Like anyone with a soul, I have been deeply affected by the most recent avalanche of mass murders committed across our nation in the past couple of weeks. We see the stories of the carnage, videos of sobbing, stunned, bloodied survivors and wonder when this national nightmare will end.
My friends, I have a question that has been burning in my soul for years: Why isn’t law enforcement screaming the loudest for sensible gun safety policy?
Many of us have lost friends in the line of duty. My particular personal count is eight friends, seven of them killed by gunfire. Here’s what has angered me since: Every single one of those seven heroes were murdered by individuals who had no business having a firearm. So when I hear the tired cliche of what can’t be done, it frankly pisses me off, because I would try anything if it would save another cop’s life. What about you? What wouldn’t you do to save your friends or family?
In one of the most personal of these cases, my friend, Mike was shot and killed by a guy discharged from the military for psychological problems. He left Ft. Bragg, NC, stopped at a nearby gun shop and purchased numerous weapons—all perfectly legal. Sometime later, after wearing out his welcome with presumably all family and friends, he ends up on the streets of our city, homeless. One fateful night, Mike stops him pushing a shopping cart in an area where we had complaints of burglaries. Just a field intel stop. The kind we’ve all done thousands of times. This one ended with my friend’s murder. Shot dead by a guy we could have prevented from getting his guns.
This story is unfortunately not uncommon. Statistics tell us that fully 1/2 of cops killed are at the hands of individuals suffering from mental illness. (Lack of proper mental health care and street cops forced into these situations is a topic for another day) We know that many felons also fall into this category, so the overlap is real. Also, half of those cases involve domestic violence. All three of these categories have been areas of much national debate regarding gun laws. I have to ask, if there were a possibility of preventing the shooter from obtaining a firearm in HALF of the law enforcement deaths every year, why wouldn’t we do it?
Another horrible statistic is police suicide. Friends, we are now losing more of our brothers and sisters in blue to their own hand than on duty. Yet another of my friends included.
This topic is much broader in scope and encompasses so many parts of our cop experience and psyche. It starts with the first lessons we learn: Toughen up. Don’t be soft. Don’t show emotion. Gallows humor. Dehumanizing victims. All are coping mechanisms to avoid dealing with the reality of the pain. The crazy shit we see and deal with every day.
In the past few years everything has gotten worse. Everyone’s angry. Politics, social media, non-stop noise and hatred, putting us all on edge. We know as cops what that means. The cop on the street is the one on the front line of this crap when it boils over. Mental illness, domestic violence, murders, fights, opioids, homelessness, poverty, desperation. Oh, yeah, and assume everyone is armed in our gun culture existence. And our nature is to stuff it down. Unwind with a drink, close our social circles, tell ourselves it’s us versus them like never before. What could possibly go wrong?
Why am I talking about these issues today?
Because we all watched the news and the horror of these mass shootings cascade daily across our news feed. We all mourned the victims and cursed the insanity. I thought about the hundreds of cops in all those cities, running toward that gunfire. Running towards an angry individual armed with a weapon of war.
I first thanked God there were no police casualties (this time), but I know there has been incomprehensible emotional trauma done to those cops. You can’t face down that kind of threat without consequence. You can’t tread through rivers of blood and corpses without being scarred for life. I pray our brothers and sisters of the badge are getting the emotional support they need, whether they realize they need it or not.
In the roughly five years since I retired, I’ve thought about these kinds of issues more than I ever did on the job. Probably because you need the perspective of time and distance to really unpack it all. What I see from this distance is a big complicated puzzle with lots of moving parts. I’m glad we’re hearing more awareness regarding mental health in policing. I’m thankful police have more training and equipment.
Here’s my question: Why isn’t every single law enforcement leadership organization, union, and department shouting from the rooftop that we need responsible gun safety laws? Why aren’t we demanding universal background checks? Why aren’t we demanding an end to high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and military-style rifles in civilian hands? Why aren’t we demanding red flag laws nationally? Why aren’t we demanding action?
Law enforcement could influence this issue greatly. I know many of you are uncomfortable thinking about our leaders weighing in on politics. But why do we consider saving lives a political issue? Public and officer safety is absolutely our business. Why is our leadership ignoring these threats to our safety?
Cops are the ones running into the gunfire. Cops are being murdered. Civilians are being slaughtered. Cops are suffering PTSD effects of these rampages. Cops should be shouting the loudest:
Enough is enough.
8 thoughts on “Cops must say enough is enough”
ThoughtfulSarge, you are so right! I’m also retired from the job, and I totally agree with your entire post. Very well stated!!
Thanks, Alan. Many of us who have been there and are still serving understand this. We must raise our voices and change the paradigm. I firmly believe we can save lives.
Many of your fellow cops are NRA members, have no understanding about the 2nd Amendment and many of them don’t want strong guns laws because many of them have a history of domestic violence, are alcoholics, and even drug addicts due to the drug companies pushing drugs onto society. Many of them are also in league with right-wing militia or at least are sympathetic to them. You also have the Republican Party and the gun industry fighting against any kind of gun reform. If a person wants a gun, then he/she should be limited to one gun. It is ridiculous that many people including cops have so many guns lying around the house.
Those who do not have the character or temperament for the standards of law enforcement should be purged from our profession. I invite you to look at my other writings. I’m pretty consistently clear on that view. That cannot prevent us from stating the case for a better way. Thanks.
The trouble is that law enforcement has not done a thing to raise the standards of it own law enforcement to compare to those of Western and Northern Europe as many people have pointed out since the 60s and 70s when it comes to the selection of recruits, giving them longer training at the academy (like in Europe), etc. The Supreme Court made a ruling that the police departments don’t have to hire people with higher IQs. When I see some real action by the police departments to put their actions behind their words particularly tearing down the blue wall of silence, then I will believe it.
Don’t think that the civilian population is exempt from PTSD. There was a study about kids in Chicago suffering from PSTD because of being exposed to drive-by shootings in their area.
Nothing in my post should be read to imply I am not considering civilians. This blog speaks to my law enforcement peers.
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