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The Oklahoma Senate unanimously voted to override Governor Fallin’s (R) surprise veto of House Bill 2461. As previously reported, the state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to override this veto last week by a bipartisan 86 to 3 vote. Since this veto was overridden by both legislative chambers, HB 2461 has been enacted into law and will take effect on November 1, 2014.
Authored in the House by state Representative Mike Turner (R-82) and in the Senate by state Senator Nathan Dahm (R-33), HB 2461 will require that a chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) sign an application for the transfer of any item regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) within fifteen days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving it. These reforms benefit law-abiding Oklahomans by ensuring that the process to obtain NFA items already legal in Oklahoma remains consistent, fact-based and objective.
HB 2461 was sent to Governor Fallin for her signature following its near unanimous passage in the Oklahoma Legislature. In a surprising political move, the Governor vetoed this consensus legislation. Your NRA is happy to report that the House and Senate were able to come together to enact these important policy improvements. Oklahoma is now the fifth state to enact this legislation this year, following Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and Utah.
Please thank state Senator Nathan Dahm (R-33), Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman (R-12), Senator Mike Schulz (R-38), state Representative Mike Turner (R-82) and House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman (R-58) for their leadership and support of the Second Amendment in Oklahoma. Without their leadership, enactment of HB 2461 would not have been possible this year.
The Only Way to Stop an Obama Gun-Ban High-Court Nominee is to Vote November 4 to Guarantee a Pro-Gun U.S. Senate.
By James W. Porter II, NRA President
If Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein keep their iron grip on the U.S. Senate majority after the November elections, the Second Amendment could be rendered dead as a doornail by a Barack Obama-packed U.S. Supreme Court.
Some pundits have wagered that it’s a certainty President Obama will have an opportunity to fill at least two lifetime vacancies on the high court before he leaves office.
The only way to stop an Obama gun-ban high-court nominee is to vote November 4 to guarantee a pro-gun U.S. Senate—the constitutional body with exclusive final say over judicial nominees.
Voting for a majority of pro-Second Amendment U.S. Senate candidates who will exercise the fundamental check on the executive branch—advise and consent—is a critical check on abuse of liberty.
As voters, we must end the Obama rubber-stamp rule that has been the hallmark of the Harry Reid/Chuck Schumer majority.
With the balance of the current court, the strength of the Second Amendment is tenuous, hanging by a 5-4 majority. That one-vote margin has saved the Second Amendment on the high court twice. The votes of two new justices could tip everything.
By a 5-4 vote in 2008, in Heller v. District of Columbia, the court majority struck down Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban and the city’s ban on armed self-defense in the home—thus recognizing the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right.
The same slim majority carried the day with McDonald v. City of Chicago, the 2010 landmark decision which declared that city’s handgun ban unconstitutional and expanded the Heller ruling to cover every element of government in the nation.
In both of those decisions, the dissenting opinions of four justices were brutal in their denial of individual liberty. To them, there is no individual right, just a “collective” right that mirrors the “collective guilt” that is the core premise of gun control.
Current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues that those decisions were “grievously mistaken.” Like former Justice John Paul Stevens whose dissent declared “[t]he framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect the private right of self-defense,” she believes that Heller and McDonald must be swept aside.
Most dangerously, Justice Ginsburg believes dissents issued by the losing four justices serve as the basis for future court rulings to reverse the victories we hold today.
If you want to see the true agenda of the current Supreme Court dissenters when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms, look no further than Stevens’ vicious attack in a recent Washington Post opinion piece.
The Second Amendment, he says—as an individual right—is based on nothing more than “emotional claims.”
So he proffered a new Second Amendment that would read:
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.” (emphasis added)
Stevens claimed that although his rewrite of the Second Amendment “would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.”
That one “mistaken” argument is the bedrock to our liberty.
