Updated on July 24, 2017
Government Gets Its Messaging Backwards on Deadly Traffic Stops
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” George Orwell, 1984
I read an article today and had to reread it twice to ensure that I was reading it correctly. It’s a piece about how some states are responding to the killing of an innocent victim of police cowardice, Philando Castille. Yes, I called it cowardice. And the cop that murdered Castille is a coward. It also comes following the recent murder of a woman in Minneapolis who had called 911 and approached the vehicle of a responding officer when the coward decided to end her life as well.
The title of the article alone gave me pause: “State tells armed drivers how to avoid deadly stops.” Let that sink in for a bit. Who is the state addressing here? It’s addressing the victims of these deadly stops, not the perpetrators. Here’s the first part I want to address:
Several areas here stand out to me and practically scream lunacy at my face. A Democratic state representative says the purpose of his legislation is to “create a set of standards” to ensure that
“The goal was to create a set of standards,” Bolding said.
The new edition of the driver’s manual, published about a month ago, advises drivers with guns to keep their hands on the steering wheel during traffic stops and tell officers right away that there’s a firearm in the car.
It also tells drivers not to reach for anything inside the vehicle without getting permission first. And officers can take possession of guns, for safety reasons, until the stop is completed. The firearms would be returned if no crime has been committed.
When I was in Iraq our rules of engagement – during combat – were more strict against the enemy than the rules of engagement that our law enforcement agencies have against our own citizens. In other words, it’s easier for a government agent to kill an American here at home than for an American to kill the enemy abroad. If all I had to do was “fear for my life” any time I thought an Iraqi had a gun, there would have been a lot more dead Iraqis I left behind. I was in some extremely hairy situations in Fallujah and near Sadr City where I could have easily shot plenty of “threats” as they surrounded my team. But, here in America, all you have to do is exercise your rights peacefully, reach for your wallet (or reach for your wallet), or wear pajamas and BLAM! You’re dead. In combat, they had to actually represent a true threat by making the motions of pointing a gun at you or already be firing. In Afghanistan, we weren’t even allowed to fire back if they were firing from a protected or crowded place.
The problem with this bill or training or suggestions or brainwashing or whatever is that it will inevitably lead to even more badged
cowards cops shooting drivers who, for whatever reason, do not conform exactly to what they are being told to do and what cops are being told the people have to do. I mean, what if someone has their hands on the wheel but goes to swat a bee that just landed on their arm? What if they need to scratch their back? Or what if their arms get tired? What if someone is simply nervous and forgets? By putting these rules in place, law enforcement would have even more cover under which to hide for killing another American. “He moved his hand from the steering wheel and I thought he would go for a gun!”
Finally, this idea of brainwashing people into thinking they need to get permission to reach for their Diet Dr. Pepper in the cup holder is prima facially absurd. Are we seriously supposed to be okay with every movement we make in our own vehicles dictated to us and approved by a government official before we do so? If I want to skip a song on the CD player, I now have to ask Big Brother for permission because heaven forbid if I can’t stand listening to another Taylor Swift song on the radio and want to change the station!
Am I also the only one that found the part about “firearms would be returned if no crime has been committed” repulsive? If no crime has been committed, why am I being disarmed to begin with? Last time I checked, we still had a 4th and 5th amendment right to due process and security of our persons and effects.
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
? George Orwell, 1984
There’s another part of the article that concerns me as a patriotic lover of liberty and believer in the citizen-centered form of government.
The changes in Arizona happened without a law being passed. The Department of Public Safety worked with Bolding to produce the new guidelines.
“It all comes down to safety,” said Quentin Mehr, a spokesman for the state police agency.
Whose safety? How can it be for the officer’s safety if I don’t pose a threat to him? How am I safer by having my only means of self-defense taken from me? Sure, the high and mighty government agents might say, “I’ll protect you,” but that’s the very person I’m most likely to be shot by that’s taking my gun! I thought we had a 2nd amendment so that it would force the government to ensure I get to keep my guns “for his safety” because if he tries to disarm me, isn’t that what I’m supposed to be armed to prevent in the first place? In other words, shouldn’t it be more dangerous for a government official to disarm someone as opposed to allowing him to keep his firearm?
