the area. …
Police Association president Greg O’Connor said the incident – which came just a month after a police officer was shot in Mayoral Drive – highlighted dangers faced by police.
“We are just lucky on this occasion that her leaving was an option, but with nine colleagues shot in the last three years, that hasn’t always been an option.”
Mr O’Connor acknowledged police access to firearms had been improved with the roll-out of secure compartments containing tasers and firearms in 908 front-line patrol cars, but believed it would take a tragedy before the Government allowed police officers to carry firearms.
“We believe every police officer will end up with a firearm on their hip – but it will take either a number of unarmed police officers to be shot, or a member of the public to be shot because the police couldn’t take action – before it happens.”
I think that the majority of the country would remain opposed to the idea of routinely armed police. Personally, my objections are the same as the first time I wrote about this, so I’m just going to repeat myself. I’m opposed for four reasons.
First objection – It won’t make the police any safer. Anyone mad enough to shoot at a cop (or anyone else for that matter) is not going to be deterred if the cop is armed. Carrying a gun doesn’t stop you from being shot at, it doesn’t make you any less likely to get hit (better protective gear does that). In the high profile case in 2010, the officer involved, Senior Constable Bruce Lamb made the same point:
The police dog handler shot in the jaw in Christchurch yesterday is deeply upset about the loss of his dog Gage, but does not think it would have made a difference if he had been armed at the time of the incident. … Mr Lamb had access to a firearm in his police truck, but chose not to pick it up when he went into the house.
Second objection – It will make the public less safe. More guns means more bullets means more people getting hit. It’s not rocket science. From a 2010 piece on making guns more accessible to police:
The Police Association welcomed the move, but gave warning that it would ultimately mean more people getting shot.
Credit for acknowledging the truth, but then:
Greg O’Connor, the association’s president, said: “If these officers had shot someone [yesterday] there would be a massive outcry in the media about why did the police need to shoot them and that’s where we just need to grow up as a country.” New Zealanders needed to stop “getting squeamish” about firearms and “get squeamish” about officers getting shot, he said.
I find the causal attitude to increased civilian deaths horrifying. I will remain “squeamish” about people getting shot, and I refuse to “grow up” about it. If I thought that carrying guns was going to make police safer there might be a debate to be had here, but see above.
Third objection – The argument that there has been a recent upsurge in police shootings that justifies this escalation is rubbish.
Fourth objection – Escalation is a bad idea. If guns become more visible and are used more frequently, then of course the serious criminal element will respond in kind. No one ends up any safer, the general public are considerably more at risk, and New Zealand has lost another stubborn vestige of its innocence, never to be regained. How safe are the heavily armed police in America?