But just imagine if Stevens added similar words to the First Amendment, thus transforming those rights: the press is free to serve the government, or that Americans could only publish or speak words serving the government, or citizens could only assemble in support of the government, or that we possess only a collective right to practice a state religion.
Justice Stevens’ manifesto is deadly serious. But a gun-ban court majority doesn’t have to add words to the Second Amendment to destroy it. It merely has to interpret our rights by reprising old “collective” dissents.
If Obama and his rubber-stamp axis who now control the Senate have the chance to pack the court with justices in the image of Stevens and Ginsburg, they will. We can and we must change their endgame by changing the U.S. Senate.
NRA members, gun owners and all those who cherish the rights affirmed in the Heller and McDonald decisions are the key to preserving and protecting the Second Amendment. By voting for pro-freedom Senate candidates on November 4 to end the tyranny of the Obama/Reid Senate majority, we will have our day to “advise and consent” as to the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and its role in securing our rights.
Just after midnight, Dick Anthony Heller steps into a back room in a federal building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He takes off his holster and revolver. A video camera’s unblinking eye watches as he places the Smith & Wesson in a locker in the government building he protects 40 hours per week.
When the weather is warm and clear, Heller has his bicycle waiting. In the colder months he has his car. Even though he lives nearby, he never walks home—not anymore. He is in his 70s now. And in this neighborhood, only two blocks from the capitol, people have been mugged and beaten on the streets. That’s why he must drive his car or ride his bike—to avoid them.
He has to be extra cautious because anyone who might want to mug him knows he can’t be legally armed—not on these streets. So although he carries a gun to protect government officials and property while on duty, the D.C. government won’t allow him to carry one for his own defense.
Even worse, he can’t do that despite the fact that a few years ago he went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and won!
“At least I’m a guy,” Heller told me in a recent interview. “If I were a woman, I wouldn’t be able to keep this job. Getting off work late at night in the neighborhood I work in would be too risky. It’s these basic human rights we’re still trying to win back in our nation’s capital.”
That is why Heller is again a plaintiff in a lawsuit moving through the federal court system. This case, backed by the National Rifle Association, has been dubbed “Heller II.” It was filed not long after the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment protects an “individual” right. The Heller decision also ruled that D.C.’s outright ban on handguns, as well as regulations requiring that all firearms—including rifles and shotguns—be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock,” was unconstitutional.
Heller says they filed the lawsuit soon after winning the original case in 2008 when it became apparent that the D.C. government would continue to infringe on citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.
“After D.C. lost in the Supreme Court, they obviously grabbed every gun control restriction they could find from the 50 states and included almost all of them in a hastily written package of gun control laws,” he said.
Stephen Halbrook, one of the attorneys representing Heller and other plaintiffs in Heller II, put it this way: “It was like D.C.’s politicians wanted revenge for the Supreme Court rebuke.”
Heller II has been slowly working its way through the court system ever since. In October 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld what it called D.C.’s “basic” registration of handguns, but questioned whether any registration of rifles and shotguns is constitutional. The court remanded the case to a district court to gather further evidence on whether D.C.’s gun registration and other laws are permissible regulations of Second Amendment-protected rights.
In December 2013, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Halbrook and Dan Peterson, deposed D.C.’s witnesses and filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking Judge James Boasberg for summary judgment on whether D.C.’s gun registration and other laws are constitutional. At press time, Judge Boasberg had yet to rule, but could do so at any time.
“Whoever loses will certainly appeal,” Halbrook said.
D.C.’s Gun Control Gauntlet
Basically, the gun control laws D.C. passed subsequent to Heller prevent any resident from carrying any gun for self-defense; create a gun registry that includes long guns; add registration fees and piles of paperwork; require every resident who wants a gun to be fingerprinted and mandate that gun owners re-register their guns every three years.
