It was a May 28th, 2009 Omar Edwards was confronted by two NYPD police officers, who observing that he had a pistol, opened fire on him, shooting him three times killing him. The response by community and law enforcement was immediate: something was wrong, as Omar Edwards was a NYPD police officer, a fellow “brother” in law enforcement who was accidentally thought to be a criminal by his colleagues. No one could doubt that shooting a fellow officer was unacceptable to the politicians and Law Enforcement community and an investigation was launched into how this happened. At the funeral, politicians and fellow offices lined up to give this servant a farewell fitting of a hero.
However, despite the protests, the condemning of the two Police Officer’s actions in killing a fellow office, no one addressed the real issue of this tragedy. If this had been a civilian, someone who was perhaps licensed to carry a weapon or even someone who wasn’t, no one would have thought twice of the officer’s actions of shooting an armed civilian in New York City. No politicians or officers would have lined up at his funeral, let alone call for an investigation into why any citizen is killed, armed or not by the NYPD. In New York City, there is an assumption that if a person is armed, there is privileged right for the police to take deadly action against that person to disarm them, even if there is no immediate threat.
Police reports of people shot by NYPD officers often look like something out of the game Clue. Officers get away with shooting suspects because they had “shiny object in the belt” or “made a motion.” When a suspect actually has a weapon, there is always a presumption that he was a “criminal” and “deserved it.” It is always assumed by the police and the public at large in those cities, that if he had a weapon, he must have been a thug, a criminal, the worse of society – so when he was killed by the police, it was deserved. When I last checked, the penalty for possession of an unlicensed firearm in New York City was not shooting by firing squad. It was arrest, presumption of innocence and then a trial by his peers.
All across the country, this story is played out in many major metropolitan areas where gun possession is virtually illegal for anyone but the police. Many civilians who possess firearms are denied their civil rights, and killed for the mere fact they possessed a gun. A large amount of these cases, it wasn’t because they threatened a police officer with a weapon, but instead that the police officer felt they might have weapon. If you Google “Killed by Police, No Gun” you will see thousands of articles of stories of people killed by police because the very “thought” they had a gun was enough to take deadly action. Obviously they couldn’t have threatened the officers with anything, if they didn’t have a gun in the first place. Why are they being killed then? Where in the constitution is there a presumption of guilt leading to death by police?
Therefore, I see that this can be nothing more than a serious civil rights issue, where the very possession of a gun is used as an excuse when police shoot unarmed (or armed) citizens in poor minority communities. Police often say that they were “defending themselves” as a right to shoot armed or unarmed civilians – a right many politicians and the police would deny civilians. In many of the major cities in this country, no one is allowed to possess firearms to protect themselves against criminals. We are expected to sit by the phone while our possessions are stolen, our wives and daughters are raped, our families killed – until the police arrive. When we do decide to defend ourselves, with an unlicensed or even licensed gun, we are often arrested, assumed to be guilty, or shot by the police for the very possession of that weapon.
The real issue in the Omar Edwards shooting wasn’t that he was a black man, although that has a lot to do with the issue, but that he was presumed to be a civilian, and thus a criminal with a weapon. Despite tens of thousands of citizens being a victim of violent crime each year in New York City, the mayor and the politicians in New York City, and most metro areas believe that they are not allowed to defend themselves. The Supreme Court has ruled in Warren v. District of Columbia that it was a “fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen.” In other word, the police are here to provide enforcement of laws, not to protect citizens. As mentioned, police carry weapons in order to protect themselves, but we, the citizens are not allowed the same rights to protect ourselves against criminals? Last time I checked, ordinary citizens were the victims of violent crimes, not the police – we are the ones being murdered and raped, not the police officers (as they carry weapons even when off duty).
I currently live in Arizona, where I enjoy the right to carry a firearm; which I almost always do, often openly visible. Despite being in a large metro area, I’ve never had a police officer shoot me, let alone draw and confront me about my carrying a weapon. Similarly, I’ve carried in many other states including Colorado, where the police are generally polite and accepting of my right to carry a pistol strapped to my side. The most I’ve ever had from any police officer is a question about what type of weapon I’m carrying. If these officers in those states can manage to keep from shooting me, why if I was confronted by Law Enforcement in New York City, Chicago, DC or half a dozen other major cities, would I have to worry about being shot dead for merely possessing a firearm?
This is not an issue about safety but instead about civil rights. It is an issue where often the authorities in this country grant the police special authority to possess and use guns, but then deny that same right to the ordinary citizen. Despite the fact that millions of law-abiding Americans carry weapons without any incident, certain civilians living in metro communities, cannot be expected to be similarly responsible. Citizens of Florida passed a conceal carry law in 1987, and everyone said it would cause gun-fights in Miami. Instead of this happening, the crime rate fell faster in that State than the national average, and only one permit holder out of the hundreds of thousands was convicted of homicide. Somehow, citizens the metro communities in Florida were able “control their impulse” to go out and buy guns and then shoot each other.
There is a fundamental principle in American democracy that government authority is derived from the people. Jefferson went as far to say it is “the people, to whom all authority belongs.” The people should have more authority, more rights and privileges than the government or the police. The police exist to enforce the laws, to enforce order by the very power they are given by the people. Their authority and power should be lesser than those of the average people, and only used in circumstances where it is absolutely necessary. The average person, on the other hand, in their home and in the personal safety should be able to make decisions for their own protection and their own safety, not have to turn to the government to act as parent. Unfortunately, in this society many people have forgotten that, and thus the police have become parents. We have allowed the government to restrict our ability to protect ourselves because “harm might be done.” Weapons have been given to the police to enforce the laws, but the government has determined in many places that people are not responsible enough to have the same privileges despite much evidence to the contrary. As far as I can tell, not a single police officer has ever been shot by a Conceal Carry permit holder, yet we have numerous cases of police shooting legally armed and unarmed civilians, shows that city politicians have their concerns misplaced.
Note: I am a huge supporter of Law Enforcement in this country, and believe that there are thousands of police officers nationwide, many of them friends of mine, that do their job daily. They are not the problem here, but instead the politicians who often drive them to enforce unfair laws and put them in danger. As mentioned, I have never found a single case of a Conceal Carry permit holder in the United States shooting a police officer, but there are stories all over the internet of CCW holders protecting police officers. Police and law abiding citizens should be working together to protect ourselves against the criminals.