Militarization at Home

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This is your War on Drugs:

Take this item from Washington, Iowa, where the local police have recently acquired an MRAP vehicle (short for Mine Resistance Ambush Protected) through a Defense Department program that donates excess vehicles originally produced for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to local police departments across the United States, including other Iowa towns such as Mason City and Storm Lake.

The MRAP weighs an impressive 49,000 pounds, stands 10-feet tall, and possesses a whopping six-wheel drive. Originally designed to resist landmines and IEDs, it sure seems like the MRAP will come in handy for the notorious war zone otherwise known as Washington County, Iowa.

If it is to mean anything at all, “freedom” must include not having to live under military occupation.

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197 thoughts on “Militarization at Home

  1. The war on drugs has to be the stupidest and costliest boon dangle in American history. I’m saying this because the generation of politicians that implemented it during the 1960s and 1970s should have been old enough to remember the boon dangle that was Prohibition. They should have known better.

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  2. Sheesh. Washington county Iowa has a population of not quite 22000. It’s just to the southwest of Iowa City.

    Now I will grant you that they likely have some issues with meth labs there, but that would better justify a truckload of haz-mat gear. Just what the fuck are they going to do with an MRAP?? Are the evangelicals going to protect their county from IUD’s? (Unclear on concept…)

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    • I’ve been doing some computer work for a rural law enforcement agency, and it’s the same thing over here. Their computers are a crap sandwich. There’s no budget for an IT infrastructure upgrade, but the feds did buy them a tank with all of that extra DHS money.

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  3. I recently participated in a charity 5K. I knew the money went to the town*’s local police force, which I didn’t really give a second thought to. When we got our shirt, we noticed they were emblazoned with an “SRT” logo. When we asked what it meant, we were told they were raising money to fund their Special Response Team, basically their version of SWAT.

    This for a town that has crime rates far, far below the state average, which itself is far, far below the national average. (For some reason, it has absurdly high rates of reported hate crimes, but everything else is absurdly low.)

    This made me a little frustrated about the $25 I spent.

    * Not my hometown. A friend’s about 45 minutes south in NJ.

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  4. This makes me think a bit about the current flap between the Pentagon and the National Guard units. The Pentagon wants the NG units to stop flying attack helicopters and switch their helo fleets to entirely logistical/support stuff that’s useful in the more typical things the national guard does (like disaster relief) and the latter are protesting up to 11 because they want to keep using shiny things to blow things up.

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  5. I should add to this post: I look at episodes like this one, and I wonder how anyone can support either of the two major political parties. This is the system that mainstream political thinking, and mainstream political compromise, has produced. This is what you stand for, my mainstream friends: This is your war on drugs.

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    • I agree with you, but what’s the solution? Recognizing the money invested in the two major political parties, which are basically industries rather than political organizations, how do we create change?

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    • The problem is that this is one of those issues that is easy enough to blame on the side that you don’t like. Libertarian-leaning folks can blame this on overreaching government and crony capitalism. And progressives can blame it on the nefarious influence of corporations in politics and the militant criminal justice policies of conservatives.

      An above-the-fray type, it’s easy enough for me to see how this is the result of a process in which all sides have participated and benefit from, but I still can’t see a way out, at least not in the short to medium term.

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      • “this is the result of a process in which all sides have participated and benefit from, ”

        I’ve talked about this before, but one of the (many) brilliant things to me about the series “The Wire” was how it dramatized the way that the triple poles of democracy, and capitalism, and prohibition, all exert force on each other in such a way to keep the ratchet turning.

        If you buy the analysis, which stool leg can we kick out? We’re Americans, I don’t see us doing without democracy or capitalism.

        Prohibition has got to go.

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      • Easy. Vote for a third party candidate. Never mind that he or she may believe all sorts of other crazy and damaging nonsense. They may well be right on this one issue, and that’s enough. Getting rid of the two mainstream parties will take care of it.

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    • As I’ve said to Jaybird before:

      1. Arch pragmatism. Is it better to vote for Rand Paul who might oppose giving police departments these tanks but also opposes many other policies that I support or is it better to vote for the person you agree with 80 to 90 percent of the time? I still believe in a strong federal government and a welfare state despite the war on drugs. I would say becoming more European rather than less European would be the solution. European police departments seem free of this stuff.

      2. I don’t think anyone on the League supports this program but perhaps we are in the minority. This is a dark realization of course.

      3. Localism. If you live in a liberal enough area, you might not see this stuff in your backyard.

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      • Saul,

        It’s not just the number of issues on which you agree, but your relative weighting of those issues.

        Which isn’t to say you’re wrong for not supporting Paul, just to say that for any given person considering any given candidate, agreement on a small number of high-value issues (as subjectively determined by the individual) can outweigh disagreement on a greater number of low value issues.

        Or it might now, depending on just how disparate the value weights are.

        And a perfectly rational voter will assign precise values to each issue, carefully construct a formula in Excel, and let the software tell them how to vote. ;)

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      • It depends. If you see “the drug war” as similar to “racism”, you find yourself asking whether you could vote for a racist who agreed with you on 80 to 90 percent of your other pet policies.

        Some people explain “well, everybody’s a little bit racist”. Other people say “I’m not going to vote for a racist. Even if that means voting third party.”

        I would say becoming more European rather than less European would be the solution

        What was the peak of our Europeanness, do you think?

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      • Right now, I weigh the militarization of police far above many other issues, especially since this trend negatively impacts the poor most heavily of all, in ways that rarely make the news (as opposed to when it impacts the middle class).

        If that mean Rand Paul gets a turn for a bit in order to try & turn this around, so be it.

        Of course, Obama made all the right noises regarding topics like this, and he’s been a disaster.

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      • Nob, you’re really laboring under a misconception here.

        Read Radley Balko’s book; this militarization has taken place above all because the federal government has offered money and otherwise unavailable military hardware to local police departments. Sure, the local demand might have been there – for a certain mentality, military toys are fun to play with – but the supply is federal, and it could indeed be cut off forever.

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      • There’s more: local governments, even in most large cities, can’t afford the sort of hardware and training that goes into creating highly militarized police forces, so they’re heavily reliant on federal and state-level funding. If you cut off the downward flow of money, there will be too much slack for just about any municipality to pick up.

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      • I understand what you mean about the supply of this equipment, but it still strikes me that much of the attitude that has Byrne grants for example, going into block grants into buying APCs and military grade equipment is as much a mentality issue as it is a supply one. The demand is certainly there.

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      • It certainly looks like the fact that the police can go above the heads of the city government for funding has created a situation in which the police force can militarize itself with little or no input from the local government. Part of this has to be because the local government doesn’t want to limit the police department, of course.

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      • It depends. If you see “the drug war” as similar to “racism”, you find yourself asking whether you could vote for a racist who agreed with you on 80 to 90 percent of your other pet policies.

        Racism in America is obviously a complex issue, but it’s not self-evident to me that the path to civil rights for minorities was by (a) voting for the powerless leader who is 100% anti-racism over (b) voting for the most anti-racist leader with power. LBJ was a noted racist, but it’s not clear to me that people who voted for LBJ in 1964 (and not Socialist Labor candidate Eric Hass, who unequivocally supported government enforced equal opportunity for all) should be characterized as owning the racial discrimination of the 60’s.

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    • Is it really, though? Given that the major parties are basically coalitions of a very large number of local, state and regional polities, and that most people have absolutely no say in how a small regional body like a county police department operates, the idea that this is somehow reducible to simply being the result of being support for the two major parties or mainstream politics strikes me as a bit bizarre.

      Also, it seems to me the fact that these vehicles are now considered surplus (and being given away) rather than being employed for their original purpose strikes me as a good thing. It means the actual military isn’t out doing stuff where it needs protection from IEDs, and that it isn’t being funded at a level where it can afford to just keep them.

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  6. I’m more disappointed by the presence of slaves in our so-called “free nation” but, hey, I guess that’s just me.

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      • It’s not the american government that concerns me when I think of Nuclear War.
        While I will grant that the potential for Nuclear War is distressing, it’s a little less immediate at this very moment than slavery.

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    • I have a post in the hopper that talks about the death penalty and how the arguments against the death penalty don’t really take into account the pop culture sea of pro-death penalty arguments we swim in.

      I realize that your response here is a perfect one-sentence argument against my post.

      And now it dawns on me that it’s a perfect one-sentence argument against pretty much anything.

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    • I was thinking along the same lines. Not just refueling costs, either. When this thing (inevitably) breaks expensively, what is the department going to do? Order replacement parts directly from BAE? Only if they don’t want to make pension payments that year. Hold a bake sale?

      I have a feeling the small rural departments inheriting these MRAPS are just going to end up proudly housing their neighborhood’s most ugly lawn ornament.

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  7. This is the market at work, and we’ve seen repeated cycles of it. A defense contractor develops some new tech for war effort; after the war winds down and the military cuts back expenditures, they look for other markets. Other examples include fertilizer and pesticides.

    I agree, I don’t want to see these on our streets. A couple years ago, we encountered one such vehicle in Boston, and it was pretty frightening; on us in no time and without warning.

    But the companies making war equipment for the military will seek other markets if the defense dept. isn’t buying (and these are probably grant-funded homeland security sales, so I’m not convinced they’re not defense purchases still). I do not want to live under military occupation, either. But I’m not sure that this is the war on drugs, though that might be a minor thing here. No, it’s markets for a product and the notion that local law enforcement needs to be capable of military-style defense to protect the homeland.