Actually, if D.C.’s gun control laws were regulating anything other than gun rights, many urban politicians would be calling them “racist.” That’s because a person must bring his gun or guns to D.C.’s police headquarters in locked cases for inspection. If he doesn’t have a car—many low-income D.C. residents don’t—he would have to take the train to the Judiciary Square terminal (D.C. has a subway system), hire a taxi or take a bus with his handgun, shotgun or rifle in hand. Additionally, gun owners must pay fees and demonstrate their familiarity with the law by taking a test at D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department headquarters (MPD).
At the MPD’s request, the D.C. city council did away with a mandated four-hour firearm-training course, but in its place a person who wants to practice his or her right to own a firearm still has to take an MPD Firearms Safety Training Course. They can take the course online, but to do so they’ll need a computer with a “Flash Player” plug-in, which is not supported by iPhones and iPads.
So in reality, a low-income person who can’t take time off work, who can’t afford a computer or who can’t afford transportation with a gun to and from police headquarters is simply out of luck. Many liberal politicians call state voter-ID laws that require people to obtain free IDs from a state motor-vehicle bureau “racist,” yet few seem to mind the massive costs and other infringements placed in the way of American citizens simply trying to practice their right to keep and bear arms in D.C.
As Halbrook points out, long guns are rarely used in crimes. He believes that fact in itself clearly shows D.C.’s gun control laws are only designed to impede people from legally owning firearms.
And the facts back him up. According to data provided by D.C. to the FBI in 2009, only two out of 144 murders in D.C. that year were known to have been committed with a long gun. In 2010, out of 131 murders in D.C., not even one was reported to have been committed with a rifle or shotgun. In 2011, only one murder in D.C. was reported to have been committed with a long gun (a shotgun), out of 108 total murders.
Given that less than 1 percent of murders are being committed with long guns, how can D.C. justify the onerous need for fingerprinting residents every three years? For context, realize that for the same time period (2009-2011) in D.C., 96 homicides were reportedly committed with knives or weapons other than guns and fists.
When Halbrook questioned D.C.’s witnesses about the need for these laws, they weren’t able to cite a single study indicating that the District’s firearm registration scheme prevents illegal possession of firearms. Actually, studies show that registration laws haven’t had a measurable effect on either crime rates or gun violence.
While being deposed, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier even conceded: “It is not clear [to the District] how firearms’ registration records could be used to ‘prevent’ a crime.” She also said she couldn’t “recall any specific instance where registration records were used to determine who committed a crime,” except for possession offenses.
Chief Lanier couldn’t even provide a single example of a registration record being used to solve a crime committed with a long gun.
Nevertheless, D.C. is forcing residents to seek permission above and beyond a federal background check for owning any firearm—and D.C. residents have to do this every three years. According to D.C. law, “No person or organization in the District shall possess or control any firearm, unless the person or organization holds a valid registration certificate for the firearm.” Possession of an unregistered firearm is punishable by imprisonment for one year and a $1,000 fine, and a second offense can get offenders five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
To find a legal precedent for having a registry for long guns, D.C.’s attorneys had to get very creative. They actually cited an 1896 law from the Republic of Hawaii that required a license to possess a firearm: In 1896 Hawaii was, of course, an independent and undemocratic country. (Hawaii became a state in 1959.)
D.C. attorneys also argued that “laws requiring the registration of certain types of long guns at the federal level has [sic] proven ‘highly successful’ in reducing the use of such long-guns in crime.” They naturally don’t cite any data or study to back up this claim. Attorneys for the District also cite an 1893 Florida statute that empowered officials to grant a license to carry a pistol or repeating rifle. This law, however, didn’t require a license to possess a firearm and was only passed, according to one of the justices at the time, “for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers.”
This should, of course, lead any reasonable person to next ask why, after the Supreme Court decided Heller in 2008, did the D.C. government decide to create a re-registration scheme for guns? Halbrook notes that D.C.’s “own witnesses cite no studies showing that periodic registration renewal or reporting requirements reduce crime or protect police officers.”
