Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why Do Cops Have Guns?

Below is a friendly Facebook conversation (a most rare phenomenon!) I had with a social justice warrior. His words are bold and italicized.

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“Most cops need their guns taken away. No more chasing. No more shooting. This does not make society safer.”

Most cops? This is wildly inaccurate. Study after study disputes your thesis. In fact, only around 5 percent of police officers will ever fire their weapons at a human being. (See here, here, here, and here.)

“If they hardly ever use guns, then most of them don't need guns. Point proven.”

Point proven? (You must have a different understanding of the word "proven" than most us.)

You seem to think that the purpose for policemen carrying guns is to shoot people. But why think this? Did it ever occur to you that police officers carry guns primarily as tools of deterrence?

Using your silly logic we should remove all oxygen masks and flotation devices from airplanes because "they are hardly ever used."

“The deterrence you speak of is a common and yet unprovable assumption.

Here you go again with the concept of “proof.”

Outside of mathematics “proof” is an awfully high (some would argue unreachable) standard. But the idea that armed police officers are a deterrent to crime seems to me more than mere “assumption.” I think it’s a very logical, reasonable idea.

“It is just as probable that the presence of guns leads to more fleeing and thus more shootings.”

Why should one think this is “just as probable”?

What is more likely: that people flee police because they don’t want to be arrested or because they think they can outrun bullets? It seems much more probable to me that folks think “If I stay put I’ll go to jail,” than “If I stay put I’ll be riddled with bullets.”

“Your links prove . . . that the vast majority of police guns are unused and unnecessary.

No. The stats prove no such thing.

As my analogy of the oxygen masks and flotation devices demonstrates: “unused” is not at all the same thing as “unnecessary.”

Once again, you’re reading into the stats what isn’t there. You're assuming (with no evidence) that unused guns are not a deterrent. 

Your desire to disarm police puts me in mind of Chesterton's famous words, "Whenever you remove any fence, always pause long enough to ask yourself, 'Why was it put there in the first place?'"

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