WHERE DO YOU STAND?
by Leroy Pyle (1992)
As a veteran police officer, firearms instructor and frequent spokesperson, I have received many inquiries regarding the law enforcement position on gun rights for the private citizen. Not unusual, I think, since the efforts as reported in the press during the past ten years have been directed as much at driving a wedge between the NRA and police as it has been to deny gun ownership to the average citizen. It is ironic that the wedge effort has been so successful when most cops I know trust the press about as much as they do lawyers!
I did not really choose sides when I entered this fray. I merely expressed what I considered to be common sense opinions based on my experience as a law enforcement officer. You take the guns away from the crooks and the honest citizens retain the rights of self-defense and gun ownership. Simple enough, as it was my impression that my job was to PROTECT and SERVE the rights of law-abiding citizens. To DEFEND those rights seemed a natural goal for a cop would also suffice to form an coalition between the honest citizen and the hard-working members of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice communities!
My common sense approach to gun ownership happened to agree with the goals of the National Rifle Association, and the resulting affiliation put me at odds with my anti-gun police chief while contributing to a popularity with gun-owners that resulted in my election to the Board of Directors of the NRA. But that is a story of its own, and the message here is to assist you in determining where you stand on that same issue. Regardless of your opinion, if you are a cop or viewed as a part of the law enforcement community, you are viewed as a major player in this game of “gun control”!
- At the recent F.O.P. Convention in Pittsburgh, the press played up gun rights as the number one issue. No question, it was much talked about on the floor and in the halls of the convention. But the truth is, “GUN CONTROL” had little to do with the outcome of the national president’s election. What’s important is that at the meeting of the largest police organization in these United States, gun rights was portrayed as taking precedence over any and all law enforcement issues!
- All major gun legislation in recent years has been carried on the backs of law enforcement officers.
- “Cops need this legislation”
- “Cops are out-gunned”
- “Cops are losing the battle”
- “Cop-killer bullets”
- “Choice of drug dealers”
I don’t think I’d be talking out of school if I complained that the political policeman doesn’t speak for us all…… The political Chief of Police, as a matter of fact, no more represents the beat cop than Lee Iacocca represents the auto worker!
I HAVE taken a position. I have proudly chosen to believe in the guarantees of the Bill of Rights — ALL THOSE RIGHTS, NOT JUST THE RIGHTS OF THE LAWLESS, BUT THE RIGHTS OF THE LAW-ABIDING. Many in law enforcement who believe that we should endeavor to ensure that these individual freedoms are not weakened or infringed join me. Most notably, my good friends Harry Thomas, Don Loncto and Gary Paul Johnston. We will strive to work on behalf of all Americans who still cherish traditional values and the freedoms as defined within the Constitution of these United States!
We have chosen what we think to be the correct police role in this society. That is to support and enforce the law; the will of the people; the mandate of the people we are sworn to protect! AND WE HAVE CHOSEN TO PROTECT AND SUPPORT THE POLICE REPUTATION, AND TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUAL POLICE OFFICERS!
That political police chief has done more than just embarrass the law enforcement community with his gun politics. He must bear at least some of the responsibility for an increased hazard facing every beat cop. We’ve all heard of the “cop-killer” bullet — the ‘Teflon-coated bullet’ which has never killed a cop by penetrating a Kevlar vest. But there is a lot of talk on the street, and even some strong evidence, that the “cop-killer bullet issue has gotten some cops killed — simply because the idiots in the press loved the ‘cop-killer bullet’ phrase and had to show what Kevlar vests looked like, explain how they worked, and tell how they could be defeated!
You have all heard the true accounts by officers who told how fellow cops –personal friends — died from head shots or shots that barely missed their vests. It certainly isn’t bad luck when the triggerman says he deliberately shot to miss the vest because he figured the cop was wearing one! Why did he know?
How many cops have been shot in the face since Handgun Control Inc. (who dreamed up the phrase), got police administrators excited over armor-piercing handgun ammo that had been on the market since 1936? They told the press and the press told the public all about those “NEW” “COP-KILLER BULLETS” – and all about the personal armor that they could defeat. Speculation? Maybe, but I believe that every political figure who stood in front of a camera and advertised our protective equipment to the criminal world should do a little soul searching! Their own words may be the true “cop killer”!