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    • This isn’t even a commercial market though – according to the block quote, the DoD is donating these vehicles. They have to GIVE them away. While that’s slightly better from one perspective (and possibly from an environmental one: reuse and recycle and all that) one has to wonder if there wasn’t a plowshare this particular sword could have been beaten into.

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    • This is surplus military equipment, not the defense contractors selling directly to the local gov’t. Pointing to market seems a bit beside the point.

      And even if the local gov’t was buying directly from the defense contractor, it would be a bit odd to make this an issue just about markets, given that it’s a government that’s doing the buying.

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      • The companies that have been making these things have been doing direct marketing to towns since about 2006. They can’t sell on an open market, but they can (and do) market to municipalities, counties, and state governments.

        The first time I heard of it, it was a sale to a group of towns (they had a collective first-responder system) in Vermont.

        So this one in particular (or a bunch) may not be the result of trying to cultivate a direct market. Just because that market is a government market, doesn’t mean it’s not a market.

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      • zic

        You’re mistaking up-armored trucks (like the Lenco G3 or Bearcat) for MRAPS. They may look slightly similar, but they are not. The former are basically a commercial truck frame and chassis with steel plates welded to the sides. They are designed to defeat periodic small arms fire, nothing more. They do not meet DOD standards for combat zone survivability. Not even close. And civilians could potentially buy one, given enough time and money. MRAPS are purpose-built armored vehicles designed for military combat. As far as I’m aware, there are no methods for civilian purchase. Conflating the two is a mistake.

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      • ,

        But by focusing on the market, and not emphasizing that it’s a combination of government and market, you’re giving a very skewed representation of the issue. It readily gets transmuted into “OMG markets are dangerous gummint ought to regulate that!” and the fact that the gummint is an inextricable part of the problem gets overlooked.

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      • But by focusing on the market, and not emphasizing that it’s a combination of government and market, you’re giving a very skewed representation of the issue.

        We get into some level of semantic here, and how they are used to represent someone’s preferred choices. I spent several years writing about how to do business with the government — how to see the market potential of government. Everything from bidding on contracts to sub-contracting, particularly for the DOD. I spent several years writing about land use in the context of government regulation and assistance (farm grants, community development block grants, DOT grants).

        I view government as a big player in markets, in all sorts of ways, and I don’t think government can be taken out markets. Without organized government of some sort, there’s no agreed-upon rule of law for the market; I suspect any group able to cobble together a set of market rules becomes a government.

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      • zic,

        Sure, governments are big players in markets, in various ways. No-one denies that, I don’t think. You are logically correct, but in terms of communicative your use is very slippery.

        The problem is that in our current politico-speak, “markets” as a term used in speech and debate is generally taken to mean a focus on private actors, mostly excluding government. This is true of all sides–liberals, conservatives and libertarians. Conservatives and libertarians may use the term with relish, while liberals are somewhat more likely to use it with a touch of skepticism. But the use is generally agreed upon.

        So one can’t simply say something is a problem of “markets” and have it be read as a critique that targets the private sector and absolves government.

        Likewise, of course, anyone who looked at the issue you described and just critiqued government would be creating just as much of a misrepresentation. And that’s a useful way to think of it–what if we rephrased your first sentence to say “This is government at work”? Wouldn’t that be read by liberals and libertarians both as more-or-less absolving the private actors in this situation.

        Whatever you may have meant, that’s not necessarily what your words communicate. And in the hands of someone less honest than you, it would seem like a bit of game playing.

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      • I’ll grant that.

        But I do hope you’ll give me credit for recognizing something beyond current vogue in group speak; I actually do recognize that there’s a lot of business anti-intellectualism, and as a liberal, I often challenge it in other liberals.

        I was trying to point out the trend that as DOD contracts dry up, products designed for military use tend to make their way to other markets, the companies don’t scale down and shut down operations. This is often a very good thing. But sometimes, it isn’t such a good thing, too. And even if it’s a government market, it’s still a market.

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      • And not to belabor a point too much, but in the current vernacular, business anti-intellectualism does have a very vocal doppelganger in government anti-intellectualism. In both cases, ‘big’ is often an indicator of anti-intellectualism at work.

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      • But I do hope you’ll give me credit

        I have so little credit myself I can’t afford to give any away. ;)

        And even if it’s a government market, it’s still a market.

        And it’s still government.

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      • “This is surplus military equipment, not the defense contractors selling directly to the local gov’t. Pointing to market seems a bit beside the point.”

        It’s not the initial sale, it’s the service contract. Someone commented earlier about razor blades, which was apropos, because a big chunk of the money made from sales of military gear comes after the initial delivery. It doesn’t matter whether the MRAPs ever get used, General Dynamics Land Systems still gets a million per MRAP per year.

        So yes, there’s an incentive for the military-equipment producers to advertise directly to local governments.

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      • Some of the surplus purchases are there to keep suppliers in business (or at least to keep product lines alive) in case the military ever needs to ramp up production. For example, an inertial nav package that’s really useful for missiles and fighter jets may have a limited market outside the military (or no market at all due to arms control laws), but the company that makes them has to sell X units per year to keep the line alive. As a result, they get a contract guaranteeing a purchase of X units per year whether they’re needed or not.

        Not a lot of good options there. You don’t want your manufacturers to go under or stop building the part and have to ramp up from zero if war breaks out. You don’t want to buy enough hardware for all-out war with Russia and China and have it sit around and become obsolete over time. You can’t just give a cash grant to the supplier every year without getting something in return. And you certainly don’t want the military to bring all of its manufacturing in-house.

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    • Sounds suspiciously government-y to me. As Ludwig von Mises put it, if we are going to have capitalism, we also have a moral obligation to be peaceful:

      [W]ar and high civilization are incompatible. If the efficiency of capitalism is directed by governments toward the output of instruments of destruction, the ingenuity of private business turns out weapons which are powerful enough to destroy everything. What makes war and capitalism incompatible with one another is precisely the unparalleled efficiency of the capitalist mode of production.

      To a great extent, that genie is never going back in the bottle — the surplus wealth of a capitalist economy (us) made the Manhattan Project, and many other military research efforts, possible. But copying that research isn’t so expensive, and anyway, a command economy can almost always steal what it needs to build expensive weapons.

      Still, though, the fact that capitalism can churn out huge amounts of military equipment — and that companies will always happily sell the same — doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to sell the stuff to police departments.

      What stands in between? The thin reed of politics. Nothing else. So I repeat my question: Major parties, and American mainstream, where are you on this stuff?

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      • I think Ludwig Von Mises underestimated the more violent sides of human nature in a Pollyannaish way.

        He also did not study his Capitalism very well. How about the various ways that Industrialists used the government and hired goons to break up strikes and organizers like The Battle of the Overpass, the Pinkertons at Carnegie Steel, The covert actions against coal miners in Pennsylvania, using militias against state troops during the Lowell textile strikes? The Capitalists seem pretty capable of using violence and the state monopoly on violence to protect their interests and make it look kosher.

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      • When individual actors resort to violence, they cease to be traders, even if they nominally belong to the capitalist class.

        The disagreement between us seems to be about how relevant class identity is, as opposed to what these individuals are actually doing. I would say that the resort to violence needs to be banished, regardless of who is doing the hitting.

        You (I presume) would say I’m a tool of violence, simply for having said that.

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      • When individual actors resort to violence, they cease to be traders, even if they nominally belong to the capitalist class.

        I’ve been wondering about things like this; and the rules of marketplaces, particularly in light of the social-goal pressure/boycotts we’ve seen put on markets and individual marketers (Eich, Martins Farmers Pantry, Honey Maid, JC Penney, etc.), not to mention the sanctity of market places (insurgent targets).

        Were there/are there some unspoken standards of leaving your politics and weapons outside the market? How do those standards apply to political action against members of the market?

        Disclaimer: I’m not even sure how to ask this question, so much as groping at the outlines of a question, based on assumptions that are as likely rooted in reading fantasy/sci-fi as reality.

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      • Were there/are there some unspoken standards of leaving your politics and weapons outside the market? How do those standards apply to political action against members of the market?

        That’s an interesting question.

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      • I’m with James. It’s an interesting question. I don’t mind terribly much the influence of political beliefs into market choices, because almost always these influences are symbolic and don’t seriously inconvenience whole classes of people. When they do, we consider antidiscrimination laws, with good reason.

        As to violence, it has no place at all. The whole reason we perform market exchanges is that each party to the transaction has an excess of something. This is even true in a monetized market economy: While we would never object to a higher salary, in the absence of that higher salary, we all still regularly trade dollars for goods and services. That’s because, relative to those goods and services, we have less use for the dollars. If we had more use for the dollars, we would save them instead.

        Likewise, the producers have less use for their goods (or: they prefer to spend their time to perform the services, to get the dollars). They hate to see excess goods sitting in the warehouse, or excess time slipping by without any customers.

        Whenever an exchange happens, we all get a little closer to our preferred, just-right mix of goods, services, and time. (At least, in the absence of regret.) We won’t ever get there for good, because the passage of time makes for new needs. But unless we all become enlightened, desire-free Buddhas, we’re never getting out of the game, either.

        Playing the game is a very delicate process, and there is no a priori reason to think that some fellow standing on the sidelines with a gun will know your preferences any better. He may have information that you lack, but even then, conferring it with a gun… well, that’s for somewhere else on this thread, isn’t it?

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      • Were there/are there some unspoken standards of leaving your politics and weapons outside the market?

