OSD 74: How many times do you get to say oops?
Mistakes happen, but that doesn't mean they don’t need fixing.
We saw this blog post by Karl on InRange’s YouTube channel:
“Ryan Whitaker had heard a stranger knock on his Ahwatukee apartment door in the middle of the night earlier in May. So when he heard a similar knock on a Thursday after 10 p.m. later that same week, he answered the door holding his 9mm gun.
“Holding the gun in his right hand, he was confronted by two Phoenix police officers standing on either side of the door. They appeared surprised by the sight of the firearm, body camera footage shows.
“Three seconds after Whitaker opened the door, Phoenix officer Jeff Cooke shot Whitaker in the back at least two times, killing the 40-year-old man.”
Each and every one of us is potentially another Daniel Shaver or Ryan Whitaker.
If you don’t think so — you’re delusional.
When they treat every call as though they’re kicking in doors in Afghanistan, because that's how they’re trained, this is the result. Over, and over, and over again.
First, just to make sure we approach this rigorously, the good news: the chances of something like this happening to any particular gun owner are extremely low. About 43% of US households have guns, over 50 million people have contact with the police each year, and horrors of this shape — gun owner lawfully and reasonably exercises their right to possess a gun, and is summarily killed by police who created a situation where the gun owner had no way to get out alive — number in the dozens.
The bad news is that these cases do happen — this one, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Shaver, Andrew Scott, Philando Castile, Kathryn Johnston, and the list goes on much longer unfortunately. Everybody understands that across millions of interactions, tragic mistakes may occasionally happen. The problem, and what really grinds, is that it’s often not at all apparent that the people making the mistakes care. Deputy Richard Sylvester, who killed Andrew Scott, got qualified immunity. Officer Philip Brailsford, who killed Daniel Shaver, took a medical retirement based on PTSD he developed in the public response to his killing of Shaver, and is now on a $2500/month pension.
Bodycam footage of these cases routinely shows police make no attempt to render aid even after any “split-second” misunderstandings become clear — as in the killing of Ryan Whitaker above, where the police stand around while Ryan bleeds out, playing semantic games with his grief-stricken girlfriend and refusing to let her hold him as he dies. (The common refrain here is that there’s no useful aid they could render, but contrast that utter indifference to how they respond when fellow officers have been shot.)
There are fortunately innumerable videos of police acting with incredible heroism, in all kinds of situations. Those are all over YouTube too. And again, statistically, it’s vanishingly unlikely that any particular gun owner will, in the course of exercising their rights, be killed by police and then bleed to death while those police stand around making wisecracks. But recognizing that gun rights are paramount means recognizing that each horrific video has to be a learning opportunity — not a call to make excuses, or to dig for reasons why this one was yet again “justifiable”. They’re a call to say, “Ok, this happened, and nobody wants this. So as professionals, what is each of us going to improve so that this doesn’t happen again?”
The overwhelming majority of gun owners are good people who want to stay safe, learn and grow, help others, and make the world a better place. The overwhelming majority of police are the same. The people who don’t want to hold themselves to those standards should find no quarter in either community. And it’s on the members of the community to enforce those standards. The behavior you allow around you reflects on you. We’re working on continually raising the standard for what gun owners expect from themselves. We’d love to partner with anyone who’s doing the same for police. We’re sick of seeing cases like this, and we want to help make them rarer. If you’re doing work on that front, please reach out.
This week’s links
Cool to see mainstream press orgs start to discuss the true composition of the modern gun rights movement. There’s still massive room for improvement on that front, but even a quick article like this is progress compared to where things were a few years ago.
Really cool Instagram account.
Somehow missed this when it came out, but this was the cover story from the April issue of Harper’s. A fluent, nuanced piece on gun culture:
The elite fear of a gun-owning underprivileged class of Americans points to a truth about the place of armed politics in our national self-conception. There’s a reason why John Brown is an American hero, and why Ida B. Wells wrote that “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” At moments of political extremity, guns can remind those in power that there’s some physical risk to leaving people feeling hopeless. Eugene Debs took heart, after the violent repression of miners’ strikes at Paint Creek and Ludlow, in the idea that the miners could arm themselves. “When the law fails, and in fact, becomes a bulwark of crime and oppression,” he wrote in 1914, “then an appeal to force is not only morally justified, but becomes a patriotic duty. The Declaration of Independence proclaims this truth.”
In recent decades, the idea of guns as a last resort against unchecked authority has been almost entirely excised from respectable national conversation. In an age of mass surveillance, in which the state possesses incredible destructive powers, many TV commentators and politicians have stopped believing that guns could be used for such a purpose. This skepticism was recently taken to a darkly comic extreme when the California congressman and former presidential candidate Eric Swalwell responded on Twitter to a suggestion that a government program to confiscate assault rifles would lead to a civil war. “It would be a short war my friend,” he wrote. “The government has nukes.”
But Swalwell was betraying a misunderstanding of how armed politics actually works. Even a cursory look at the history of recent uprisings around the world shows that depth of will, much more than an ability to match firepower, is the real key to sustaining a rebellion. Insurgencies persist by showing a willingness to kill or be killed in the name of a cause and by provoking a response from power. A government that bombs a great number of comparatively defenseless rebels only creates new ones—something you’d think Americans would have learned from decades of near-constant war in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Many gun buyers grasp this lesson more clearly than our politicians do. This January, roughly six thousand armed demonstrators gathered outside the Virginia State Capitol to protest modest proposals for new gun restrictions. They chanted, plausibly, “We will not comply,” as they marched. Many wore body armor, and many carried AR-15s, the most popular rifle in the nation. The AR-15 is a rapid-firing and highly customizable semiautomatic weapon, designed by the ArmaLite corporation in the 1950s, that became the model for the military M16 (“AR” comes from the brand name, not “assault rifle”). NPR recently described it as “America’s rifle.”
Policymakers and gun-control advocates are fond of saying that there’s no reason for a civilian to own an AR-15—a fair point if you were only thinking about guns as objects for hunting turkeys or scaring off intruders. But it’s a hell of a good gun if you’re thinking about the possibility that the country will descend into chaos or tyranny. It won’t do much if the FBI decides to send an armored vehicle up your driveway, but it’s deadly enough that they wouldn’t want to come up your driveway without an armored vehicle, and a hundred million gun owners in this country makes for a lot of driveways to deal with.
In-depth look at what it’s like to actually shoot this thing. (For starters, it’s a cool $10 per shot.)
The answer is of course yes, but this is a cool (and quite long) series of posts by a person who decided to pull every single procedural lever to appeal each step of the denials.
Mas providing a counterpoint to the well-known (and quite excellent) “Don’t Talk to the Police” lecture by law professor James Duane. We’re not lawyers so can’t officially recommend any particular approach, but it’s worth your time to watch both videos.
OSD Office Hours
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We have a merch store. There are nice and subtle t-shirts, a hat, and some archival gallery-quality gun art for your walls. It’s good stuff.