Fighting Words over Gun Control
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published November 29, 2015 by The Washington Times.
You mean we’re allowed to resist criminals or terrorists? All by ourselves?
That was the shocking point made by District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier last week on “60 Minutes”.
Progressive wisdom dictates that we stay helpless and submit to whatever indignities that armed thugs require of us, lest we add to the climate of violence. The chief’s remarks must have set many teeth on edge in gun control groups and in Georgetown salons and other liberal precincts.
“The fact of the matter is that most active shooters kill most of the victims in 10 minutes or less,” she said, “and the best police department in the country’s going to be about a five-to-seven minute response.”
This comports with the gun owners’ adage that, “when seconds count, police are only minutes away.”
“Your options are run, hide, or fight,” Chief Lanier told a skeptical Anderson Cooper during the “60 Minutes” interview, who pointed out that the average person has only a “one in two million chance” of being in a shooting, as opposed to a “one in 700,000” chance of being struck by lightning.
I would bet that most golfers or climbers in storm-prone areas have a greater probability than that, or most inner city dwellers as far as shootings, but why quibble with a famous correspondent?
“If you’re in a position to try and take the gunman down,” the chief said, “to take the gunman out, it’s the best option for saving lives before police can get there.”
The backdrop for this interview was the Nov. 13 carnage in Paris, where Islamic terrorists, unimpeded by any armed citizens, murdered more than 130 people and wounded many more. They shot up and blew up several restaurants and a concert hall in the French capital, where privately owned guns are rare.
“In recent years, mentally ill gunmen and now terrorists have killed victims indiscriminately, their aim to kill as many as possible, rather than taking hostages,” a “60 Minutes” summary of the Lanier interview stated. “These events call for more active approaches, [Lanier] says. ‘That’s kind of counterintuitive to what cops always tell people, right? We always tell people, ‘Don’t…don’t take action. Call 911. Don’t intervene in the robbery’…we’ve never told people, ‘Take action.’ It’s a different…scenario.”
It sure is. And it would help if the District were not stacking the legal deck against gun ownership.
The Supreme Court overturned the District’s longtime handgun ban in 2008 in the landmark Heller case, which recognized the Second Amendment right for individuals to own firearms. But since then, the city has enacted restrictive laws that make it nearly impossible to legally possess a handgun. The chief’s refreshing comments about self-defense aside, the police have been choosy about issuing concealed carry permits. Since October 2014, the Metropolitan Police Department has approved only 48 permits out of 298 applications as of Nov. 14, according to The Washington Times.
In a January 2013 C-Span interview, Chief Lanier noted that “We’ve had about 1,600 semiautomatic handguns registered since Heller.”
That’s not many in a city of 659,000 which has about 650,000 annual “calls for service” to the police, according to the chief. Asked how many of those calls were “frivolous,” she answered, “I’d say about 35 percent of them are the top priorities. Those are real, ‘I need the police now.’”
She also noted in 2013 that “it’s only permissible to have [guns] in your home. You can’t take them out on the street. So it’s had zero impact on crime.”
Yes, those guns kept at home don’t help a lot during a street mugging. Plus, D.C. has no retail gun stores and requires people who want to buy guns out of state to transfer them through a federally licensed firearms dealer, of which there is only one in the District and who charges $125 per transfer.
Chief Lanier is not the only prominent police official to speak out about fighting back. Detroit Police Chief James Craig has similarly supported the right of residents to defend themselves.
“Detroiters are fed up; they’re fed up with violence,” he said in January 2014. “I’m not encouraging violence, and in fact, I’m about the business of identifying those violent perpetrators that carry illegal guns.”
But Chief Craig added that he will “stand by” the right of Detroiters to defend themselves. “That’s the law that’s been in effect for more than 200 years.”
Sen. Rand Paul. Kentucky Republican, said last week that he will introduce a bill, the Defend Our Capital Act, to increase gun owners’ rights in the District.
With the Islamic State promising to next target Washington or New York, it would be nice to have more people around who have some firepower to fight back.