        On what scale? As I remember my American West history, one of the first things that happened when a town got big enough to have law enforcement was that a “check your weapons with the sheriff when you ride/drive in” went into force. Not even unspoken. You want to take part in the market — ie, buy or sell stuff — leave your weapons outside, written down clearly.

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    • Indeed, from the original article:

      If you’re having a bad day, I highly recommend watching a video produced by the Des Moines Register in which Washington police officials try to justify the possession of a vehicle it clearly has no use for. The excuses range from school shootings (which are an actual concern but an MRAP seems like overkill) to a terrorist attack happening in central Iowa (because if there’s any place that seems ripe for a high-profile terrorist attack it’s Washington, Iowa, population 7,000).

      It seems like this is a case of a misguided dod program more than the front line of the war on drugs.

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    • This is the market at work, and we’ve seen repeated cycles of it.

      Say what now?

      From the article:

      …where the local police have recently acquired an MRAP vehicle (short for Mine Resistance Ambush Protected) through a Defense Department program that donates excess vehicles…

      (emphasis added)

      That’s an industrial-strength ideological filter you got going there.

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      • As I said in an earlier comment, “Here’s a free razor. Replacement blades are ten thousand dollars each. Or you could sign up for our ten-year replacement-blade contract, which guarantees sharp blades but costs eight thousand dollars a year, plus penalties and early-termination fees of course.”

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      • Jim Heffman

        Any evidence that the service contracts are following the vehicle?

        Even if yes, the DOD was already funding that business line. These vehicles were already acquired. BAE doesn’t care if it’s the DOD or local police paying the service contract, money is money. (Actually, they would probably prefer the DOD keep them. The Pentagon tends to be more solvent than rural municipalities in Iowa.)

        Still not buying it.

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  8. Is this just the war on drugs or is it also the war on terror and other factors?

    This is way out my legal area of expertise but would it be possible to pass a law that banned local police departments from purchasing and owning equipment like the ones above?

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    • Probably yes, or at least we could shut off then donation program & force them to pay market price. However, police Departments & Unions want these “toys”, they are powerful, and it seems as though few politicians have the stones to tell them to back off.

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      • Why would they? CYA is bipartisan and, frankly, if people voted for a third party en masse and managed to get some of those lizards into power then I’m cynically confident CYA would co-opt them and the policies would continue.

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    • There definitely is ‘synergy’ as a management consultant would say.

      In the reaction to 9/11, a whole lot of people got tools, both physical and organizational, that they had been asking for a long time. It was also a backdoor way to sustain (and in some cases, quietly expand) the war on drugs as there is a narco-terror nexus in the supply chains of heroin and cocaine.

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      • Not to mention an economic lever controlled by the Executive Branch that was still relatively easy to deploy without significant congressional obstruction after the economy collapsed.

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  9. This is a response to almost everyone on the thread.

    As I see it, there are basically two options.

    Option A We perform some kind of brainwashing on every single police officer in the country, in which we entirely remove from every psyche the impulse toward blowing stuff up/burning stuff down/shooting stuff/vaporizing stuff with a most satisfying kaboom, and/or looking like a military badass.

    We then deploy a massive system of censorship to remove from our culture all cues, incentives, or positive reinforcement for any of the above.

    Option B We repeal a single federal law.

    It’s absolutely amazing to me how eager people are to identify “the market” as the problem, rather than “the government.” Fixing the government is Option B. Fixing the market is Option A.

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    • Congress shall pass no law allowing the use of any weapons or equipment by a law enforcement agency that is not available to the general population.

      The President shall not deploy any military force inside the border of the United States equipped with weapons, communication devices, or other equipment that is not available to the general population.

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      • Congress shall pass no law allowing the use of any weapons or equipment by a law enforcement agency that is not available to the general population.

        Military-grade GPS and communications? This was actually a big deal on 9/11 where law-enforcement was using shoddy radios and it’s been heavily improved in part by using equipment that is not available to the public. I’ll start drafting the “keep our firefighters safe act” to repeal your amendment.

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      • Military-grade GPS and communications? This was actually a big deal on 9/11 where law-enforcement was using shoddy radios and it’s been heavily improved in part by using equipment that is not available to the public. I’ll start drafting the “keep our firefighters safe act” to repeal your amendment.

        You have close-enough-to a military-grade GPS in your pocket, right now. The military used to splay civilian GPSes by a few yards a while back, but they don’t any more. And FWIW, I can’t possibly imagine a scenario where access to a GPS is the critical piece in a non-time-sensitive plot.

        The problem with law enforcement radios is worthy of a whole post, actually. And it’s perfectly fine – with me – if the military wants to use encrypted radios. G’head. Just sell encrypted radios to the public. They don’t have to use the same keys, for cryin’ out loud :)

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      • The President shall not deploy any military force inside the border of the United States equipped with weapons, communication devices, or other equipment that is not available to the general population.

        Addendum to add: Absent a formal declaration of war from the president in the face of invasion from an established foreign power.

        So when NK invades, we can meet them with tanks.

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      • If North Korea invades, and the military is deployed in the borders, I’m okay with saying the civilians should be able to acquire and use whatever the hell they can get.

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      • Military-grade GPS and communications?

        Communications especially in parts of the Mountain West where things are tough for RF. There are places where even military gear isn’t going to cut it, and times when local emergency crews are going to be in those places (eg, wildfires). A number of Homeland Security grants made to Colorado went for better communications gear. Some of it was totally wasted due to lack of coordination between different agencies within the state, but a certain amount of that is to be expected unless you’re going to put the feds in charge of all the details.

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  10. “If it is to mean anything at all, “freedom” must include not having to live under military occupation.”

    Pssshhht. You are clearly entirely too happy to squash the freedom of police officers to own tanks.

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  11. This is one of those issues that would benefit from thinking outside the Libertarian box.

    From the Daily Iowan link:

    “The effects of cops moving from handguns to assault rifles and being equipped with tanks, bazookas, and Kevlar has been twofold. First, civil liberties have absolutely been eroded, with police-brutality rates skyrocketing in last decade according to the Justice Department. Not only that, but, with the influx of military gear into local police forces, cops begin to view themselves as soldiers whose main job is combat rather than keeping the peace. ”

    Cops are not the only ones “moving from handguns to assault rifles.” And in a heavily armed society, this is how you keep the peace. If we want an AR-15 in every gun cabinet, we’re going to have get comfortable with the police having tanks.

    (Also, I didn’t watch the “video produced by the Des Moines Register in which Washington police officials try to justify the possession of a vehicle it clearly has no use for,” but I did notice that among “the excuses” for getting one, there was no mention of the drug war. School shootings got a mention. Terrorists did too. But Drug War? It didn’t even get a Rick Perry-esque “Oops.”)

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      • I think it better to see it not as a redistribution of goods, but of services. The service of the military has been redistributed to first responders in response to 9/11 via laws including the Patriot Act and the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security.

        This has funneled both goods (tanks, weapons, night-vision goggles, etc.) and money to local law enforcement, and given them greater importance as an integral part of national defense.

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      • I see it as a simple case of supply and demand.

        It’s not like the DOD is trolling through America’s communities with broken equipment, saying, “Here, you throw this away.” No, law enforcement wants this stuff. The communities they serve want them to have it.

        Have you grappled with the idea that we’d have a less-militarized police force if we had a less-militarized citizenry?

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      • Herb

        Have you grappled with the idea that we’d have a less-militarized police force if we had a less-militarized citizenry?

        This is a testable hypothesis. Are the local jurisdictions which receive Pentagon grant hardware the ones which tend to have a higher rate of armed citizens?

        I very much doubt this is the case. But I’d be willing to see the data. It would certainly be far more persuasive than your baseless assertions.

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      • A higher rate of armed citizens with which the police are often assaulted by.

        Just because the local population is well armed does not mean the police have cause to be alarmed. 99.9+% of the time, people WANT to help the police, not oppose them. Unless they are doing something that might cause said local population to desire to take up arms against the police.

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      • MRS

        That’s a more relevant question, but not the one Herb’s post implies. He seems to say that police militarize according to the rate of civilian firearm ownership, not according to use of firearms against police.

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    • And in a heavily armed society, this is how you keep the peace. If we want an AR-15 in every gun cabinet, we’re going to have get comfortable with the police having tanks.

      Prior to the Drug War, the police were not in an active arms race with the general public. It wasn’t necessary, because except for the cases involving organized criminal gangs, the police could always bring more firepower to bear than a lone holdout could. Plus the police could lay siege and wait the person out.

      Once the drug war began, the gangs did not arm themselves against the police, they armed themselves against other gangs. The gangs rarely went toe to toe with the police because they knew it was never a winning proposition. The police, when they did raid drug gangs, would find military hardware, & would use that as the justification for up-arming themselves. Not because they were actively engaged with such weapons.

      Of course, Hollywood didn’t help by having a steady stream of movies with gangs trying to shoot it out with the cops all the time in epic gun battles that lasted 15 minutes.

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      • Sorry I have to say BS. The cops have never been in an arms race with the general public, only the criminals. The criminals used to use small caliber guns, .22, .25, .32, .380 until the congress clamped down on the small caliber “Saturday night specials.” The cops at the time all used .38, .357 or a 12 gauge shotgun. Without the cheap guns the criminals mostly went to 9mm. The NYPD didn’t catch up and issue 9mm Glocks until 1994. Which is amazing given that Glock started importing into the US in 1986. Heck, even the FBI didn’t start issuing 9mm until the 1980s and then mostly went to the SWAT guys. Most Agents were using a 6 shot S&W Model 13 chambered for .357 but firing a .38+p.

