Our Opinion: Gun carry policies that worry police should worry all


The obviously dangerous movement in the United States to allow guns to be carried around everywhere, Wild West style, concerns a group that has more at stake than anyone else: Police officers.

Law enforcement groups and police unions have long advocated for tougher gun control laws, which has included traveling to Washington, D.C., to appeal directly to congressmen. This is an inconvenient truth for gun advocates who see themselves as pro-law and order.

The recent push in many states to get rid of the few gun regulations they have and allow firearms to be hauled into schools, offices, day-care centers, churches, sports arenas and so on has increased the concerns of police officers who will find themselves more likely to be in the line of fire as a result. The New York Times reported last week that police departments around the country, including in southern and western states that are traditionally gun-friendly, have spoken out against these laws.

This movement rose in part through the creation of a vicious and deadly circle. As more Americans buy guns, there are more incidents of gun violence. This prompts more Americans to believe they need guns, which in turn produces more gun violence.

Fueling the circle is the desire of the National Rifle Association to keep expanding its markets and its membership, which is easy enough when the NRA gets no resistance from bought-off politicians in Washington and statehouses across the nation. Encouraging more Americans to arm themselves and convincing them they need to carry weapons everywhere is logical enough if you are a profit-driven NRA bureaucrat who will never have to face the business end of a firearm — as a police officer might in the course of his or her duties.

Texas has given its residents the right to carry handguns openly. The Lone Ranger may have to return to battle bad guys. In Idaho and West Virginia, residents don't even need a permit or firearm training to carry a concealed handgun. This should appall so-called "responsible" gun owners, but their silence is deafening.

In Tennessee last week, a law was passed and signed allowing faculty and staff members at public colleges and universities to be armed, even though many of those schools came out against it. Lawmakers, however, found a place where gun possession was not encouraged and filled the vacuum.

The Knoxville (Tennessee) Journal reported last week on the plight of Zenobia Dobson, whose high school-aged son, Zaevion, was shot to death last December during a shoot-out among well-armed gangs. An innocent bystander with no gang affiliation, Zaevion died while shielding two women.

Ms. Dobson, who reacted to this tragedy by becoming an advocate for gun laws, now finds herself as a defendant in two lawsuits challenging a Knoxville policy banning firearms at the annual Tennessee Valley Fair that she advocated. The state Legislature, the same group that advocates the carrying of guns on campuses, has however voted to name a freeway overpass in memory of Zaevion Dobson. His mother doesn't find this to be of much consolation.

Besides the safety issue, police organizations pointed out to The New York Times that laws eliminating police from the gun permit process and forbidding them from questioning people who are walking around armed means they cannot be made aware of a potential criminal until a crime has been committed. In criminal investigations, the discovery of an unpermitted weapon can provide probable cause to conduct searches, but if permits are no longer required, another avenue of criminal investigation has been closed to law enforcement.

The presence of more guns and the prevalence of carry-on laws not only lead to more gun violence, the laws prevent police from doing their jobs and preventing gun violence. Returning to the Wild West is not the way to address the nation's gun addiction.


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