It’s not because the decades of brainwashing and weak-mindedness pushed through our public education systems and government agencies has dulled our senses to the point we are actually supposed to enthusiastically turn over our guns to help ensure the comfort level of its officials. We have been tricked into believing that our rights are subservient to their comfort. We have been tricked into the “for your safety and mine” mindset. Me having a gun is no threat to my safety, but him having one is. So, how is disarming me “for my safety?” Perhaps because cops are trained to simply shoot someone with a gun regardless of the actual threat so the mere fact that I have one means that the person trying to take it from me is true threat? If that’s the case, I definitely shouldn’t disarm. So, we’re stuck at an impasse: if I don’t surrender my gun, I run the risk of being shot by the cop; if I do surrender my gun, I’m defenseless against the risk of being shot by a cop (or anyone else).
In reality, the only person’s safety that is at risk during the 99.9% of traffic stops or police encounters is the person being stopped. After all, if you refuse to be disarmed because you’re neither a threat nor breaking the law, the cop can just shoot you. Your own safety is now only as secure as the bravery or professionalism of the cop. A coward will simply shoot you, assault you, or get other cops to help them assault you to physically remove the gun if you refuse to “comply” (don’t even get me started on the “comply” mindset). However, because I’m not a coward, I know my rights, I know I’m not a threat to anyone, and I don’t break the law (except for the occasional traffic infraction) I will not allow myself to be willingly disarmed without a fight. I allowed that to happen once and I learned firsthand that those who say that the place to fight is not on the streets, but in the courtroom, have never been through the legal system and seen that your rights aren’t protected there either. I will never be willingly or voluntarily disarmed again. I fully realize that this mindset may end up with me either in a coffin, a hospital or a court, but I will never surrender my firearm willingly again. I have adopted a very literal, Gonzales stance on being disarmed unless I am under arrest for an actual crime.
“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” ? George Orwell, 1984
I got pulled over last year for allegedly stopping over the little white line when I got out of the way for a car I didn’t think was going to stop behind me. After asking the officer why she had pulled me over, I handed her my driver license and license to carry as required by Texas law. The officer asked if I had a gun in the vehicle to which I said yes. When she asked where it was I told her it was none of her business. She then asked me to exit the vehicle “for her safety,” but I told her that I was going to stay in the vehicle “for my safety.” She ended up calling for more cops and they debated the issue, but I was right. I remained lawfully and peacefully armed and I remained in my vehicle.
The fact is that cops are ten times more likely to commit crime than a handgun license holder. So, if I show a cop my valid handgun license, what is there for them to fear just because I have a gun? I don’t know about other states, but Texas law enforcement doesn’t have the blanket authority to disarm someone with a gun just because they’re talking to them. In fact, technically, they only have limited authority to disarm someone with a handgun license.
Texas Government Code Section 411.207 states, “A peace officer who is acting in the lawful discharge of the officer’s official duties may disarm a license holder at any time the officer reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the license holder, officer, or another individual.” A reasonable person would conclude from that reading that the mere possession of a gun should not constitute a “reasonable belief” that would predicate disarming someone, especially a license holder. There has to be some sort of measurable belief that the safety of the officer, the armed citizen, or other citizens is in jeopardy. I highlighted the part about the license holder because there is no other authority in Texas law to disarm someone. Now, obviously if someone doesn’t have a license in Texas, they are violating the law and the can be disarmed to be arrested. That’s common sense. Any cop that chooses to disarm a citizen for the sole reason that they are armed and the cop doesn’t feel comfortable or “safe” because of it is nothing more than a coward and undeserving of the label “hero.” That person is actually the antithesis of what those in uniform are supposed to be.
Since research indicates that cops are more likely to be criminals than I am as a license holder, perhaps the people need the authority to disarm them during encounters…for their safety, of course.