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      • notme,
        The criminals don’t use half the stuff they can get — particularly on police. It’s just bad for business.
        James,
        walking into an ambush is nobody’s idea of a cakewalk, no matter how well trained they are. (a grenade tends to work wonders… those aren’t legal here, are they?)

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      • The criminals get APVs armed with 30 cals, so the police get anti-mine vehicles armed with 50 cals. Right?

        I think you are confusing Iowa with Mexico. Unless those Iowa farm boys have been watching too many re-runs of The A-Team.

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      • Chris:
        Do you have anything more intelligent to say other than a poor spoof?

        Kim:
        “The criminals don’t use half the stuff they can get — particularly on police. It’s just bad for business.”
        Do you know this from personal experience or are you just mouthing off?

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      • J@m3z Aitch:
        It is caliber, training and number of rounds your weapon holds. Cops are trained in the basics of firearm usage but don’t shoot enough and don’t practice under real conditions to actually be competent. Sure you can kill someone with a .22lr but unless you can hit someone in the central nervous system under the stress of gun fight you aren’t going to stop them quickly and will have to wait until they bleed out which can take a while. Your best bet is to have a medium caliber weapon with a decent sized magazine. So I’ll take the Glock 19 with 17 rounds of 9mm over a 6 shot revolver in .357.

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    • Cops are not the only ones “moving from handguns to assault rifles.” And in a heavily armed society, this is how you keep the peace. If we want an AR-15 in every gun cabinet, we’re going to have get comfortable with the police having tanks.

      What!? Are you a staff writer for Salon.com?

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    • Yeah, rural Iowa is famous for its citizens upping the ante on high powered weaponry. Those deer get more aggressive and harder to kill every year. If you’ve never gone toe-to-toe with an 8 point buck wearing kevlar and wielding a Mac-10, you just don’t won’t understand the need.

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      • That argument would carry more weight if it were an increasingly dangerous time to be a cop vis-a-vis firearm deaths. Any number more than zero is a shame, of course, but only thirty-three cops were killed in gunfire last year and given the givens that’s a pretty low number. I don’t see much indication that we can thank this sort of thing for that low number, though.

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      • “given the givens that’s a pretty low number.”

        What are the givens? I’m not prepared to use firearm deaths as the only metric here. Maybe we should also include all the times police were fired on, even if the shooter didn’t hit anything but a parked car. Also relevant are officer-involved shootings, justified or not. I mean, we’re just counting dead cops?

        The guy who gets killed because a cop mistakes the glint of his beer can for the glint of a gun? Let’s count him, too. Add all those incidents up and you’ll get more than 33.

        In this case, instead of seeing which libertarian bumpersticker fits best, it might be useful to listen to the actual cops involved:

        “Goodman and his counterparts in other cities tend to describe the MRAP as merely “another tool” to keep officers safe when a pistol and body armor are insufficient.”

        Or

        “So Goodman envisions the MRAP as an extreme option during tense standoffs, (God forbid) school shootings or even a tornado.”

        Or

        “But it was this local scenario that convinced Goodman to puruse a MRAP: Friday marked the third anniversary of the death of Keokuk County sheriff’s deputy Eric Stein, who was shot and killed by a man with a history of mental illness during what became a four-hour standoff with 164 rounds fired.

        “It’s just the violent nature of what’s going on out there now,” Goodman said in favor of the MRAP to protect his 10 full-time and two part-time officers.”

        All quotes from this article:

        http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/local/kyle-munson/2014/04/05/munson-heavy-duty-military-equipment-police/7337463/

        Again, it’s a bit weird to blame the drug war, when the actual cops procuring this stuff are citing another factor.

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      • That’s because they’re lying, Herb. They’re lying to you. Once you take into account the fact that the guy in the middle of Bumblebee Iowa does not, in fact, need one of these things, it really clarifies his statements about why he needs one of these things.

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      • I’m not sure more cop deaths would make my argument in that comment any stronger. ;)


        If you think Will’s a libertarian you need to read more carefully. And if you think “libertarian bumper sticker” is an argument that’s going to impress anyone, you might be at the wrong blog. I’m not telling you to go away (it’s not my place to do so anyway), I’m just saying that the standards tend to be a little higher than that around here. It’s a cheap phrase that can be thrown both ways (liberals have bumper stickers, too, no?), but without encouraging either thought or real discussion.

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      • “It’s just the violent nature of what’s going on out there now,” Goodman said in favor of the MRAP to protect his 10 full-time and two part-time officers.”

        In fact violent crime is down, and Goodman is using an anecdote–in a case involving a mentally ill man, not plain old criminals–as evidence.

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      • I have grappled with the idea. Turns out it was absurd to begin with.

        When cops are being gunned down in numbers that make the old RoboCop movie look tame, or we are getting weekly reports of fire fights that are not initiated by one officer with bad trigger discipline starting a bullet cascade that leaves a neighborhood riddled, maybe you’ll have a point.

        As it is, the majority of police officer deaths are related to traffic accidents & accidents, not shootings.

        The guy who gets killed because a cop mistakes the glint of his beer can for the glint of a gun? Let’s count him, too. Add all those incidents up and you’ll get more than 33.

        Wait?! Let me get this straight? Gun owners like myself are to blame for officers having sloppy threat recognition & trigger discipline? It’s our fault police departments have rules of engagement so lax that soldiers in Afghanistan get nervous?

        Riiiight….

        Let’s try a more realistic cause & effect. Police have swallowed their own “Hero Cop” propaganda whole. They are all Heroes doing a Tough & Dangerous Job & they all just want to go home at the end of the night. They, or perhaps it is we, have elevated police to being more equal. It is more important that they go home to their families at the end of the shift than it is that any of the rest of us do.

        Don’t believe me? Ask yourself, how often do police get brought up on charges when they kill someone under questionable circumstances? And on the rare occasion when they do face charges, how often does a jury convict, even in the face of evidence that would clearly convict a common citizen?

        “So Goodman envisions the MRAP as an extreme option during tense standoffs, (God forbid) school shootings or even a tornado.”

        Unless he intends to chase off the tornado with the MRAP, this is a crap reason. Same with standoffs. You don’t need a massive mine-resistant vehicle during a standoff or active shooter. If you do, you need to pull your officers back & ask the governor to deploy some National Guard troops, because you are seriously out of your depth, or you should spend more on your officer training & less on trying to operate & maintain an MRAP.

        who was shot and killed by a man with a history of mental illness during what became a four-hour standoff with 164 rounds fired.

        Again, if you have 4 hours to spend trading gun fire with a single gunman, you have time to call in support from other agencies & maneuver your men to end the situation. As an aside, that was the first time in 25 years any cop in Iowa was killed while on duty.

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      • What are the givens? I’m not prepared to use firearm deaths as the only metric here. Maybe we should also include all the times police were fired on, even if the shooter didn’t hit anything but a parked car. Also relevant are officer-involved shootings, justified or not. I mean, we’re just counting dead cops?

        No, because officer-involved shootings where the officer did the shooting does not justify giving officers bigger and better guns. I don’t see how it would.

        There may be other metrics to use, but officer deaths and injuries are where the rubber hits the road. I haven’t seen anything to indicate that the guns in the hands of the citizenry warrants or justifies the militarization described in this article. People killed by cops is the opposite of a great argument for giving cops bigger and better weapons.

        You may be on to something that there is too much assumption that War on Drugs being the rationale. Looks to me like they’re increasingly going with “Terrorism!” But I’m afraid I don’t put much faith in the notion that this sort of thing wouldn’t be happening or necessary if only we had tighter gun control.

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      • ““Goodman and his counterparts in other cities tend to describe the MRAP as merely “another tool” to keep officers safe when a pistol and body armor are insufficient.””

        How often are a pistol and body armor insufficient?

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      • Against even small caliber rifle fire, most police body armor is useless (kevlar can’t stop rifle rounds except at extreme range, which is why military body armor is made of ceramic plates; see Dragon Skin).

        In the rare case when police have to deal with a person attacking them with a rifle, they have their own rifles to return fire with (almost every department has at least a 12 gauge shotgun &/or AR-15/M-16 rifle in the car).

        Still, such situations are incredibly and arguably the police always win because they have numbers & training on their side.

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      • Will T,

        You may be on to something that there is too much assumption that War on Drugs being the rationale. Looks to me like they’re increasingly going with “Terrorism!”

        I think that’s right, myself. If I were forced to offer an account of the increased militarization of the police, I’d pin it on an ever-present and increasing fear, held by TPTB, of the break down of social order. That if not for the demonstration of overwhelming killing-power, the unruly mobs known as citizens might get all riotus. Personally, I think that the motivation for the war on drugs was a pretense to ramp up the social control aspect of police forces rather than the other way around.

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      • After 9/11, there was this massive backtracking of Mohammad Attah’s trip through Maine; and I think a lot of this is rooted there. There were numbers of places where, if they’d known to look for him, local law enforcement would have been able to pick him up.

        And the logic of that is that if they’d known to pick him up, they’d have needed military-capable equipment or something.

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      • zic,
        Sure. But despite the logic, no one’s killed a small town in rural Iowa recently. Psychological impact on America would be devastating. All it would take would be a few snipers — no need for suicide.

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      • “And if you think “libertarian bumper sticker” is an argument that’s going to impress anyone, you might be at the wrong blog.”

        I’ve encountered Will on other blogs. He’s always been very thoughtful and gracious, even when I disagree with him.

        You should try it sometime.


