Tuesday, February 19, 2013
After a press conference held last week by Emeryville, California Police Chief Ken James, it’s easy to see a decline in both language and critical thinking skills in our country. And as Orwell thought, indeed civilized society may very well be in jeopardy.
It happened on February 14th. Taking to the microphones and cameras in his suburban San Francisco community, Chief James stood at a podium with the requisite group of serious-looking, professionally dressed, pouty-faced people standing behind him (it appears that Emeryville Mayor Kurt Brinkman was one of them). In part, the Chief said “one issue that always boggles my mind is that the idea that a gun is a defensive weapon. That is a myth. A gun is not a defensive weapon.”
From there, Mr. James went on to say that “a gun is an offensive weapon used to intimidate and show power. Police officers don’t carry a gun as a defensive weapon to defend themselves or their other officers. They carry a gun to be able to do their job in a safe and effective manner and face any oppositions we may come upon. If it was a defensive measure, why did we lose 55 officers nationwide last year to gun violence? And unfortunately, in just the two months of this year so far, we have lost two officers to gun violence in the state of California alone.”
So, how shall we begin to analyze the logical fallacies here? Let’s start with this: a gun is an inanimate object. A gun doesn’t think; it doesn’t feel; it has no intentions or aspirations; and despite what the Emeryville Chief of Police says, a gun does not have “offensive” or “defensive” tendencies.
In this regard, guns and footballs share something in common. Neither a gun nor a football is “offensive” or “defensive” in its essence. Yet each of them can be utilized by a human being for either offensive or defensive purposes. In short, whether a gun or a football is used for offensive or defensive purposes depends on who possesses it.
Having established this, consider these words again: “a gun is an offensive weapon used to intimidate and show power. Police officers don’t carry a gun as a defensive weapon to defend themselves or their other officers. They carry a gun to be able to do their job in a safe and effective manner and face any oppositions we may come upon.”
Really, Mr. James? I won’t bother doing “grammar police” work here (“oppositions” is not a word, and placeing “we” and “they” as the subject of the same sentence is problematic as well).
But seriously, does Chief James believe his own definition of a gun? If a gun is nothing more than something used to “intimidate and show power,” then why would police officers carry them? And is it the role of police officers to “intimidate?” Is it ever the job of a cop to “show power?”
I would answer both these questions with an emphatic “yes.” At times police officers absolutely need to “show power” and to appear intimidating in the face of lawless threats, and I suspect that most cops, if they were honest, would agree.
Yet James probably would not want to publicly say “our job as police officers is to intimidate” – especially not in California’s very left-wing Bay Area – because he would steer himself in to yet another public relations debacle, appearing as though he’s making excuses for police officers displaying “excessive force.”
But if James’ assertions are true, and a gun is merely something used to “intimidate and show power,” and can never be used for defensive purposes, then police officers should abandon them immediately. Law enforcement officers should be about the business of defending property, themselves, and the citizens they serve. If a gun isn’t helpful for those types of efforts, as Chief James insists, then it’s time for his police force to hand them in.
And here’s another implication of Chief James’ illogical remarks: If a gun was really something to be used for defensive purposes, then cops would never get killed. Well, in a perfect world, maybe this would be true. But in the real and imperfect world in which we all live (and this would include Chief James), even the best defensive plans sometimes are insufficient to save a life.
I mean no disrespect here to law enforcement officers, or to Chief James. On the contrary, I respect the profession of law enforcement enough to point out the recklessness of this man’s words.
I also realize that we live in a time when logic, critical thinking, communication, and the ability to draw inferences and to consider the implications of one’s words are skills that are in short supply. Yet the demand for them has, perhaps, never been greater in our nation’s history.
A gun in the hands of a criminal is a dangerous thing. The power of law enforcement in the hands of people who can’t think or speak logically is, perhaps, even more so.