In the shadow of recent police shootings we are being presented with the idea of increased police access to firearms as a virtual fait accompli:
Police should have easier access to guns by Christmas, Police Minister Judith Collins says. The issue of access to guns was raised after two Christchurch policemen were shot and seriously wounded yesterday. Dog-handler Senior Constable Bruce Lamb, 51, and Constable Mitchel Alatalo, 39, both underwent surgery in Christchurch Hospital last night after being shot while carrying out routine inquiries in suburban Phillipstown yesterday morning.
“The time for talking has stopped. We’re now at nine police officers shot in two years … It’s unacceptable,” [Police Association president] Mr O’Connor said. “Whatever we’re doing now is not working, so certainly we’re going to have more people on the frontline armed.” The officers were unarmed and did not take a Taser from their vehicle with them but Ms Collins said easy access to a gun may have helped them.
Police can have guns with them, kept in a box in their vehicle’s boot, but Commissioner Howard Broad is looking at a policy change where they could be kept within hand reach in the vehicle. “We should have a policy from police by Christmas,” Ms Collins told Radio New Zealand. There would be no need for a law change and it was an operational matter for police.
According to the above the changed proposed is from guns locked in the boot of the car to guns “within hand reach” in the vehicle. Other coverage puts the issue differently:
The present policy allows for police to be armed, depending on the level of risk, with authorisation from superiors. … “These [shooting] situations that are occurring, many are surprise events. An ambush if you like,” said Mr Broad. In these situations, there could be weapons such as handguns immediately available to police officers.
“At the moment, those weapons are either held at the police station or held in one of the supervisor’s vehicles. It’s quite a big step to actually withdraw and go and get weapons and return to the scene of an incident. We are looking at a situation where those weapons would be available to officers on frontline duty with their vehicles, held in secure facilities, but available to them. “Now, it’s a judgment call for our officers, but I back the judgment of our officers.”
These accounts differ in detail, but what is agreed is that police will be getting easier access to firearms. This doesn’t require a law change. And it’s likely to be done by Christmas.
I don’t think such a change should be made without significant public debate. And I for one am opposed to any such proposal. 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. The move is being justified by reference to “ambush situations”, but carrying a gun doesn’t stop you from being ambushed, it doesn’t make you any less likely to get hit. Better protective gear does that.
As it happens I’m not alone in this opinion. And here I salute the honesty and character of Senior Constable Bruce Lamb who should certainly know something about it, don’t you think?
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 the second article above:
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. If it’s all the same to you, Greg, 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. This post is already too long, so I’ll simply direct you to the excellent No Right Turn.
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?