        “That’s because they’re lying, Herb. ”

        Sure, assume bad faith. Based on what? The fact that they’re cops?

        For what it’s worth, I do not agree with their logic. I am merely pointing out that’s the logic they hold.

        Stepping back a bit, way up top, Jason wrote:

        “This is your war on drugs:”

        And yet by their own account, the cops seem to think it’s part of “the war on heavily-armed criminals.”

        Then this:

        “If it is to mean anything at all, “freedom” must include not having to live under military occupation.”

        My point, of course, is that it’s not so simple. If one want citizens to have unlimited access to deadly weaponry, one should be prepared to accept that the police will seek to be better armed themselves. If you’re not prepared to accept that…a philosophical rethink might be in order on one issue or the other.

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      • For what it’s worth, I do not agree with their logic. I am merely pointing out that’s the logic they hold.

        My point, of course, is that it’s not so simple. If one want citizens to have unlimited access to deadly weaponry, one should be prepared to accept that the police will seek to be better armed themselves. If you’re not prepared to accept that…a philosophical rethink might be in order on one issue or the other.

        So you don’t agree with their logic (that they are in an arms race with the common citizenry), but actually you do?

        You are going to have to clarify here, Herb, because it sounds like you are ready to give the cops a pass because private citizens can own EBRs (Evil Black Rifles).

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      • “So you don’t agree with their logic (that they are in an arms race with the common citizenry), but actually you do?”

        Let me be clear: Do I think the police need a tank to respond to school shootings?

        Hell no.

        But I’m a liberal. I’m comfortable with regulations that restrict weaponry for both the citizenry and the police.

        Most conservatives, especially of the law and order variety, are just the opposite. They’re fine with both citizens and the police having pretty much unfettered access to all kinds of weaponry.

        It’s the libertarians who argue for unlimited gun rights while scratching their heads about why cops want tanks.

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    • OK, let’s think about what you are saying. We have two different phenomena to consider:

      A: The very real militarization of police departments against a backdrop of police brutality and unprofessional behavior.

      B: Your claim that we are a heavily armed society where “we want an AR-15 in every gun cabinet.

      And your argument is that B somehow causes, and to some measure, justifies A. Is that right? Am I missing something? If not, let’s consider all the ways that this argument is absurd.

      1. I question the accuracy of statement B. Certainly America has a lot more personal gun ownership, so, sure, let’s call it a heavily armed society. Although, I’ve been plenty of other places where the presence of guns is a lot more obvious than it is in America. And your claim that “we want” everyone to have an assault rifle is most certainly nonsense. Lots of Americans have no desire to own a gun. Lots of other Americans want a handgun or a hunting rifle, but not an AR. The number of Americans who want an AR is a small fraction of the total population.

      2. What exactly is the causality between A and B? The number of times that a legally owned assault rifle gets used in an incident that requires a paramilitary response is really really small. The number of police departments arming themselves with military-grade gear is significantly larger. The numbers don’t add up.

      3. Why do you take what cops say at face value? Of course, the police are going to say that the need this equipment, even though school shootings and legitimate terrorist threats are a tiny portion of their normal law enforcement duties. Instead of resorting to same tenuous link with gun ownership, you’d be better of looking at various political science/management theories that explain this sort of mission creep/administrative bloat/bureaucratic empire building.

      4. Even if you could demonstrate causality, why is this something that we ought to “get comfortable with?” Would you say that for any other set of rights? Since Americans have an expansive set of freedoms regarding speech and expression, we better get comfortable with a government that increasingly resorts to nefarious propaganda methods to implement its policies. Since Americans have an increasing number of options to protect the privacy of their data and secure their online identities, we better get comfortable with a government that resorts to increasingly sophisticated methods of invading our privacy. Do you go around making those sorts of arguments?

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  12. Pingback: Why Third Parties Can’t Solve What You Think They Can | Ordinary Times

  13. Have you grappled with the idea that we’d have a less-militarized police force if we had a less-militarized citizenry?

    Sorry all, I just can’t let this go. This very idea is just offensive! It’s like saying, “Oh, our police would just be so much nicer and less violent if the general population was less threatening and more submissive.”

    Ask Kelly Thomas, or Mark Byrge, or countless others, how well they were treated by police while cooperative or submissive or otherwise not a threat.

    I have a better idea, how about we remind our police that they are our neighbors, not our betters, and that they owe us all some basic respect & human decency.

    And if they are so worried about the danger their job entails, perhaps they need a career change. I hear commercial fishing & logging is nice & safe.

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    • No need to apologize. The argument is incoherent and places the blame on the citizenry. It’s particularly ironic because the particular case we’re talking about is a pretty peaceful part of the country, too, where the police probably get a fair amount of respect.

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    • I think Herb makes a legitimate point. In some developed world countries police forces carrying guns is the exception rather than the rule (e.g. Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, and most of the UK). All those societies have lower per-capita gun ownership rates than the US – the US ranks #1 in firearms per capita. The US also has the highest homicide by firearm rate in the OECD. The US has 5% of the world’s population and 35%-50% of the world’s civilian owned guns (according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey). Now, correlation is not causation, etc., etc., but the US could more easily sustain a less militarized police force with a less well-armed citizenry.

      The absurdly loose gun control regime in the US and abundance of firearms in the US might not have direct bearing on whether a town in Iowa really needs an MRAP, but in terms of the level of arms police forces feel its appropriate to maintain, having such an armed citizenry may very well have a knock on impact on policing and what US police commissioners feel they must maintain more generally.

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      • I want to make a few points for emphasis from the data source I linked above.

        1. “Firearms-related fatalities (for police) reached a 126-year low in 2013 with 33 officers shot and killed, the lowest since 1887 when 27 officers were shot and killed.”

        2. “Handguns were the leading type of firearm used in fatal shootings of law enforcement officers in 2013. Of the 33 officer fatalities, 58 percent were shot and killed with a handgun.”

        3. “Ambush attacks were again the leading circumstance of officer fatalities in firearms-related deaths.”

        So cop-deaths by guns are the lowest in 1 1/4 centuries; most that do occur are committed with handguns, not assault rifles or heavy weaponry; and the leading circumstance is ambush attacks, against which higher firepower isn’t really so helpful.

        And somehow that justifies the police having much more heavy weaponry than in the past?

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      • And somehow that justifies the police having much more heavy weaponry than in the past?

        I haven’t read all the comments, but from what I have I don’t think either Herb or Creon are saying that private ownership of guns justifies the militarization of the police. I think they’re just pointing out a causal connection, one which they could be wrong about. Personally, I’m inclined to think they’re right. At least in part.

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      • I should have said “explain,” rather than “justify.”

        But as to causality if it wete causal, then we’d predict police demands would be declinining, no? Unless we have a negative correlation, in which case if police deaths by gun begin to increase again we’d see the police asking for less firepower…and I don’t think anyone wants to place a wager on that hypothesis.

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      • Is there evidence that the citizenry is actually getting more heavily armed?

        There’s some evidence that points in both directions. On the one hand, the number of US households with firearms has gone down over recent decades (1977 54% of households, 2013 34% of households) [1]. On the other hand the number of background checks (not a perfect indicator of gun sales) has gone up over the past decade, with 2013 marking the 11th straight year of increases – 2005 9 million NICS checks, 2008 12.7 million checks, 2013 21 million NICS checks [2, 3]. And gunmakers reportedly had a very good 2013.

        I’m uncertain as to the answers to your other questions. You are right that fewer officer deaths is a point against up-armored local policing.

        Here’s a hypothetical, it is from Mark Kleiman and I know he was using it in a totally different policy context (drug policy) if I recall correctly. Anyway, it goes something like this, imagine you’re putting together a policing strategy for an event at a stadium. Does it make any difference whether alcohol will be served/permitted on premises or not?

        I think the sensible answer is yes. The kinds of challenges police will be expected to respond to at an event with alcohol versus an event without alcohol will differ in significant ways that you, hypothetical police commissioner, will need to take into account – your crowd control tactics might differ, the ratio of police officers to event attendees might differ, and so on.

        Now doesn’t the same apply for firearms? You’re policing a society with the #1 firearms ownership per capita rate in the world, a society with nearly a gun for every man, woman, and child in the country, versus policing a society where civilian gun ownership is far less prevalent. I’d expect the policing posture and tactics to differ. It does make sense to link the idea of de-militarization of the police force with more stringent control over guns in the society generally.

        Again, this doesn’t specifically justify a town in Iowa obtaining an MRAP, but it speaks to structural factors we ought to consider – not to displace of the war on drugs, but in addition to considering the war on drugs.

        [1] Gunpolicy.org
        [2] “Gun Sales Exploded In The Year After Newtown Shooting” by Zach Carter in HuffPo
        [3] “Gun Patents Set 35-Year Record as Limits on Sales Fail” by Decker and Chen in Bloomberg

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      • Creon,

        The problem with your analogy is that there’s no change in American firearms ownership that correlates with the change in police weaponry. The U.S. had loose gun laws and was the #1 firearms owning country in the world before this law passed to encourage DOD donations to local law enforcement.

        Sure, our armed citizenry may justify an armed police, but we already had that, and nobody here is critiquing that. What has to be explained is the change in police armaments, and the armed citizenry factor can’t do that.

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      • Here are two characterizations by Herb. First this, “If we want an AR-15 in every gun cabinet, we’re going to have get comfortable with the police having tanks.”, uses hyperbole that’s less helpful.

        But later in the discussion Herb writes, “Have you grappled with the idea that we’d have a less-militarized police force if we had a less-militarized citizenry?”

