When you look at the raw numbers, there are a lot of people shot and killed in the United States every year. Even if you remove the suicides by firearm, you still have more than 10,000 people who are shot and killed each year. While that’s not a large percentage of the American population, it’s still a big number all things considered.
However, it seems that some aren’t content with that big number. No, they want police shootings to be part of the “gun violence” conversation.
When a law enforcement officer shoots a Black person, as happened Aug. 23 to Jacob Blake in Kenosha, the incident rightfully reignites the national debate about racism, policing and lethal force.
Blake did not suffer the same fate as other high-profile shootings — he is alive and paralyzed instead of dead and buried — but to get shot in the back seven times is incomprehensible. However, no matter the outcome, we must label the incident for what it is: gun violence.
The broader debate about the nearly 40,000 annual firearm-related deaths in the United States tends to stereotype criminality and mental illness. “Bad guys” with guns commit homicides, “depressed” people commit suicide, and “crazed” killers go on shooting rampages. This is a narrow view of gun violence that overlooks the impact of officer-involved shootings, especially for Black Americans.
I’m not going to delve too deeply into the rest of the opinion piece because, well, we’d be here all day addressing some of the arguments. Since many run far beyond what I want to talk about with this bit, it wouldn’t be productive to even begin to talk on it.
So, should police shootings be part of that number? Should they be part of the conversation?
See, while people are all upset about Jacob Blake’s shooting, they’ve already determined that the officers were out of line without understanding the first thing about law enforcement use of force. I’m not an expert, but I do know that what I saw in that video sure looked like a man reaching into a vehicle for a firearm. As a result, he was shot.
It’s not “incomprehensible” if you actually know what the hell you’re talking about.
The truth is, justified shootings–be they law enforcement or armed citizen shootings–don’t belong in that conversation because, frankly, that conversation almost always gets around to talking about gun control. I’ll be damned if I’m going to tolerate being lectured about how the numbers show I should have my guns taken from me when the numbers include justified shootings.
Besides, law enforcement shootings are separate issues because the setting is so much different.
Armed citizens aren’t the ones responding to calls of knife-wielding accused rapists who violated the restraining order taken out by their alleged victims, for example. We’re not the ones showing up to domestic dispute calls or making traffic stops.
The truth is, officer-involved shootings are a different world entirely, so lumping them in with everything from those domestic disputes gone wrong to gang warfare makes no sense.
Then again, when your goal isn’t to solve a problem but to demonize an entire segment of society filling a necessary role, what do you care, right?
Treating police shooting as just another bit of violence–despite the incredibly low numbers all things considered–isn’t addressing the issue, it’s clouding it.