Actually, D.C. Police Chief Lanier and the officers who oversee the Firearms Registration Section are quoted in Halbrook’s brief admitting that there were only two handgun applications denied by D.C. in 2011 and 2012. During that period, not a single rifle or shotgun application was refused. To sensible people, this isn’t surprising. Criminals aren’t having themselves voluntarily fingerprinted and photographed, they’re carrying guns when and where they see fit.
Other figures fill out the picture. According to D.C. records, from 2007 to 2013 the police seized 12,000 unregistered firearms. Meanwhile, law enforcement only seized 36 registered guns during this same period. Of those 36 guns, only 17 were involved in charges against a registered firearm owner. Of those 17 cases, only two resulted in convictions for a violent crime. So statistically and rationally speaking, the good guys with the guns—the ones being burdened by the gun control regulations—are clearly not the problem.
Incredibly, this lawsuit has even made it clear that officers responding to calls are not being informed if there is a registered firearm at the location. Police cars aren’t equipped with a computer that can access the firearm registry, and dispatchers can’t check the registration database.
However you add it up, the entire system is obviously a gauntlet designed to prevent law-abiding citizens from exercising their gun rights.
If this case makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will surely be used as a precedent in other cases where citizens are challenging burdensome restrictions to their right to keep and bear arms. But there are likely years of litigation to come before Dick Heller and the rest of D.C.’s law-abiding residents might get the chance to carry guns for self-defense and, thereby, use their constitutional freedom to help create a safer society.
D.C. Convicts Resident for Muzzleloader Bullets
Mark Witaschek, a financial advisor, was in his D.C. home with his children one evening in 2012 when police showed up with a search warrant. They put him in handcuffs and searched his home, where they found a single shotgun shell.
The shell was a dud that had failed to go off when Witaschek had been on a pheasant hunt. At the time, he kept his guns and ammunition at his sister’s house in Virginia. But he’d kept the shotgun shell as a memento of the hunt.
The police also found some muzzleloader bullets. They didn’t find any gunpowder or primers—basic requirements for propelling such bullets—just the copper-and-lead bullets. For these supposed infractions, officers arrested Witaschek, and he spent the night behind bars.
Though Witaschek had no prior criminal record, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan decided to prosecute him for possessing the “ammunition.” You’ll remember Nathan as the attorney general who opted not to prosecute NBC News anchor David Gregory in January 2013 for possessing a banned “high-capacity” magazine in Washington, D.C., for television propaganda supporting a magazine ban. Yet he prosecuted a resident with no criminal record for having a dud shotgun shell and some muzzleloader bullets.
In March, Robert E. Morin, an associate judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, found Witaschek guilty of “attempted possession of unlawful ammunition” for the muzzleloader bullets. The judge wasn’t able to decide whether the shotgun shell with its primer pushed in was illegal.
In fact, the judge shook the shell and remarked he couldn’t hear powder in it. He wanted it cut open, but was told that wasn’t safe to do outside a laboratory. The prosecuting attorney tried to find a lab, but couldn’t locate one in D.C. that could open the shell in time. So the judge sentenced Witaschek to time served, a $50 fine and required him to enroll with the Metropolitan Police Department’s firearm offenders’ registry within 48 hours for the muzzleloader bullets charge.
Witaschek is appealing the decision. Meanwhile, he’s no longer willing to live in our nation’s capital. Witaschek has moved just outside D.C. to Virginia.
“I have a gun, get out!”
That’s the warning a Detroit mother gave the three hoodlums attempting to kick down her door on the night of Feb. 17, 2014. Armed with only a replica handgun, the intruders thought she was bluffing—until she opened fire. The mother of two was armed with a Hi-Point TS4 Carbine (what some would call an “assault rifle”) her husband gave her after a break-in just two weeks prior.
The crooks literally fell over themselves and quickly fled the area. Caught on surveillance cameras, the video went viral and illustrated what appears to be a growing trend in Detroit—citizens fighting back.
