Policing Armed Citizens

From a Google Image Search – The Economist

Recently a 17 year old young man who had been dealing with a mental illness all his life finally committed “death by police.” He created a chaotic situation where he was living so that a 911 call dispatched the police. He owned an air gun that shoots pellets similar to BB’s. It was modeled on a Glock and looked like a real gun. The police were aware of the air gun he owned, but they still had to consider that the gun pointed at them might be real. This young man, failed by modern medicine and modern treatments for mental illness, finally died at the hands of local police with far too many shots fired, all the usual overreaction that we find happening over and over in these situations these days. This young man was not of African American descent but he still joins the ranks of young people killed by overreactions from police. 


Tamir Rice was not mentally ill as far as we know, he was only 11, and he was Black. He was reported by a neighbor as being in a park with a gun, except that the gun was a BB gun. He was killed without any questioning as soon as a policeman arrived on the scene. 

Here are, to me, a couple of excellent reasons why we need gun regulation laws. Of course I thought it was more than obvious when a young mentally ill man with a gun shot 20 very young children and several adults and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but these poor parents have never been respected as they should have been. When guns are everywhere it puts police and even some Americans, especially Black Americans, in a bad situation. Police officers are always either paranoid that a potential perpetrator has a gun, or they are able to claim that someone they wish to be rid of has a gun even though s/he doesn’t. Black people do not tend to pass muster even when they have a legal gun with a permit.

Putting aside even the horrific situation that happened in Boulder or in Atlanta, or any appearance of a determined shooter in a totally unexpected public place which is difficult to anticipate, just the proliferation of guns because of a decision to put a certain interpretation to what the founder’s meant in the Second Amendment to our Constitution, is bound to make law enforcers paranoid and fearful that policing could lead to death at any moment. And it is leading to death either for the police, the person who may or may not have broken a law, someone caught in an uncontrollable mental moment or all of the citizens embroiled in such a drama. 

Guns are not actually saving lives; they are costing lives. Perhaps what we need to do is sideline the Senate, which seems dominated by irrational and reactionary politicians who insist that America belongs to them and refuse to accept that we no longer live in the 1780’s. Against all odds, these stubborn legislators insist that nothing can even be said about regulating guns in America. They are like a human wall on this topic and that wall cannot be breached. It is a most frustrating thing, among a number of frustratingly inflexible issues, we are facing in American politics, and all are very good reasons to find ways to sideline the Senate or set term limits that get rid of arrogant old men elected for life.

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