A May article in The Christian Science Monitor takes great pains to explain why the February 23 killing of Amhaud Arbery by two gun-toting Georgia citizens is a case for the danger of armed posses taking the place of a regulated, trained police force. “The case of Ahmaud Arbery speaks to a thread of vigilantism that can spin out of control when citizens think they should stand in for cops.”
In fact, the Arbery shooting was touted by not just racial/social justice activists, but by gun control groups as well as evidence that only the police should have access to firearms. The 2nd Amendment, they argued, specifically mentions that a need for “a well-regulated militia” in a sparsely populated, more unruly fledgling nation was the original justification for arming the populace. We have matured since then, and now have trained police to patrol our streets, and a professional military to protect us from foreign threats. Therefore, this is an outdated right that should be severely curtailed if not abolished. Arbery’s shooting was just another illustration of this point. If the two men in a pick-up truck had been, instead, trained peace officers in a cruiser, Arbery would have been questioned and most likely either sent on his way if innocent or arrested if up to no good. But he’d be alive.
With the Arbery killing came a renewed call to end the controversial “stand your ground” laws currently in force in several states. This was the issue at the heart of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida in 2012. Then the more recent murder in Georgia served to reignite the debate.
Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law warns: “When people are being taught by … the NRA that they are the ones responsible for standing up to criminals and tyrants and that you can’t trust the government to do it for you, it encourages people to take the law into their own hands, be armed, and act upon their fears and prejudices.”
That was then…before the riots started.
Fast forward to today and the death of another innocent Black man, George Floyd. Only this time, his murderer was a Minneapolis policeman, a very agent of the government that Professor Winkler claims the NRA is insidiously undermining. Suddenly, the very real issue of police brutality as the focus of national conversation shoved the concerns over armed militants aside. Just three months after Arbery, the tide of activism didn’t just shift but, in fact, pulled a one-eighty, from insisting that only the government can protect us, to the government is so hostile that its enforcement mechanism, the police departments, must be defunded and, in the case of Minneapolis where Mr. Floyd was murdered, disbanded. This is not hyperbole. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was, in fact, booed and cussed away from a crowd when he would not agree to eliminate the police. Some apologists claim that when they say “defund” what Black Lives Matter and other groups really mean is that they wish to merely shift resources from law enforcement to social programs. But the crowd that bullied Mr. Frey was adamant. Their leader insisted: “We don’t want no more police! Is that clear? We don’t want people with guns toting around in our community shooting us down.”
Peruse the BLM website and #DefundThePolice appears at the top of their “Demands” section. One finds it hard to believe that a group founded as a push-back to what they declare to be a systemic, indeed irredeemably, racist law enforcement community would settle for anything less than its elimination. This is not a pipe dream. As of this writing nine members of the Minneapolis City Council, a veto-proof block, have announced they intend to defund and dismantle the department. City Council President, Lisa Bender, aspires to have, in her words, a “police-free society.”
So what happens if this comes to pass? What if all the police cars and patrolling officers on the streets of a city of 425,000 residents just disappear? Nature abhors a vacuum, so who would fill the void? Most likely the very groups of armed militia, “vigilantes” as The Christian Science Monitor might label them, that progressives were so fearful of just a few months ago. And armed with what? Signs with bromides? Bullhorns? No. They’d be armed with guns. And who has the easiest access to firearms? Criminals of course. Law and order would merely be replaced by gang rule. If one wishes to see what a lack of police looks like, think of any failed state where warlords or drug kingpins make the rules, and their gun-toting thugs patrol the thoroughfares dispensing street justice (for lack of a better term) as they see fit.
If we think this cannot happen here, well, it already has. Minneapolis alone has reported over $25 million worth of property damage courtesy of the looting, vandalism, arson, and mayhem unleashed when the police stood down. Parts of New York, Seattle, Saint Louis, Los Angeles, Chicago, and many others resemble scenes from the 1980s Beirut more than once-great American cities. This is the world without police or armed citizens…which are both sides of the leftist coin. With predictable results.
If any group has been paying close attention to the chaos it has been the National Rifle Association. A billion-dollar advertising blitz could not have been a better recruiting tool for Second Amendment advocates than the nightmare we’ve just witnessed. Indeed, it is safe to say that for the foreseeable future, the debate on gun control is effectively over. The myth that citizens do not need to arm themselves because that’s what the police are for has gone up in smoke along with the urban centers of many of our unprotected cities. Thanks to the looters, Americans have been given a glimpse of just how hobbled by p.c. sensibilities to the point of fecklessness many of our police departments have become, courtesy of far-left leaning city officials and extremist activists and race hustlers. The destruction and looting that erupted after Floyd’s death was reported in at least 25 cities and spread into many suburbs as well. Pittsburgh, Seattle, Chicago, even tranquil Madison, Wisconsin (often hailed by several publications as “the best place to live in America”) each reported damage and looting to over 50 businesses.
Compare this with Polk County, Florida. In a pre-emptive warning to any trouble-makers, Sheriff Grady Judd made clear his thoughts on whether the 2nd Amendment still matters. He’d been warned that criminals in his county were targeting the neighborhoods. “I would tell them,” he said sternly, “if you value your life you probably shouldn’t do that in Polk County. Because the people of Polk County like guns, they have guns, I encourage them to own guns, and they’re going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded. And if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I’m highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns.” To my knowledge, Polk County remained peaceful.
With such contrasts, is it any surprise that gun sales across the country surged by 80% in May? “Almost, you couldn’t even keep up with it. That’s how crazy it was,” said Joe Hawk, owner of Guns & Roses in New Jersey. “After Memorial Day, it spiked again. It just went crazy again.” And as the unrest continues, as the movement to disband or greatly limit the police spreads, citizens will come to realize the true wisdom of the Framers, and also understand what these men, astute observers of the human heart, seemed to have figured out a long time ago. The veneer of civilization is wafer-thin. We do not just arm ourselves to protect us from foreign threats. We arm ourselves to protect us from one another.
So in just a matter of months, we have seen the pendulum of public outcry shift back and forth so quickly as to give those following it whiplash. The Arbery killing and the calls for stepped-up gun control and ending “stand your ground” laws have been washed away from our collective memory by the murder of George Floyd and the anarchy it unleashed upon our cities. The left eventually eats itself. In this case, in their quest for “social justice” degenerating into lawlessness and wanton destruction, thievery, and even murder, they have served the interests of those on the right they so despise. The NRA, and those who have never trusted the government as their last line of defense against the forces of human nature, have been proven sage. And in the process, the debate over gun control has come to an end, for a while at least. Thanks to the left, the people they despise the most now have the moral, and common sense, high ground. And the weapons with which to protect it.
Irony comes in many forms.