        I think the question Herb poses is worthwhile. It doesn’t speak only to accounting for change. It speaks to examining what existing structures are in place. I don’t think that examination is offensive or incoherent.

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      • “Have you grappled with the idea that we’d have a less-militarized police force if we had a less-militarized citizenry?”

        Are there parts of the country that are (relatively) less militarized? Can we do a comparison between those areas and the levels of militarization of the region? Can we compare them to the (relatively) more militarized ones?

        Surely this is measurable.

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      • One of the big complaints of mayors of some cities, I know Bloomberg complained about it, is that light touch gun control in some parts of the country means guns are purchased there and then transported to other parts of the country where they are used in crimes. The militarization versus non-militarization examples I presented are policing in the UK, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, etc. Offhand, I know for sure the UK has really strict gun control laws. Also, knowing the US has the highest firearms per capita means all of these other examples have fewer guns per capita.

        Admittedly, this is comment box sociology, not peer-reviewed journal causation cites. But to me, the transnational comparisons don’t signal the wisdom of the Second Amendment as we currently interpret it, and they do signal a connection between having more gun control and having more kinder, gentler policing.

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      • later in the discussion Herb writes, “Have you grappled with the idea that we’d have a less-militarized police force if we had a less-militarized citizenry?”

        My prior comment covers this. Because then militarization of police would track militarization of the citizenry. But what we have is militarization of police increasing disproportionately to the militarization of the citizenry.

        It’s not cops with guns we’re trying to explain, it’s the change in police armament. Unless citizen armament has also changed, an armed citizenry cannot explain the police change.

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      • I, for one, didn’t have a problem with bringing up the (alleged) connection. I did grapple with it, but ultimately found that there still wasn’t much there there.

        “Have you grappled with the idea that we’d have a less-militarized police force if we had a less-militarized citizenry?”

        This brings to light the following questions:

        1. Is the militarized police force a necessary response? Is it a true dichotomy that we can have an armed populace or a militarized police or neither? I’d argue that this is a false dichotomy. The militarized police is not a necessary response. There isn’t a particularly clear link to it and the amount of violence against police and I don’t think we can equate the relative lack of against-police gun violence to the militarization.

        2. Is an armed populace necessary for a militarized police force? This is a question that should be looked at internationally. Do countries (let’s assume democratic ones here) with more gun restrictions have a less militarized police force? I honestly don’t know, but there may be a point here.

        3. Does an armed populace make militarized police inevitable? Regardless of whether we like them or not, is there any way to avoid having the militarized police without strong restrictions on guns? I’d argue that it’s not inevitable, it may be a part of a confluence of issues that make a militarized police at least predictable, if not perhaps inevitable.

        4. If we accept 2 or 3, would stringent gun control allow us to roll back the militarization? I suspect not, though different perspectives will differ. Given the lack of data to suggest that the militarized police is in fact justified by actual violence against police, I think we’ve crossed a threshold where the militarization justifies itself in the eyes of interested parties. The number of guns out there would continue to “justify” it in perpetuity.

        5. If we grant 2 or 3, is that an argument in favor of stringent gun control? This is a matter of political opinion. I would say it’s an argument, but not a decisive one. Even if a militarized police is an inevitable consequence, one could conclude that the right to bear arms is more essential to freedom.

        6. Would making that argument in 5 be inconsistent if 2 or 3 is true? I don’t think so. That part goes back to 1. As long as they can make the case that we should be able to have guns without a militarized police, it’s not inconsistent to criticize both gun control and militarized police. One can “grapple” with it and come to that conclusion.

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      • Will,

        The thing is, the issue here is not just an armed police force. Nobody’s questioned that, and that’s not what the post is about. The post is about a shift from our traditionally armed police to police increasingly using military-grade weaponry.

        We had an armed citizenry and an armed police force before. Now we have an armed citizenry and a militarized police force. The citizenry hasn’t changed, the police have. A constant can’t explain a change in a variable.

        I didn’t “mind” Herb bringing it up, but it didn’t take any grappling.anytime you see no change in X and a change in Y, you don’t need to grapple with the question of whether X caused the change in Y.

        Now if the issue was in fact about whether with an armed populace we could get away with not having armed police, that’d be a question requiring grappling.

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      • Background checks going from 5 million in 2005 to 21 million in 2013 is a change. I’m having a hard time tracking down gun sales data. Though, percentage of households with firearms has been in decline since 1977. It is a mixed bag. (Here, http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/03/chart-day-gun-ownership-30-year-decline )

        There’s another Mother Jones piece with a chart of number of civilian firearms versus US population that’s worth looking at, in this piece “More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?” by Mark Follman:

        America has long been heavily armed relative to other societies, and our arsenal keeps growing. A precise count isn’t possible because most guns in the United States aren’t registered and the government has scant ability to track them, thanks to a legislative landscape shaped by powerful pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. But through a combination of national surveys and manufacturing and sales data, we know that the increase in firearms has far outpaced population growth. In 1995 there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Today [written in Dec. 2012], there are around 300 million—about a 50 percent jump. The US population, now over 314 million, grew by about 20 percent in that period. At this rate, there will be a gun for every man, woman, and child before the decade ends.

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      • I think it’s worth noting that this isn’t really a forward shift as it is a regression.

        I mean it wasn’t really until the 1830s when London became by far the largest western city since the fall of the Western Roman Empire that professional policing was even a thing. Until then the biggest use of standing armies was to serve as law enforcement of one stripe or another, and the main aim of its use was to pacify its own citizenry. The concept of public felonies didn’t really develop until the 19th century in a lot of places, and private prosecution or mayoral courts were the norm.

        I find it interesting in some ways because non-paramilitary police forces were created precisely as a counter to militarization of law enforcement and the need to place more focus on the citizenry being able to trust their property and lives to the state. In which case, it became less about using force as a means of protecting property as one where, essentially, the state provided forced arbitration.

        I honestly think it might be best if in the US cops were disarmed absent exceptional circumstances, and only those circumstances should be one that merit the inclusion of state police units. (I also think cops should be forced to wear google glass style recording devices whenever on duty but I’m told that’s not reasonable)

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      • I tend to agree with most of Will’s findings of not-necessary relationships, but mostly think that doesn’t change the point of Herb’s proposition. I.e., it’s not necessary that, even given different surrounding circumstances, more public armament would have to lead to more police armament, and the negative of that. But I don’t think Herb was making that assertion (which doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering).

        I happen to think it’s only very slightly more likely than not, if at all, that in our actual society today, if the populace became less armed, the police would too, or that the police became more armed primarily because the citizenry did. But Herb wasn’t asking whether it’s an iron law that it will happen in any society, perhaps mitigated by various variables so that the connection is less in some places and more in others. He was asking whether, in our society, this would happen or did happen.

        I also don’t think Herb was thinking of gun control when he postulated a less armed citizenry. Will I think starts to ask a good question when he says, “Does an armed populace make militarized police inevitable? Regardless of whether we like them or not, is there any way to avoid having the militarized police without…” But I’d like that question to finish out with, “…avoiding an increase in the armament of the population?” rather than, “…[without] strong restrictions on guns?”, because I think Herb really means to be comparing countries with different natural levels of gun-ownership (or different levels of gun ownership in a country), not different gun control regimes in the same country. And that’s something that Will says he may have a point about.

        So whether there is anything that can be done to avoid having a higher degree of public armament lead to greater police armament isn’t really responsive to the question whether a decrease in public armament, with nothing else being changed, would lead to a lower level of police armament, or whether an increase in armament in the citizenry in fact led to the increase in the arms of the police. They’re both good questions, but they’re different questions.

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      • Creon,

        Several things leave me unpersuaded.

        1. You haven’t shown any change in the type of weaponry civilians are buying–e.g., more firepower–to explain a need for a change in the police’s type of weaponry.

        2. Is the population actually more armed, or just certain people more armed? A bunch of Mad Rocket Scientists owning 5 guns instead of 3 is neither explanatory nor justificatory.

        3. I really think the decline in violent crime in general, and shootings of police in particular, wipe out the significance of any increase in gun ownership. If the increased number of guns is not producing an increase in cop-shootings, there’s no there there.

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      • Just to jump here with a different view. Could the increased militarization be partially more about fashion or style. Mostly in the types of guns used it seems like in the gun market in general over the last 20-30 military style guns are much more popular as opposed to the old style hunting rifle. My memory is that in the 70- and 80’s most guns were pistols, bolt action hunting rifles and shotguns. In the last couple decades AR 15’s and all sorts of military style weapons have become much more popular. To some extent it seems like cops are just following the trend of what is popular to buy. Many of them read all the same gun mags and are private gun owners so it seems like they would just as prone to follow fashion.

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      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m getting an uncomfortable feeling that the liberals in this subthread are rather excusing the militarization of the police. Maybe its only because it seems to link well with their general discomfort with American gun culture–a discomfort I am not criticizing–but it could be easy to read this as thread as being very unconcerned about the militarization of the police.

        And I’m wondering if I’m losing my liberal allies in the battle to protect citizens from police excess.

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      • It’d be really hard to find liberals who don’t dislike the police in general and militarization specifically. I mean a lot of the things that liberals hate people like Sheriff Arapaio for is due to the brutal and paramilitary nature of their forces.

        I don’t think we’re rationalizing so much as trying to find the root cause. Because the militarization also has to have some sort of cultural basis. I think the problem isn’t we’re rationalizing, but trying too hard to deconstruct. The question therefore becomes: Has American society become more militarized as a whole in the last 20 years. What would be considered the right metric to look into it? Gun sales is one, but my gut instinct is that the type of rhetoric and the type of behavior used by both law enforcement AND civilians, plus an unthinking support of militarism in some sectors of the right have contributed to it.

