Shoot first, answer questions later?

There used to be cops who spent their entire life on the streets and never drew their service weapon. Those days are gone.

The very idea of unholstering a firearm- and pointing it at someone only means one thing- you are prepared to shoot someone. That person, has to be an immediate threat to someone’s life- an imminent danger- and then, and only then, would you be OK to shoot. At least that used to be the equation.

Guns on the streets weren’t an everyday occurrence- unless of course, you were a criminal. And despite all these people going out and getting CCW licenses- those guns aren’t out on display- they’re concealed. And since Ohio is an “Open Carry” state- it’s actually legal to walk around with your hand cannon strapped to your side- even if it does make people uncomfortable.

But lately- toy guns in black men’s hands are an instant death sentence- whether in Walmart in Beavercreek or in Cleveland on a playground.

In Dayton on Christmas eve, a 20-year-old black male was arrested for “waving a toy gun around.”

Bennie Coleman, 20, was arrested on Tuesday morning and booked in Montgomery County Jail. Police observed him in a firing stance, pointing the gun at passing motorists and waving the gun back and forth from left to right, according to a Dayton police report.

via Man arrested for pointing fake gun at drivers| Dayton, OH Crime | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

He was in jail on Christmas day- for “inducing panic” with a $2,500 bail and awaiting arraignment on a parole violation. Now on the 27th- it’s up to $5K. Apparently- toy guns are now weapons, because, well, any criminal could just paint the tip of a real gun orange to “fool police.”

Fooling police? Really?

The riot cops in Ferguson were shown in photos acquiring targets with military grade weaponry. This began a debate on military “technology” transfer to local police departments, not the fact that they were lining up their sights on targets- without an imminent threat.

Let’s talk about the imminent threat to a civil society- the breakdown of law and order. When the rules become so fluid, and get applied haphazardly- they begin to have no meaning. How does Bennie Coleman end up in jail for more than 48 hours for a toy gun- while my neighbor, Brandon, Demolition Derby, Crouch- is out in 48 hours when caught with a real gun? Is that one is black and the other white? Is it that our laws aren’t really laws anymore? We already assume the wealthy don’t get the same treatment from the courts that the poor do- hence people like Mike Peppel who stole millions- got 7 days in jail while a poor grocery clerk- threatened with 40 years.

Since the “war on drugs” began, we’ve taken a draconian puritanical approach- criminalizing mind-altering substances as if they are a threat to the health and welfare of every person in this country. Our heavy-handed approach to this “problem” has put record numbers of people in a very expensive prison system- at an alarmingly racially disparate rate. Yet after forty plus years, no one has stopped to ask if this program is working? Is it making us safer? Is it solving the problem? The answer to both is no.

Stand back and think about what it means to live in a country that puts incarceration over education, incarceration over health care, and ask if the fundamental problems we face aren’t our own doing?

We’re creating a permanent underclass of perpetually under-employable people with our system of mass incarceration. We’re taking away all hopes and dreams of an equitable and just future for an alarmingly large percentage of our population. If the number 1 in 32 doesn’t make you wonder- that’s the number of people who are either incarcerated, on parole or probation.

We’ve created more police apparatus to “keep us safe” since 9/11- with the entire department of Homeland Security- a multibillion-dollar operation that ostensibly is here to protect us from outside threats. Our local threats- well, we don’t really want to talk about those.

We’ve been shooting first for a long time- at a self-defined target, chosen by a politician to create mass hysteria and a revision of our social engineering. While every other civilized country treats drug addiction as a mental illness- we treat is as a crime. While every other industrialized nation believes that health care is a universal right- we create a system that criminalizes not-buying insurance from a private company that’s allowed to make billions. While the costs of our “justice system” and “health care systems” exceed every other country in the world- we still continue on the same path.

We’ve been shooting first for a long time- and no one is asking if it’s the right thing to do.

Suppose we emptied our prisons, except for those who are a physically dangerous threat to others, and spent all that money we’ve spent warehousing poor people- and instead spent it on education, health care and jobs. Suppose we eliminated the health insurance companies and went to a single payer system that paid for universal care. Suppose we treated drug addiction as a mental health problem instead of a criminal one?

Would we still need so many guns pointed at people?

Isn’t the point of a civilized society to be one where you don’t have to live in the Wild West- with a six gun on your hip? Isn’t a civilized society one where we can settle our differences without killing each other? Are we really still civilized in America today? Or have we just stopped asking questions?

I think you know the answer.

 

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