“We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.” George Orwell, 1984
What I find most telling about these rules and guidelines that Bolding and the law enforcement community want to implement is that nowhere in there are guidelines placed on the police themselves. Every single aspect of what they are suggesting has to do with changing how we behave, not the people that are actually killing innocent citizens – the cops. There are no suggestions about how cops should stop treating everyone as if they are going to shoot them as soon as they walk up to the window. The fact is that there are only about 50 or less felonious murders of cops over a collection of millions of stops each day. I couldn’t find any proof, but I’m willing to bet there are tens of thousands of stops every year of citizens who are legally carrying an firearm and not a single cop is killed. Perhaps if cops started treating people like…people…then they wouldn’t always be so afraid of them which makes them nervous and in turn causes cops alarm seeing them nervous.
My final point of contention is one that was thankfully addressed at the end of the article.
“Will Gaona, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said it’s not a bad idea to tell drivers what to expect when getting pulled over. But the manual’s new section does not include descriptions of a driver’s rights, he said.
For instance, the rules say a driver can be arrested for disobeying an officer’s order. Gaona said the rule book should tell people that they have a right to refuse an officer’s request to search a vehicle.”
Gaona is saying exactly what I am trying to here: This is about changing how we react to avoid being shot by them, but doesn’t do anything to reign in the out of control nature of too many cops in America who believe that everything they say is the law and that we are required to comply with every demand a cop makes. Cops are not our masters or our lords. They only have the authority that we the people give them by law and nothing more. The problem is that there is no effort given to either 1) educate the public about what their rights are or 2) educate the police about what their limits are.
It boils down to is fear. If cops are so afraid that everyone wants to shoot them, why are they cops? If the only way they can feel safe stopping citizens is by taking away their right to self-defense, they don’t need to be wearing the badge. Police work is only dangerous in their minds. 99% of cops will never need to unholster their firearm in their career. That’s a fact.
This fear is also triggered when someone like me who knows his rights asserts them. Cops aren’t trained and, in many cases, mentally capable of dealing with someone who challenges them or stands up for their rights. Too many police officers think that they are the moral superiority and are the sole arbiters and protectors of “the law.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either been asked if I’m an attorney, former law enforcement, or a judge. They can’t fathom that someone else may know the law better than they do and will immediately translate someone simply invoking their rights and demanding respect for them into “a threat.” Somehow, the badge means infallibility to far too many of them and they aren’t willing to stop and even consider that the person may be right because they feel like their power over the situation is far more important than whether the situation itself is even justified. Even when a cop is provided with a copy of the actual law and reads it, their ego insists that they are still in the right despite the piece of paper in their hands that says otherwise. Instead of admitting their error, they simply choose to arrest to save face. Their definition of “service” is “let the courts figure it out.” While the courts will dismiss the charges, that doesn’t change that a man is thrown in jail and is forced to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to go free in the meantime. I’m not talking about abstract issues like “constitutional rights.” I’m talking about black and white issues that are perfectly spelled out in law.
There was once a time when cops truly cared about your life more than their own. How often do you hear a cop say something along the lines of “I just want to make sure you get to go home at night?” Instead, we hear the common refrain that “It’s my job to make it home to see my family at night.” In other words, they are there to ensure their safety first, then yours. When I was in the military, we put ourselves in great danger to protect the public to our own detriment. I know that it does happen; some cops in Dallas during the shooting a year ago shielded others with their bodies, but I’m not talking about these rare instances where there’s an obvious villain and an obvious innocent which really triggers the natural fight or flight response more so than one’s courage. I’m talking about every day, on the street interactions with the people. The real heroes are the ones that choose to take the risk when the risk isn’t evident to defend the rights others even if they don’t like that person.
“Winston Smith: Does Big Brother exist?
O’Brien: Of course he exists.
Winston Smith: Does he exist like you or me?
O’Brien: You do not exist.”
? George Orwell, 1984