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      • James, my read would be that when you said you should have said “explain” rather than “justify,” that wasn’t right. You meant justify because that’s in fact the thing you’re interested in (reasonably), and you’re seeing these postulates about causality through a normative lens of your own. If people are looking for a cause and that cause isn’t X, it’s likely they are looking to do that in order to normatively justify the phenomenon (and I actually am not clear what X would have to be for you not feel that way). This is frequently how people strongly interested in the normative aspects of a question interpret efforts to explain causes, especially when those efforts seem somewhat strained. I speak from experience.

        In terms of motivation for possibly strained efforts at finding a cause of some particular sort, I think Jason gave people all the reason necessary to be motivated to postulate about causes when he went out of his way to pin the cause on anyone whose political thought runs in the mainstream.

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      • James i agree Libs and Libs can work together on this and are far more in agreement then not. i don’t’ really see liberals being soft on cops. As Nob said they seem to be trying to look for a root cause. I’d rather see all the old APC’s and mil stuff sit in front of a VFW then with the cops. I don’t’ think you can separate what has happened with cops from the rest of society. Dirty Harry, besides being a great movie, also spoke deeply to a lot of peoples need for righteous violence and safety from various fears.

        I think most of this theorizing is vague and can’t really be quantified. My guess is that there is a large subset of the population who are on the authoritarian side who really believe in the moral and positive value of violence. That group are the strongest supporters of our wars, join the military in high proportions, tend to really love and collect a lot of guns and are more likely to be cops. There are certainly plenty of people in the military, cops and gun owners who don’t’ fit that profile well.

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      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m getting an uncomfortable feeling that the liberals in this subthread are rather excusing the militarization of the police.

        I didn’t say it explicitly, but I think it is absolutely brilliant that most police in the UK, and a few other countries don’t carry firearms. To me, it says really positive things about their societies. On the flip side, it says some deeply troubling things about our society that we were recently discussing whether elementary school teachers should be armed, or discussing adding armed guards to schools.

        I think gun culture in the US is astounding, bizarre, an outlier in the developed world, and contributes to the United States’ extraordinary levels of violence when compared to peers. And the Second Amendment, as currently interpreted, is a bizarre 18th century anachronism that can’t be reinterpreted to put 21st century strictures on gun ownership soon enough.

        I put the militarization of the police critique in that broader context and say more gun control for everyone. I’m not sure where libertarians stand on more gun control for the general public, so feel free to share your opinions.

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      • Gun control isn’t really my issue. I’m generally in favor of gun rights, but not enamored of the NRA. I don’t own any guns myself, but I’ve had a lot of friends who do.

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    • Sorry, spliced together two things in error. Thus I have said both 5 million background checks and 9 million background checks in 2005. The 9 million figure is correct. The 5 million figure relates to gun sales and is from the linked MJ piece and it is not background checks. Here’s the author of that piece,

      Still, unit gun sales seem to have gone up pretty explosively between 2005-10, doubling from around 5 million per year to 10 million per year. FBI background checks, a proxy for gun sales to individuals, have gone up too.

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      • Maybe this is just me, but it feels like there’s been a more militarized tone to handling societal problems in America as a shift between the 90s to the 2000s. As much as the Drug Wars are costly, I think the tendency for paramilitary cops comes more from citizenry’s fear of terrorism more than a desire to prosecute more drug users.

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  14. Police have swallowed their own “Hero Cop” propaganda whole. They are all Heroes doing a Tough & Dangerous Job & they all just want to go home at the end of the night. They, or perhaps it is we, have elevated police to being more equal. It is more important that they go home to their families at the end of the shift than it is that any of the rest of us do.

    I think this confuses things by inserting the hero concept, which is one that is hard to really take the measure of. Consider taking the undefined and “Hero” language out:

    Police are all doing a Tough & Dangerous Job & they all just want to go home at the end of the night. It is more important (to them) that they go home to their families at the end of the shift than it is that any of the rest of us do.

    This seems like an extremely plausible account of a typical police officer’s self-conception. They’re doing a dangerous job that needs to be done, but they’d like to go home at night, in fact they’d like to go home at night more than they’d like anyone else to go home at night.

    Is that the attitude of a hero? I would say no. A hero would genuinely care more about others going home at night more than them. I don’t think most cops feel that way, ergo I don’t think they’re heroes. But if you ask just about any cop, you’re likely to also hear them say that they don’t think they’re heroes. We interpret that as false modesty. Maybe it’s honest? It lines up with their actual demonstrated attitudes about their own safety.

    So maybe it’s precisely because they haven’t swallowed enough hero talk about them that we see so much pursuit of definitive firepower and armor dominance over even near-preposterous notions about potential threats. Maybe there is a smaller cadre of heroes who would be willng to serve in a less-armed force, but there aren’t enough of them to fill out forces to the degree that is necessary to provide some deciding part of the public with police forces that are as large as they would like to see. This necessitates the recruitment of a large number of people into police forces who are not risk-tolerant enough to serve in a “heroic” less armed force, which requires, or at least gives rise to, over-the-top measures like this one and many others to lower the perceived risk of service in municipal police forces.

    Maybe what’s actually needed is more willingness to acknowledge the heroism of police officers, so long as it’s in the context of service that accepts the greater risk of serving on a less armed force. This, though, would require acceptance of two conditions. First, it would require the acceptance of both a less armed force (I think not a few people are in fact comforted by the idea that the police’s firepower will always overmatch the firepower of the general population, and if the firepower of the population is perceived to be on the rise, then some people might actually not want to see a less armed police force). Second, it would require, or at least likely result in, a smaller force, as fewer people will be willing to serve on a less armed force, as that is perceived to be a more dangerous job. People often don’t like police, but when you want a police officer to be available you want her to be available, and smaller forces mean less availability. To some extent smaller police forces are a reduction in municipal service that people feel just like reductions in sanitation or transit service. (To some extent, of course, it’s felt in a very different and more positive way, of course.)Maybe we should both regard police officers as – and expect them to be – heroes.

    Realistically, though, I don’t think that’s what the marginal person in either group really wants. I don’t think police for the most part really think of themselves as heroes nor do they want to be heroes, and while I think some on the population do think of police as heroes, I don’t think in general they actually want them acting like heroes. I think the marginal person in the population doesn’t want police work to be one jot more dangerous than it has to be, with spending and provision of dominant force for police being a means something they affirmatively do want to use to advance that objective.

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  15. Just to point out: There’s a whole lot of speculation in comments on this post about levels of ownership.

    Our federal government was forbidden, by law, from studying guns, even though they’re a leading cause of death for people under the age of 40.

    That changed last year, and there’s an IOM report:
    http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/Priorities-for-Research-to-Reduce-the-Threat-of-Firearm-Related-Violence.aspx

    The report summary evokes much of what Mike Dyer (and others) have written here, particularly during the Gun Symposium. It is very clear that more data and better methods of cross-referencing existing data are needed to understand gun violence; and hones in on a couple of specific problems — hand guns and guns in households where domestic violence is a problem.

    Personally, I hope the ‘more data’ part includes more data on the problems of police use of guns, including the need for things like tanks upon which guns are typically mounted.

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    • And I should mention, if you haven’t spent some time there yet, the IOM reports make for some pretty interesting reading. I veritable treasure trove there, I say. Everything from literacy to health standards for space exploration to conflicts of interest in medical innovation.

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  16. “As long as they can make the case that we should be able to have guns without a militarized police, it’s not inconsistent to criticize both gun control and militarized police. One can “grapple” with it and come to that conclusion.”

    Post sunset of the AWB, post Heller, post nearly every gun control measure going down in flames, I don’t think “gun control” should really even be on the table. My original point was to steer this away from the usual drug war stuff, because that’s not what’s really driving this MRAP business.

    It’s notable that one of the justifications was “school shootings,” as we all know there’s been quite a few of those and a huge debate on how best to handle them. Gun control, as I’ve said, is out. It had it’s day. It lost. It’s done.

    But it seems to me that the thinking goes…if we can’t control the guns on the street, at the least we can have a well-armed police force to deal with it. It’s taking the idea of “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” and endorsing it with a fricking tank. Law and order conservative are into the idea. (Joe Arpaio.) Liberals can be persuaded. (School shootings! Mad gunmen!)

    Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say there’s a causal relationship between a post-Heller world and police departments with tanks. But there is certainly a correlation.

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  17. After perusing the comments a few thoughts come to mind:

    1. An MRAP isn’t an offensive weapon. It’s basically just a heavily armored personnel carrier. It’s a post-apocalyptic bus.

    So… the very same people that deride gun-control advocates for wanting to ban military-style “assault weapons” solely because they’re “scary” looking… are now all upset over a scary-looking bus.

    2. I mean… let’s be real here. What horrible act of tyrannical terror do you imagine Barney Fife can actually accomplish with this thing? Where you see police-state dystopia I see utterly pointless, horribly expensive, government waste. More ridiculous than frightening.

    The only time this thing will even be started will be for the 4th of July parade. Then they’ll park it in front of the P.D. where it’ll sink about six inches into the hot asphalt.

    3. I struggle to understand the mindset that steadfastly defends the right of any paranoid, conspiracy-minded yahoo to purchase and own any military-grade hardware, in any quantities, he wants, because… Freedom! But then turns around and screams about tyranny when the cops get the exact same stuff.

