Thursday, July 15, 2010

Armed and Dangerous

A story such as this about a recent shooting in Christchurch is disturbing on several levels.
Of course, there are the obvious ones of injury to police officers in the line of duty, of a police dog being sacrificed, again in the line of duty.
Many will produce the knee-jerk reaction of calling for police officers to be armed. Stuff reports Greg O'Connor thus: "President Greg O'Connor said every officer on patrol should also wear a holster to allow them to be speedily armed if needed, with pistols stored in their cars." An understandable reaction from someone who admirably performs the role of advocate for the police officers.
But it also raises chilling questions about how the risks can be minimised, to police, and the wider community. Consider: Police district commanders can authorise firearms to be routinely carried in cars, but this is generally done only for non-commissioned officers, dog, single-officer and CIB patrols and first-response units. Mr Broad's proposal expands that to include every front-line car, including those on general patrols or going to routine inquiries."
Every front-line car? So we are going to increase the risk of police cars being stolen to obtain firearms? And that will make me feel safer?
One of the more insightful and perceptive observations by one of the investigating officers was that such incidents tend to be 'ambushes'. If this is true, and suspect it is, how will having a firearm in the car an officer has left to knock on a door, protect them from an ambush?
"Oh, you're threatening me with a shotgun! Can you hang on a moment while I pop back to the car and collect my sidearm?" Yeah, right!
What O'Connor, and his like, are proposing is actually an escalation of the risk.
One of the grounds used by the gun lobby in the US is that guns don't kill people, people do. My response has always been that that claim is true with one proviso: they can't if they don't have access to firearms.
O'Connor and others are proposing to increase the pool of firearms present in NZ.
Air rifles are now also under scrutiny, as they are now more powerful than when the current rules were implemented. It is likely that ownership will be restricted to licenced users.
So why stop there? I would like to see much tougher restrictions on ownership, purchase and sale of firearms, and greater use of import restrictions to reduce the supply of firearms into the NZ marketplace. I know all the arguments about creating a black market and that those determined to do so will always be able to get hold of them.
But:restrict the supply, and there will be fewer available for those who might otherwise be tempted to play the heroic.
So, my question becomes: should we concede victory to the criminals? And make guns more readily available?
Thanks, but no thanks.

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