A police officer raiding the wrong apartment while searching for a suspect was deemed “legally justified to use deadly force” on a resident who, startled by pounding on his door at 1:30 a.m., answered with a gun in his hand. It doesn’t matter that the citizen was within his rights. The sight of him armed was enough to prompt immediately opening fire. And “qualified immunity,” a legal doctrine created by the Supreme Court, “shield[s] police and other government officials from civil liability for actions undertaken on the job.”
A look at recent headlines shows that wrong house raids and tragic, outrageous outcomes are becoming more frequent. You can get similar results by looking up stories on qualified immunity for all kinds of abuses. And good luck to survivors who are forced to pit their meager means against the overwhelming resources of police unions and the state.
What are the incentives for change when shielded from accountability, and in some cases, like one I addressed several years back, police perpetrators were even awarded medals by the department because they “performed very bravely under gunfire and made smart decisions”? The incentives actually can go the other way when we see officers suing citizens for “severe trauma, mental anguish, and emotional distress.”
The thing is, by nature, most “law-abiding gun owners” and “conservatives” are supportive of police, and that’s reflected in their political leadership. White House Press Secretary Kelly McEnany has called reductions in qualified immunity a “non-starter,” and “the Ending Qualified Immunity Act … so far has 64 cosponsors, all but one of whom are Democrats.”
There is a reason why the term “Only Ones” has gained traction ever since a DEA agent told a classroom full of children he was “the only one professional enough” to be armed, and then shot himself in the leg while holstering his Glock. As I’ve tried to explain to those who dismiss the term as “cop bashing,” that’s not the purpose of using it.
I do it to amass a body of evidence to present when those who would deny our right to keep and bear arms argue that only government enforcers are professional and trained enough to do so safely and responsibly. I also use it to illustrate when those of official status, rank, or privilege, both in law enforcement and in some other government position of authority, get special breaks not available to we commoners, particularly (but not exclusively) when they’re involved in gun-related incidents. And that includes things like nationwide concealed carry for retired cops but not for citizens, “gun-free zones” where they can carry but we would be arrested, guns they may own but are forbidden to us, and a host of other areas of unequal protection, including qualified immunity.
That power – and common inclination – to arrest citizens merely for exercising a right they have no legitimate authority to infringe upon, is why a recent NRA promotion practically screams “Cognitive dissonance!” to anyone with an eye for irony. “Come and take it” messages on two NRA hats defiantly dare all comers. Scroll down a bit and members can also purchase an NRA “Thin Blue Line” t-shirt and hat. You have to wonder who anyone wearing both thinks it will be carrying out confiscation orders to go and take them.
But most police are “pro-gun,” some argue. No doubt many are. But that’s very different from being “pro-rights.”
I could make a good case that FBI HRT sniper Lon Horiuchi is “pro-gun.” That doesn’t mean he won’t shoot your wife in the head while she’s holding your baby if the rules of engagement say “Take the shot.”
As for police who put their oaths to the Constitution first, the number that actually will is unknown, and police officials actively go after officers who show signs of conflicted loyalties, to weed them from the ranks and to hold them out as examples to intimidate others. Consider the hysterical and chilling reaction to an Anne Arundel County officer who left an Oath Keepers hat in the cruiser, and the Orwellian smearing of those who take their oaths seriously as being “anti-government.”
There are no easy answers because the Founders’ idea of what was “necessary to the security of a free State” has been all but abandoned, and an unfolding police state has become the de facto “standing army” they warned against. As the Republic breaks further apart, citizens need to ask themselves “What price order?” and what responsibilities they are willing to assume to achieve it and to safeguard against it morphing into tyranny.
And the police? At some point, individual officers are going to have to decide what orders they will obey and what orders they won’t. At some point, with no “professional” exemptions to fall back on and just like the rest of us, they’ll have to choose whose side they want to be on.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.