The Seattle P-I.com is reporting that “Atlanta police officers called out sick to protest the filing of murder charges against an officer who shot a man in the back,” while in the Jet City, protesters—many of whom have taken control of several blocks on Capitol Hill—are demanding that the city defund the police.
Second Amendment activists have long advised anyone who will listen that if the “only police should have guns” mentality were to prevail, the U.S. would become a police state.
The other extreme, where there are no police, would essentially create anarchy because, like it or not, the only thing really standing between the public and the Hollywood-inspired “Wild West” myth created by such films as “Dodge City” is the proverbial “thin blue line.” The politics in all of this are confusing and contentious.
Fox News interviewed “a top Georgia police union official” who said it was “totally understandable” that lots of police officers called in sick after the local district attorney announced murder charges would be filed in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. He’s the fellow who wrestled a taser away from one of two officers with whom he fought when they attempted to take him into custody for suspected DUI.
The death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis ignited the current push for “reforming” or “defunding” and even “dismantling” police agencies. But what might be the result if that happened? What could be the unintended consequences?
It just might create an environment in which private citizens were forced to take the law into their own hands, with potentially disastrous results.
For example, in Washington State, where there is growing sentiment against the so-called “CHOP” (for “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest”) zone tolerated by city officials, there is an interesting—and perhaps unique—disparity in the use-of-force laws affecting police and armed private citizens.
It is revealed in a legislative footnote to the statute dealing with “Justifiable homicide or use of deadly force by public officer, peace officer, person aiding—Good faith standard.”
“Legislative recognition: The legislature recognizes that RCW 9a.16.040 establishes a dual standard with respect to the use of deadly force by peace officers and private citizens, and further recognizes that private citizens’ permissible use of deadly force under the authority of RCW 9.01.200, 9A.16.020, or 9A.16.050 is not restricted and remains broader than the limitations imposed on peace officers.”
This should not be interpreted to mean private citizens enjoy an open season on criminals. But what is the law dealing with the use of force by private citizens? There are two statutes:
The use, attempt, or offer to use force upon or toward the person of another is not unlawful in the following cases:
(1) Whenever necessarily used by a public officer in the performance of a legal duty, or a person assisting the officer and acting under the officer’s direction;
(2) Whenever necessarily used by a person arresting one who has committed a felony and delivering him or her to a public officer competent to receive him or her into custody;
(3) Whenever used by a party about to be injured, or by another lawfully aiding him or her, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against his or her person, or a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession, in case the force is not more than is necessary;
(4) Whenever reasonably used by a person to detain someone who enters or remains unlawfully in a building or on real property lawfully in the possession of such person, so long as such detention is reasonable in duration and manner to investigate the reason for the detained person’s presence on the premises, and so long as the premises in question did not reasonably appear to be intended to be open to members of the public;
(5) Whenever used by a carrier of passengers or the carrier’s authorized agent or servant, or other person assisting them at their request in expelling from a carriage, railway car, vessel, or other vehicle, a passenger who refuses to obey a lawful and reasonable regulation prescribed for the conduct of passengers, if such vehicle has first been stopped and the force used is not more than is necessary to expel the offender with reasonable regard to the offender’s personal safety;
(6) Whenever used by any person to prevent a mentally ill, mentally incompetent, or mentally disabled person from committing an act dangerous to any person, or in enforcing necessary restraint for the protection or restoration to health of the person, during such period only as is necessary to obtain legal authority for the restraint or custody of the person.
And then there is this one:
Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:
(1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or
(2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.
Self-defense statutes may vary a bit from state-to-state, but the right of self-defense is universally recognized. The oldest human right is that of self-preservation; the use of force to prevent grave bodily harm or death, as detailed in Massad Ayoob’s ground-breaking “In The Gravest Extreme” and further discussed in the more recent “Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense.”
Across the country, there are now somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-18 million legally-licensed armed private citizens and that number is expanding despite attempts by some agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent new applications for carry permits or licenses from being submitted by those citizens.
Why not? With so many voices demanding more restraints on police (same as they clamor for more restrictions on private gun ownership), an increasing number of people including many who have never owned a gun and may have previously supported gun control, are concerned for their own safety and the security of their families and homes.
Expect that trend to continue as the “defund police” decibel level rises.