Detroit’s woes are no secret. Joblessness, poverty, gangs, illiteracy and crime now plague the once-thriving hub of the automotive industry. In July 2013, the city became the largest municipal government ever to file for bankruptcy. Studies estimate 25 percent of Detroit’s population have departed, reducing the city to numbers predating the Industrial Revolution.
Those who remain have watched Detroit decay into one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. In 2012, the Detroit Free Press reported 386 criminal homicides—the highest in two decades, and nearly as many as New York City, whose population is more than three times larger. The same year saw 1,263 non-fatal shootings, more than 400 rapes and nearly 5,000 robberies.
In 2013, a New York Times report found average police response times to Level One priority calls in Detroit were a staggering 58 minutes. The rate of cases solved stood at a mere 8.7 percent. Some police officials even took to warning visitors that if they came to the city, they should “enter at their own risk.”
Despite rampant crime and slow response, Detroit cut the police department’s 2012-2013 budget by $75 million, forcing 380 officers to either quit or retire early. The latest estimates indicate only about 3,000 sworn officers remain to protect 700,000 residents. Unable to rely on an overburdened police force, Motor City residents realized they had no choice: If they wanted to survive, they would have to fight back.
Officials say concealed carry permit applications have been on the rise, with about 80,000 permits now held in Wayne County alone. And Detroit is leading the state in justifiable homicide. The FBI estimated 15 justifiable homicides in Detroit for all of 2012, but nearly a dozen have been recorded in the first quarter of 2014. (The numbers should be taken with a grain of salt; the same records show only five defensive shootings in 2008 for Detroit, which then-chief Ralph Godbee disputed, saying their department recorded 35.)
According to MichiganLive, Detroit accounted for 81 percent of the state’s 212 justifiable homicides from 2000 to 2010. (Of note, law enforcement accounted for only 44 percent of statewide justifiable homicides.) The publication further stated many more shootings are left out because of improper reporting. And, of course, the numbers don’t reflect instances of armed self-defense where the criminal is not killed.
Many incredible stories of armed defense are cropping up all over Detroit already this year:
• In February, a woman returning home was ambushed in her garage by an armed robber. Dropping her keys to distract the man, she drew her .38-cal. handgun and fired several shots to end the threat to her life.
• The same month, a brazen daytime intrusion was thwarted when the homeowner heard the sound of glass breaking and retrieved a firearm in time to fire two shots at the intruders.
• Armed with a tire iron, two intruders broke into a southwest Detroit home, only to be shot by the homeowner.
• A woman in her 50s warned another daytime invader to get out before firing her handgun in self-defense.
• And in April, a retired Detroit nurse armed herself with a handgun before intervening in a gang-style beating of a man who had stopped to help a boy he accidentally hit with his car when the youngster darted across the street in front of him.
Earlier this year, James Craig, Detroit’s new police chief, commented to the media that criminals would think twice about attacking if more responsible citizens were armed.
“We’re not advocating violence,” Craig said. “We’re advocates of not being victims. We’re advocates of self-protection. We want people to be safe.”
Of course, many in the media and other gun-ban proponents cried foul. Yet average citizens in harm’s way seem to have taken the advice to heart, as illustrated by the numerous instances of armed self-defense the past few months.
“It does appear more and more Detroiters are becoming empowered,” Craig told reporters during a recent press conference. “More and more Detroiters are getting sick of the violence. I know of no other place where I’ve seen this number of justifiable homicides.”
America’s 1st Freedom recently caught up with Craig to find out more about his perspective on curbing violent crime.
A1F: Your comments supporting citizen self-defense have generated a lot of controversy. Did you expect them to create this big of a stir?
Craig: You know, I really didn’t, because it’s a Second Amendment-protected right. Certainly going to Maine and having served as police chief in Portland for a couple of years, I remember vividly the state having a motto saying, “The way life should be.” The thing I remember most: It was a good life, a safe city. There were a lot of CCW [Concealed Carry Weapon] holders. And so I had to believe that played a role in deterring violence.
