This is different and the same
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, July 7, 2016, 4:31 PM
I don’t immediately blame the cops and I certainly don’t blame the victims.
I blame the gun nuts.
Gun lovers and their mouthpieces at the National Rifle Association have done more to damage police-community relations than poor cop training, racism, crime and fear could ever do.
And it’s all due to the NRA’s twisted, sick perversion of the Second Amendment from a cherished right to keep and bear arms as part of a well-regulated national defense into a call to “stand your ground” in all circumstances.
The NRA famously depicts armed citizens as heroes and lobbies against any restrictions on an American’s right to defend himself.
“Tell every politician you will STAND and FIGHT to protect your fundamental right to hunt, shoot and own a gun for personal protection,” one of the group’s petitions reads.
But this relentless call for “personal protection” has not led to a safer country, but a more dangerous place awash in guns.
Last year, 990 people were fatally shot by cops in this country, according to the Washington Post. So far this year, 509 have been killed.
The victims in two recent shootings — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge andPhilando Castile near Minneapolis — carried weapons.
If Sterling and Castile were lawfully armed, then they were the “good guys” with guns the NRA is always talking about.
But in the recent police shooting of Dylan Noble in Fresno or of Dillon Taylor in Utah two years ago, the victim was unarmed.
And that’s the problem: In a country where law-abiding citizens are encouraged to protect themselves with guns, police increasingly assume every person they stop is indeed armed.
The NRA has been beating the “self-defense” message into our consciousness for decades now — and the result is that the plurality of American gun owners, 48%, now say they own their weapons to defend themselves, up from 26% in 1999, when hunting was the main motivation for gun ownership.
Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police on July 5. Cops believe he was armed — and he did own a gun legally. Philando Castile (right) of Minnesota was also killed by cops during a routine traffic stop. He was legally armed.
I got a vitriolic taste of this facet of gun culture when I wrote about gun controlafter the Orlando mass shooting. Many people who emailed me said they armed themselves because they do not expect, nor want, law enforcement to protect them from danger.
“It’s up to us to make a stand a fight back,” wrote Colt Midkiff. “It would probably discourage a few bad guys. Police or soldiers won’t be there when s--t hits the fan, and the way this world is going, who's to say it won't be soldiers or police we have to fight to keep our freedom and god given rights or our constitutional rights?”
Another writer, who only gave the name Korssp, added that guns “protect me from the government, other countries, terrorism, my crazy next door neighbor.”
“Whatever it is that is attacking me, I have the right to protect myself,” he added, parroting the NRA line. “Taking these weapons always from us makes us an easy target.”
The irony, of course, is that there’s no way for cops to distinguish who are the “good guys” with guns, who are the “bad guys” with guns, and who are the rest of us who don’t want to be in any crossfire. There’s no evidence that Sterling or Castile, or many of the other legal gun owners shot and killed by police were “bad” guys. Sterling had a record of felonies, yet purchased his gun on Monday— Independence Day. Details remain unclear about how he did that.
And, Castile’s girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, said her boyfriend was the ultimate law-abiding citizen.
“He works for St. Paul public schools,” she said. “He’s never been in jail, anything. He’s not a gang member.”
So why did he feel he needed a gun? Perhaps he simply heeded the message of the nation’s most powerful lobbying group: law-abiding citizens should be armed.
But the results are almost always tragic: Any time a cop answers a 911 call, he now has to assume everyone in his immediate view — the “good” guy, the “bad” guy and even the innocent bystanders — has a gun.
So the incident inevitably escalates.
And, suddenly, the NRA’s “good guy with a gun” is the one who ends up dead.