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NYT columnist asks, “Why don’t you just call the cops?”

Monday, October 10, 2016 10:47
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Gun control advocates and people who enjoy the privileges that wealth provides – or perhaps I’m repeating here – ask a question about personal responses to crime, a question that is the title of an article by Matthew Desmond and Andrew V. Papachristos for The New York Times, titled, “Why Don’t You Just Call the Cops?

This is the kind of settled, suburban question that can be asked by people who do not face frequent violence and who regard law enforcement – agencies as a whole and officers in particular – as trustworthy.  What isn’t so often brought into the discussion is the truth of human psychology that when in a moment of emergency – such as what a violent crime creates – we will reach out to anyone available, even strangers and rivals.

And this is what makes the reluctance of many in our nation to call the police all the more poignant.  The research of Desmond and Papachristos, along with David S. Kirk, found that in the case of a Milwaukee man, Frank Jude, who was beaten by off-duty police officers who accused him of stealing one of their badges, though eyewitnesses rejected that claim, in a period of over a year following, calls to 911 saw a decline of more than 22,000 from what was expected.  This specific result fits in with a general pattern the researchers have seen among the poor in this nation to have a distrust of law enforcement.

It’s an article of faith among many in the gun community, particularly we who carry firearms for self-defense, that the choice to go armed is one that reduces overall violence, and while that is the subject of contention, the best estimates of defensive gun uses each year are in the hundreds of thousands.  But we have to go beyond this statement to a recognition that a stable society creates the context in which self-defense has the best chance of succeeding.

In the rules for a gun fight that pass around the Internet is included the observation that the less time you spend in a gunfight, the less shot you’ll be.  The best way to reduce time in a fight is to reduce the number of fights.

The deterrent effect of law enforcement is a matter of debate, but some interpretations are made on solid ground.  Increasing the severity of punishment, especially the death penalty, appears not to have any effect on rates of crime, while increasing the impression among the population that committing crimes will result in being caught and punished does bring down the frequency of crimes.  But if people are afraid to call the police when a crime is committed, that hurts the sense that criminals will be found, arrested, and prosecuted.

It would be easy to dismiss the concerns among minorities in this nation about the police, saying that everyone should just trust cops to do the right thing.  After all, if you’re not doing any wrong, what do you have to fear?  But note how those very words are used against those of us who are suspicious about background checks, gun registries, and other measures to let the government know who has what guns.

We in the gun community have our own reasons for doubting the intentions of government agencies when it comes to our rights, and in that, we have common cause with others who raise the same issue.  We’ll do a better job of protecting rights – the ones we exercise personally as well as others – when we work together with any group whose rights are being endangered.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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