Fast forwarding to Detroit, I’ve oftentimes pointed out that Detroit has what I’ve described as a culture of violence, which has been indicated by it being referred to as the murder capital, the most violent city in America. Then as I began to look at the number of CPL [Concealed Pistol License] holders here in Detroit, it was very different than when I grew up here and even started my policing career in 1977. [Now] there were a lot of CPL holders, a lot of good Americans, good Detroiters that were fed up with being victims. And they responded. And they responded in such a way to suspects in Detroit that was somewhat unique. There were two things I saw coming in the door that were unique: It wasn’t always uncommon that suspects would be wearing body armor during the commission of a crime, and/or secondly suspects directing victims to disrobe. And the reason for both was to determine whether or not the victim was armed. I found it odd, having worked in other large cities where I didn’t see it, not at this level of frequency.
And so, of late as you know, there’ve been a number of incidents involving armed citizens responding to an immediate threat to their life or what they believe to be a threat to the life of someone else. What I have said, and continue to say, is I believe responsible, good Americans have a right to protect themselves from an immediate threat to their life or to the life of another.
A1F: There have been a number of self-defense shootings making the news lately. Is this an increase in armed defense, or is the media just now noticing?
Craig: I thought maybe it would have been a statistical spike seeing that I’ve only been the police chief here for nine months. That seemed odd for me—I haven’t seen that high a number of self-defense shootings anywhere I’ve worked before. And as it turned out, we’re only up by one shooting this year compared to last year. So this trend actually started before I arrived here.
So it refutes the notion that I’m inciting vigilantism. That’s far from the truth. When you look at Detroit, I’m happy to report we are driving crime down, and certainly the Detroit Police Department is doing a phenomenal job arresting the right people.
A1F: What do you say to people who suggest more civilian ownership of guns creates more problems?
Craig: Well, I say to them that every person has a right to protect themselves or their family from harm—from danger. Everyone has that right. This is not about inciting vigilantism, because in my view when you talk about vigilantism, you’re talking about someone who has made a decision to do law enforcement’s job—go out and enforce the law. This is not that at all. This is about self-defense, protection, an imminent threat to life, very different response. So I say, let’s talk about the victims; let’s talk about the number of violent criminals in possession of guns. Let’s focus on that.
A1F: Do you think the requirements to carry a handgun are too hard, too easy or just right?
Craig: I think it’s set up for responsible Americans. Many of our officers—and this is not something I’ve seen before—but probably 50 percent of our officers are also CPL holders. I find that interesting. But as police officers, they go through the same check as any other American who wants to purchase and carry a weapon. They’re not exempt from it. So I think that the current laws in Michigan are good. It makes a great effort to weed out those who should not possess a weapon.
A1F: Why don’t more police chiefs share your perspective?
Craig: I’m not certain of that. I’m sure there’s some who disagree. This is not about pushing more guns in the streets, therefore making our neighborhoods and communities unsafe. My view is we should keep the guns out of the hands of the criminal, period. We’re talking about good, responsible Americans, and they’re not the issue. They’re not out committing carjackings or burglaries or home invasions or street robberies. We’re talking about a small group, a minority. I believe our focus should be on how to keep guns out of hands of criminals and those who aren’t responsible.
I ask this question of my critics: “What do you think about criminals who possess firearms illegally?” Of course, the response generally is, “Well you should take them to jail.” Well that’s fine, but they (other criminals) still possess the guns, they’re still out committing robberies. In the meantime, what do you do for victims and potential victims? What do you do for the mother alone with her children? How do you protect her? That’s how I change the dialogue and focus on the real issue. The issue isn’t more guns; it’s more guns in the hands of criminals.
A1F: Officers are obviously limited in their ability to respond to a 9-1-1 call or rush to the scene. Should citizens always rely on the police for protection?
