New Zealand isn’t exactly a crime-ridden place. Of course, it’s a country with the population the size of Louisiana spread out among a landmass the size of Colorado but stretched out to have a shoreline similar to that of California and Oregon combined. Those all combine to really prevent it from becoming too much of a hotbed of criminal activity.
Recently, though, the country enacted radical gun control.
Now, police are looking to carry firearms all the time–something they haven’t been doing–and people are freaking out.
The new trial of Armed Response Teams (ARTs) in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury involves sending at least three armed police officers out in patrol vehicles to be constantly available to respond to crimes involving firearms. Currently, police do have armed offender squad officers, but they are dispatched from base to respond to serious firearms incidents rather than being continually present in the community.
The police commissioner has given two justifications for this trial of roving armed cops in cars: community safety and the safety of police officers themselves. The second reason is the real driver, but it will inevitably come at the expense of the first. Cops in cars with guns makes communities less safe, not more. Let’s look at the evidence.
Does the prospect of armed police officers dissuade criminals from using guns? No. In fact, the opposite may be true. This is the mutual escalation argument: where cops carry guns, criminals think they need to as well, and more shootouts ensue. The more criminals respond in this way, the more police think they need to arm themselves, and so on. In the United States, this pattern has become so problematic that there is a growing argument for de-escalation by disarming police, but disarming an armed police force is much more difficult than not allowing arms to be routinely used in the first place. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to put back in.
Okay, so arming police doesn’t actually make us safer, but do armed police nonetheless make communities feel safer? The evidence is mixed. While some people may feel safer when they see police with guns, some feel less safe. They worry about being shot by accident or unjustifiably, and the ambience created by seeing guns on the street is to some people an oppressive, rather than a liberating, one.
In other words, police should be disarmed because the criminals might not carry guns that way.
And the idea that “United States, this pattern has become so problematic that there is a growing argument for de-escalation by disarming police” is beyond ridiculous. Yeah, there are some idiots who think this, but they’re such a pathetic minority that they’re not taken seriously by anyone on either side of the political divide. Instead, we mock them for their stupidity.
Yet here’s the problem I have: If gun control works so well, then why is it problematic for the police to have guns?
“But criminals will start arming themselves!”
First, they’re already arming themselves. Criminals don’t try to match the police in firepower, they try to outstrip it. The police in the United States were playing catchup during the 1980s and ’90s. I remember when the local department switched from officer-purchased revolvers to issued weapons, with the plan always ending up with semi-automatic pistols. Why? The local gangs had semi-autos and the police just couldn’t match them with .38s.
New Zealand criminals aren’t that different. They’re already getting guns.
Second, if gun control works so beautifully, then just how in the hell are they going to arm themselves?
Oh, maybe it doesn’t work for crap and everyone in New Zealand really knows it, but they’re afraid to look like idiots to the rest of the world after trying to lecture the U.S. on guns.
Arm your damn cops so they don’t get murdered. The bad guys are going to do what they’re going to do and your police have no choice but to try and respond to it.