    Personally, I’m less than enthused about either situation, but I guess that just proves I’m looking at it wrong.

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    • 1. Of course some of us don’t hold such extreme views. You’re arguing the easy case.

      2. The MRAP is a symbol of a bigger problem. If you don’t think the increasingly militaristic tendencied of American police aren’t worrisome, I encourage you to read Radley Balko’s book. Whether you end up agreeing or not, you’ll have a better sense of the argument.

      And suggesting a book makes me wonder–totally off-topic–do you listen to books on tape (CDs or something now, I suppose), when you’re on the road?

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      • I would have considered this post in a different way if I had thought we were supposed to consider the MRAP program as just one more symbol or equal increment of the unfolding of the process we know about from Balko and the news, etc., and thus the post as just another occasion to bring up the harmfulness of the overall process. I didn’t get that sense. I got the sense that we were supposed to look at this surplus MRAP program as an outsized incremental movement in the process and a particularly disconcerting initiative entirely on its own terms, though obviously also as an alarming escalation of the process as well.

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      • — To quote Balko:

        we have allowed, and even encouraged, police officers to basically be armed like, police like, use the tactics of, be dressed like and adopt the mind set of these soldiers,” he said at a CSPAN forum last summer. “And the outcome is just as troubling, I think, as if the military were actually doing domestic police themselves.”

        — Where did Jason suggest “outsized incremental,” and “alarming escalation”? This has been going on for a while. I take Jason as just pointing out another example that highlights the ridiculousness of it, with its contrast between equipment designed for war zones and generally peaceful rural Iowa.

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      • Jason obviously didn’t use enough of his own words to make clear that’s what he meant. I’m just saying that’s how I took it. The example being the thing that used up the large majority of the words and space in the post, I thought we were being told the example is especially troubling on its own terms. I’m happy to just consider it as a not particularly remarkable increment in the process if that’s how it was intended.

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      • I thought I was clear but apparently not. My bad. So to clarify: I am very concerned about the militarization of the cops. I don’t need to be convinced by Balko.

        The difference between us is that I’m also concerned about the militarization of certain quarters of the civilian gun culture. I’m not inferring a causal relationship from one to the other, but rather that they’re aspects of the same phenomenon.

        And frankly, it seems to me to be a consequence of general right-wingery. Did you happen to catch any of Wayne LaPierre’s address at CPAC? The part I heard was all “be afraid, be very afraid, and get a gun fer Gawd’s sake!”

        I’m getting a little bit more than tired of being told by libertarians that, as a liberal who nominally supports the Democrats, I’m responsible for this kind of crap given how libertarians have spent the last forty years getting all cuddly with Republicans. Your tribe has clearly prioritized economic issues (tax cuts) over civil liberties but you then arrogantly scold liberals when we do the same (HC, etc.). Quit doing that please.

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      • J@m3z Aitch:
        Balko speaks in such general terms it is ridiculous when he says “to basically be armed like, police like, use the tactics of, be dressed like and adopt the mind set of these soldiers.” Take the M1 carbine, which stated off life as a military weapon but after the WW2 was used by police as well. Balko seems to assume that if a weapon goes from the military to police, that is a sure sign of “militarization” whatever that is. Both the police and military must be armed to do their job and sometime the weapons are the same but it doesn’t automatically mean “militarization.” Police operate under different rules such as such as the rules governing their use of force. Not to mention that Balko’s fixed world view doesn’t seem to allow the police to change the way they operate based on the changes in society and technology.

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      • I get you. I don’t think the two issues are related. They could be, but I just don’t really see it. Of course if they are related, the increasing militarization of the police and the growing tendency of the federal government to spy on its citizens could as arguably be the causal factor as the other way ’round.

        As to my “tribe,” I kind of think you’ve probably noticed by now that libertarians like Jason and I do prioritize civil liberties issues. There’s overlap, but certainly nothing like synonymity, between Big L Libertarian Party libertarians, and small l libertarians, and there’s a good reason Obama reportedly won more of the small l libertarian vote than McCain in ’08 (although, of course, he betrayed all us civil libertarians).

        But of course it’s also true that there’s no bright line dividing civil liberties and economic issues. Laws that make it hard for an individual to start their own business, or that force them to pay more to some big business than they would in a freer market, those are civil liberties issues as well. I think liberals in general don’t recognize the extent to which small-l libertarians are concerned about the rights of small-time folks to determine their own lives.

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      • No, those are specifics. Police used to wear slacks, button down shirts, and dress shoes (although the latter struck me as not a great idea). Now they’re more likely to wear combat style boots, 5.11 tactical gear, and even balaclava masks.

        An MRAP–a military vehicle, in contrast to police cars–is specific, not vague.

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      • J@m3z Aitch:
        Shirts, boots and pants are merely window dressing. You and Balko seem to argue that cops have to dress like Officer Krupke from West Side Story and carry six shot revolvers otherwise be considered militarized.

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  18. Damn, I’m on travel for a week (which made posting hard, for some reason I could not post from the hotel), and by the time I’m done getting over jet lag & reconnecting with my family, this whole thread has just gone super-nova.

    Sigh…

    MRAPs are the ultimate Zombie Proof RV, and on the surface, quite defensive. Right up until the Sheriff lets some doughy ex-action star get behind the wheel & s/he drives the damn thing through someone’s front door because their kid has a pot plant in his room.

    Other’s

    Civilians can easily own Semi-auto rifles (a technology that pre-dates WWI) & have owned semi-auto rifles for over a century. They have always been popular, but only since the 80’s have they become the focus of the media & the vilified by the gun control movement (& thus popular with the gun rights crowd, for various reasons). Civilians can also own full-auto guns made before 1986, but the supply of such weapons is extremely limited, such that the cost to legally own one is $5K or more, and you need to register yourself as an owner of such with the federal government & usually your local LEO. Similar rules exist for explosives (special training & license) such as grenades or exploding ballistic rounds, such as you’d fire from a tank or artillery piece. And yes, civilians can own tanks, etc, but just as a vehicle, not as a weapons platform (absent license & permissions from Uncle Sam). Not to mention even if you could shoot the main gun on a tank, or even the coax, the cost of the ammunition would bleed all but the .01% dry. Police departments, on the other hand, can own easily full-auto weapons, grenades & other explosives, and armed vehicles, and the federal government is handing them over free of charge. Therefore, the general population is NOT militarized to the degree the police are, and likely can never be militarized to that degree.

    Also, civilians owning personal firearms is not a militarized population. If said civilians had a formal command structure & drilled regularly, they could be said to be militarized. As it is, we are barely to any conceivable standard of militia.

    As for other countries, some do well to keep their police less militarized, although that does not directly translate to less brutal. But I will never forget passing through CDG and seeing police armed with sub-machine guns just walking around on regular patrol.

    Someone commented on the dichotomy of wanting civilians well armed, but lamenting the same for the police. It’s a good question. My reply is one of accountability. Thanks to immunity & the fact that police departments investigate themselves, & police unions fight tooth & nail to clear officers of wrong-doing, even when it’s obvious the officer is a bad egg, the negative incentive of using violence is nearly non-existent for the police. Giving police more & more capacity for violence, while subsequently removing any accountability or responsibility for it’s careful & thoughtful application is not something that can end well.

    In short, if the police faced the same level of scrutiny & possibility of conviction & prison time I would face for un-justly using violence against another, I would care less if the had Apache gunships loaded with HellFires. As it is, I don’t always feel good about letting them have Tasers.

    If the number of households with guns is in decline, but the number of guns sold is on the rise, than the population is less militarized, not more. Simple anatomy explains this, as most humans have but two arms, and bad action movies aside, both arms are needed to fire a single weapon with any accuracy. So I could personally own 1000 guns, but I can only fire one of them at a time in anger at the police (which is why I always scoff at media figures getting the vapors when someone is arrested with an “arsenal” of 3 rifles & two handguns & a couple hundred rounds of ammunition). Of course, your own link provides another explanation as to why sales are on the rise, and that is that police agencies are buying up more weapons.

    Your hero comment was deep & thoughtful & I just can not give it the attention it deserves, which I hate. If I get a chance before comments close, I will try to reply.

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      • …To be clear, the disappointment was mostly in not getting to see how the view would be picked apart, not in not getting compliments. So I hope if you do get back around to it that your response is a critical one, because I hardly think it’s an unassailable take on the issue.

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      • It is critical, don’t worry. In short I think you are right about the actual definition of Hero. However, from conversations I’ve had with police, their definition of Hero aligns more closely with my definition of the duty I performed while in the Navy (e.g. not even remotely heroic, just an acknowledgement that I am in a dangerous job that needs doing, for which I volunteered & for which I am being paid (and not nearly as well as a police officer)).

        I’ve had police officers tell me that their daily lives are at least as dangerous as the men & women fighting in Afghanistan, & thus they should be accorded greater honor than soldiers, and more leeway in the judgement of their actions (they are in a war zone, after all). Of course, police have no legal or even ethical obligation to put themselves in harms way, unlike soldiers & sailors.

        There is a skewed perception of their own service/duty/sacrifice/importance, and when their leadership encourages it, and the justice system &/or population is either unwilling, or afraid to counter it, then it becomes a problem.

        And that is all I have time for. Sorry.

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  19. It’s all fun and games and driving big hulking manly veeeehickelz until someone fires off a hundred 20mm rounds by mistake and zippers a dozen civilians in a townhouse block. But no worries, after the press firestorm, you know, the cops were following “proceedure” and aren’t to liable.

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