Craig: Well, first of all when I arrived here nine months ago, it’s no secret that when it came to response time, we were recognized as having a 50-minute response time to some emergency calls. That has changed. We set a goal for 2014 to respond to high-priority 9-1-1 calls in five minutes. We haven’t reached that as of yet, but we’re averaging between eight and 11 minutes.
That said, whether five minutes or seven minutes, the issue is simple. You know, if a citizen is in danger—an immediate threat to life—even if the officer can get there, and even if the community member has the opportunity to contact police, as we all know if there’s an imminent threat to life, it happens in an instant. At some point, are you going to ask this violent predator, “Can you wait a few minutes so I can make this 9-1-1 call?” It’s just like an officer confronted with an imminent threat to their life. Certainly we want our officers to notify dispatch and seek backup when confronted with a dangerous situation, but sometimes it happens in an instant and an officer has to respond. It’s certainly not saying we can’t do our job; it’s saying we can’t be on every block, every corner, every minute of the day to be able to respond in seconds when someone is confronted with a dangerous situation.
A1F: How do you get the message to citizens—or criminals—about civilian self-defense?
Craig: The message is out there [now]. The people of Detroit have come to me in droves to thank me for taking this stand. But you know, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. I don’t support vigilantism, but I do support good Americans and self-protection and self-defense. I promote that. I support that. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t, and it’s a constitutionally protected right. This is not a James Craig law. It’s the law of the land.
A1F: How has your stance toward guns and gun control evolved over the years?
Craig: I spent 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. I always tell this story because it’s kind of an interesting one, but it’s no secret that in Southern California it takes an act of Congress to get a concealed weapons permit. That was my orientation; that’s the way things were. I didn’t give much thought to it.
And then I go to Maine and am greeted within my first couple of days in office as police chief with a stack of CCW permits on my desk. Based on my orientation, I began to deny each and every one of them until my staff came in and said “Whoa Chief! This is Maine, and we love our guns. And if you haven’t noticed, it’s a safe city.” I started to reflect on that. I took the response of my staff seriously and really reflected and realized: “Great point.” That’s when my orientation really began to change.
A1F: Where do you see Detroit in 20 years?
Craig: I believe that Detroit, because of the resilience and the can-do attitude of people who live here, that Detroit will regain its luster. It will be one of these premier cities. The Detroit Police Department is becoming one of the more premier law enforcement agencies in this country because it’s fighting against the challenges that most agencies don’t have to deal with. The city is in bankruptcy—certainly our staffing levels are much lower than they’ve ever been—and despite the fact we’ve had fewer officers, we’re more effective at how we conduct our business, and that’s making the city safe. In terms of policing in Detroit, I think we’ll continue to move in that direction. I think the city will become economically viable once again. There’s a leadership in the team that’s committed to getting it done, so I’m excited personally about the future of Detroit.
When arguing about the Second Amendment, gun control advocates often insist police should be the only ones armed “to protect and serve.” Although a variety of case law exists to refute the doctrine of public duty, the fact remains that law enforcement is reactive, not proactive. Although their presence can deter some crime, they have to be summoned, and can only act once a law is broken.
This doesn’t demean the efforts of hard-working and overburdened law enforcement officers; it simply recognizes their limitations. Detroit residents have learned the hard way an expression common among gun owners: “When seconds count, police are just minutes away.”
If the Second Amendment works here, it can work anywhere. Despite record declines in police employment, budget woes and crime surges, Detroit saw 53 fewer homicides in 2013 than the year previous, and 23 fewer in the first quarter of 2014, as well as double-digit declines in robbery, sexual assault and burglaries. A streamlined and revitalized police force, Chief Craig said, is only part of that equation, attributing at least some of the success to criminals’ knowledge that many Detroiters won’t sit idly by and become victims.
Guns aren’t the only solution to Detroit’s problems. But when the glass is heard smashing in the middle of the night, guns are among the most effective means of surviving a bad situation. With the Second Amendment and a police chief like James Craig on their side, Detroit residents may well be on their way to resurrecting the indomitable spirit that once made their city great.
