Fayetteville, AR – -(AmmoLand.com)- Five years after Eric Garner was killed in an encounter with NYPD officers, Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who administered the chokehold that contributed to Garner’s death, has been fired. The incident began when the police approached Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes and escalated rapidly to an attempt to handcuff Garner, with Pantaleo's arm wrapping around Garner’s throat. Pantaleo’s experience had been mostly as a plainclothes officer dealing with violent crime, and he reacted as if Garner was a threat to public safety, rather than someone who was getting around New York City’s regulations to make a meager living.
I frequently encounter people on social media who believe that if you cooperate with the police, you’ll get through interactions with them. Of course, I’m also told that it’s best not to break the law. This latter statement is true, though the same people telling me this will often say in a few minutes that taxation is theft and that revolution would be an appropriate response to Medicare for All. And we who support gun rights do often point out that the Second Amendment acts as a backstop against tyrannical government, a guarantee that if all else fails, American gun owners constitute an overwhelming potential fighting force for the resistance.
Suspiciously, when the person who is the object of police use of force is black, a lot of us in the community are silent, as if the abuses perpetrated by law enforcement don’t matter. The lack of outrage over the shooting of Philando Castile, for example, did a lot of damage to the cause of gun rights. Here was someone who was legally armed and who was wrongly identified as a criminal.
In other words, he was one of us. He was someone we could find ourselves being. And the same is true about Eric Garner for anyone who believes that private interactions between free persons should not be something that the government can meddle in. If you’ve ever objected to licensing requirements for carrying a gun or starting a small business, to speed traps and sobriety checkpoints, or to the ability of officers to stop and frisk people who aren’t obviously committing a crime, you have planted your feet solidly on the road down which Eric Garner walked.
And this is the point for those of us who are concerned about preserving gun rights. Can a hundred million gun owners fight back effectively against a government run amok? Yes, it’s possible. This is especially true when the armed population gets aid from countries that want to score an easy blow against a rival, as our experience against England, the Vietnamese experience against France and the United States, the Afghan experience against the Soviet Union and us, and on and on illustrate this. But as the popular rules of a gun fight remind us, the less time you spend in a fight, the fewer holes you’ll find in yourself, and drawing that observation to its conclusion, if we don’t have to fight tyrannical powers, that’s for the best. If we allow law enforcement to get away with or at most getting fired after taking a life when no violence was justified, how long will it be until we are the ones facing such violence?
And as I often insist, we need to win over new people to the cause. If we’re not seen regularly standing up for people whose rights are being violated by the police, we shouldn’t be surprised when the same people don’t show any enthusiasm for protecting our rights.
Valuing one right means defending all rights. The mechanisms for chipping away at and tearing one down work as well for every other right, and this is true no matter how similar to or different from ourselves the person is who is currently being violated.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.