And speaking of cameras, how many can relate to the police administrator who has taken the gun issue to the press, waving about so-called ‘ASSAULT WEAPONS’? Is there a real policeman out there who believes there is a plastic gun? Is there a policeman who is REALLY fearful of “semi-automatic” firearms? “Saturday night specials”? Or “military style”? Is “rapid-fire” really anything more than how fast a finger can pull a trigger? And as the professional gun-owners in our society, do we really need police administrators who publicly announce the only reason for these firearms is to “kill people”?
Think about how that may sound in court the next time a defense attorney gets a SWAT-officer on the stand who was the first-man-in-the-door and had to use his weapon in self defense. Do we really need quotes by police administrators on record that “the only reason for the firearms POLICE OFFICERS CARRY is to KILL people”?
Is it necessary to promote personal politics by claiming that “the police are LOSING the battle against crime”? Or that the police “are outgunned”? Is that the reputation that you prefer? What kind of hero would Elliott Ness have been if he hid in his office and sniveled about Al Capone’s machine gun?
Today’s law enforcement officer is more professional than ever. He does not depend on brute strength any more than he requires the “biggest” gun! The modern officer realizes that intelligence, skill, tactics, and planning are his or her greatest STRENGTH!
But the law enforcement officer’s greatest ally is the public he or she serves. And the strongest ally within that public has always been the segment of the public that supports responsible law enforcement AND responsible civilian firearms ownership. They’re our “NATURAL CONSTITUENCY,” as the political scientists say.
It is ridiculous to contend that our new-found friends in the liberal wing — people like Ted Kennedy or Howard Metzenbaum — have suddenly become our strongest allies. Even our weakest ally sure hasn’t been the gun-hating self-proclaimed liberals who moan about the rights of misunderstood criminals. The only time the liberal wing of either political party has ever given a tinker’s dam about law enforcement is when they decided they could use us to achieve their goal of disarming the public. Has it ever occurred to any of our political chiefs that if the people are ever disarmed, as in England, that the cops will be the next to be disarmed, AS IN ENGLAND!
What’s worrying me is that this coziness between so-called police leaders and our traditional political foes is causing many of our gun-owning friends, our TRADITIONAL “NATURAL CONSTITUENCY,” to raise loud voices against ALL LAW ENFORCEMENT. And if you doubt it, you should read my mail, or look at the hostile comments on the law enforcement computer bulletin boards.
Because the press is saying “police have joined the demand for gun control” not only have these police administrators succeeded in costing us much-needed support from our strongest supporters, they are triggering active hostility toward police among gun groups. What happens if, in retaliation for ‘gun control’ demands, the gun lobby decides to throw its weight behind the decades-old police disarmament efforts? If gun owners have to give up their guns, or leave them locked up at ranges (as some have proposed AND seems to be happening in New York City) how many of them are going to demand that law enforcement officers leave our guns in our lockers when we go off duty?
Yes, we police have a stake in the gun control fight. It’s a big stake, and we admit to some self-interest in protecting the rights of our long-time allies, even while we work with them to protect our own rights. But as important as the gun issue is, it’s not the only issue of importance to cops. I believe it is imperative that ALL law enforcement officers make themselves aware of the MANY issues facing law enforcement:
And then GET INVOLVED! Today, it is only the voice of a few, politically influential, police representatives that are being heard. Not surprising, they say what the media agrees with, and the media has a BIG handle on the issue. And that has been detrimental to the police reputation!
The typical police administrator is busy doing police-work. BUT politically motivated police official ARE stepping out of the conventional role of law enforcement, USING their positions for personal gain and politics! Traditionally, our reputation has BEEN based on honesty and frankness. LIKE THE U.S. MILITARY We are usually under orders to stay out of politics! “All I want is the facts, ma’am”, is a phrase that depicts how cops are viewed by the public. Straightforward, no-bull, and get it done!
That’s fine. But it’s time that the public knows that when some chief talks about “what police think,” he’s really talking about what he and his bosses in city hall think — NOT WHAT BEAT COPS THINK (or the many administrators who still think like beat cops). My friends and I have decided that informing the public is an important role for the ‘real’ law enforcement officer to assume. And I hope you’ll help us fill that role, too!