PoliceOne’s Gun Control Survey: 11 key lessons from officers’ perspectives. Never before has such a comprehensive survey of law enforcement officers’ opinions on gun control, gun violence, and gun rights been conducted.
In March, PoliceOne conducted the most comprehensive survey ever of American law enforcement officers’ opinions on the topic gripping the nation’s attention in recent weeks: gun control.
More than 15,000 verified law enforcement professionals took part in the survey, which aimed to bring together the thoughts and opinions of the only professional group devoted to limiting and defeating gun violence as part of their sworn responsibility.
Totaling just shy of 30 questions, the survey allowed officers across the United States to share their perspectives on issues spanning from gun control and gun violence to gun rights.
Top Line Takeaways
Breaking down the results, it’s important to note that 70 percent of respondents are field-level law enforcers — those who are face-to-face in the fight against violent crime on a daily basis — not office-bound, non-sworn administrators or perpetually-campaigning elected officials.
1.) Virtually all respondents (95 percent) say that a federal ban on manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds would not reduce violent crime.
2.) The majority of respondents — 71 percent — say a federal ban on the manufacture and sale of some semi-automatics would have no effect on reducing violent crime. However, more than 20 percent say any ban would actually have a negative effect on reducing violent crime. Just over 7 percent took the opposite stance, saying they believe a ban would have a moderate to significant effect.
3.) About 85 percent of officers say the passage of the White House’s currently proposed legislation would have a zero or negative effect on their safety, with just over 10 percent saying it would have a moderate or significantly positive effect.
4.) Seventy percent of respondents say they have a favorable or very favorable opinion of some law enforcement leaders’ public statements that they would not enforce more restrictive gun laws in their jurisdictions. Similarly, more than 61 percent said they would refuse to enforce such laws if they themselves were Chief or Sheriff.
5.) More than 28 percent of officers say having more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians would help most in preventing large scale shootings in public, followed by more aggressive institutionalization for mentally ill persons (about 19 percent) and more armed guards/paid security personnel (about 15 percent). See enlarged image
6.) The overwhelming majority (almost 90 percent) of officers believe that casualties would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of an active-shooter incident.
7.) More than 80 percent of respondents support arming school teachers and administrators who willingly volunteer to train with firearms and carry one in the course of the job.
8.) More than four in five respondents (81 percent) say that gun-buyback programs are ineffective in reducing gun violence.
9.) More than half of respondents feel that increased punishment for obviously illegal gun sales could have a positive impact on reducing gun violence.
10.) When asked whether citizens should be required to complete a safety training class before being allowed to buy a gun, about 43 percent of officers say it should not be required. About 42 percent say it should be required for all weapons, with the remainder favoring training classes for certain weapons.
11.) While some officers say gun violence in the United States stems from violent movies and video games (14 percent), early release and short sentencing for violent offenders (14 percent) and poor identification/treatments of mentally-ill individuals (10 percent), the majority (38 percent) blame a decline in parenting and family values.
Bottom Line Conclusions
Quite clearly, the majority of officers polled oppose the theories brought forth by gun-control advocates who claim that proposed restrictions on weapon capabilities and production would reduce crime.
In fact, many officers responding to this survey seem to feel that those controls will negatively affect their ability to fight violent criminals.
Contrary to what the mainstream media and certain politicians would have us believe, police overwhelmingly favor an armed citizenry, would like to see more guns in the hands of responsible people, and are skeptical of any greater restrictions placed on gun purchase, ownership, or accessibility.
The officers patrolling America’s streets have a deeply-vested interest — and perhaps the most relevant interest — in making sure that decisions related to controlling, monitoring, restricting, as well as supporting and/or prohibiting an armed populace are wise and effective. With this survey, their voice has been heard.
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 750 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his “spare” time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.