Sunday, February 3, 2013

Enter the Cavalry

"When seconds count, the police are only minutes away."
American Proverb
At the New Year's Eve party that I hosted recently, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and gun control were among the topics of conversation. Support for greater limitations on guns was very much in evidence, and there was some questioning on why overall public support wasn't higher. I noted that if, sometime during the gathering, a person kicked down the door to my apartment with a knife and murderous intent, even an immediate call to 911 would not save any of our lives, unless the assailant, for whatever reason, simply didn't finish the job. (My apartment, like many in the area, as exactly one way in or out that doesn't require jumping out of a window or attempting to scale the side of the building, fire escapes having gone the way of the Dodo.) Contrary to the somewhat wishful thinking on the subject, the police are considered to have done their jobs just as well when they arrest a perpetrator after a multiple homicide as they are if they manage to interrupt him in the process of committing one. The police are not a force of public bodyguards; they don't have an obligation to prevent bad things from happening to us. In fact, not only do they NOT have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm by others or rescue them, they may prevent others from rescuing a person, especially in cases where they are expected to protect the would-be rescuer from harm.

I don't have any real weapons in my apartment because I'm basically wagering that the odds of a homicidal maniac barging into my apartment and attempting to murder me are so small that I don't have to worry about it ever happening in my lifetime. Note that I'm saying that it won't happen to SOMEONE. Just, given the circumstances of my life, that it won't happen to ME. And so I haven't bothered to take precautions

This isn't a bet that everyone is willing to make, and the comments that have gotten Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. into such hot water are little more than I'm being unwise in making it myself. And it's difficult to imagine that if Sheriff Clarke had been a Fire Chief instead, that he would have riled up so many people with a statement that one should have fire extinguishers on hand, because fire departments can't fly.

Now, there is something to be said for the idea that Clarke was being disingenuous in implying that the Sheriff's Department's rapid response capability had been eroded by layoffs. Or even that it would the the Sheriff's Department that would respond to most, or even a significant portion of, 911 calls in the first place. But the teapot tempest over his statements are mainly driven by a fear of guns in private hands, which has been heightened as of late - his assertion that 911 isn't as good a solution as being able to handle a situation oneself is nothing new, and we shouldn't treat it as a new public heresy.

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