TAMPA, February 7, 2013 ― First, the good news. The five-year-old boy kidnapped by a deranged man in Alabama has been rescued unharmed. He is with his family and reportedly “seems to be acting normally.”
The bad news is that some media seem to be using this incident to justify the ongoing militarization of domestic police forces.
“Military tactics, equipment helped authorities end Alabama hostage standoff,” reads today’s Fox News headline. The article describes how law enforcement responded to the hostage situation with what has become the new normal in the former land of the free. They mobilized paramilitary forces to deal with the situation just as an occupying army would deal with “counterinsurgency.”
According to the article, “In many ways, the scene resembled more of a wartime situation than a domestic crime scene as civilian law enforcement relied heavily on military tactics and equipment to end the six-day ordeal.”
Yes, every response by law enforcement seems to resemble a wartime situation these days, something one would think that Americans would be concerned about. Yet, for a nation that was born with a suspicion of standing armies and that wouldn’t tolerate the existence of one during peacetime, virtually no one objects to the increasingly aggressive tactics of local, state and federal police, often acting jointly to address routine local crimes.
One can already imagine the response by apologists for the all-powerful state. “If that’s what it takes to keep our children safe, then it’s worth it.”
It’s hard not to assume that the author of the article intends for the reader to draw that preposterous inference. It supposes a cause and effect relationship between the militarization of domestic police and the rescue of the child that does not exist.
The boy was rescued when authorities “exchanged gunfire with Dykes [the kidnapper] and killed him.” In other words, the perpetrator was dispatched with the kind of weapons that any peace officer or average citizen (at least today) would have access to.
So, what possible justification could there be for law enforcement to have “boxes packed with percussive grenades, military C-4 explosives,” and other “combat-style gear and weapons,” while “drones flew large, lazy circles high above the scene at night?”
Nothing in the article or other reports about the standoff indicates that any of this was necessary to rescue the boy. A hostage negotiator, a bomb squad (Dykes had planted bombs around the bunker) and standard firearms were all that were needed.
If the bus driver that Dykes murdered before kidnapping the boy had been similarly armed, this crime may not have occurred at all.
The militarization of domestic police has been ongoing throughout the past two decades, even though the FBI’s statistics show that violent crime has decreased by 50 percent during that period.
One would commit the “cum hoc ergo propter hoc” error in logic by assuming that the militarization caused the decrease in violent crime. The trend was firmly established before the government started using drones for domestic surveillance, so they certainly can’t be a causative factor. One would be equally hard-pressed to show the cause and effect relationship between police possession of C-4 explosives or grenades and a decrease in crime.
Yet, despite the fact that American streets are becoming safer and safer, domestic police forces continue to look and act more like an occupying army. The Department of Homeland Security recently completed a purchase of 750 million rounds of ammunition, including hollow-point bullets. Why?
At the same time, “the people’s representatives” in Washington, D.C. are “debating” about exactly how private ownership of firearms should be further restricted. And make no mistake, whether it is a Republican or Democratic Party proposal that is finally adopted as law, private gun ownership will be further restricted in some way. That necessarily follows from the assumption that “something must be done” to the rights of 300 million people because of the act of a single, deranged gunman.
One gun control-friendly pundit after another asks, “Why do private citizens need assault rifles,” as if the question were any more valid than, “Why do private citizens need free speech?”
Why do domestic police forces need military grade weapons, including tanks, assault rifles, C-4 explosives and drones? If necessary to fight criminals, then private citizens need these weapons, too. Most violent crimes occur when a law enforcement officer is not present.
During his 2008 campaign, President Obama said that the United States needed a civilian national security force “that is just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the U.S. military. When he made that statement, violent crimes in the U.S. had fallen from 757.7 per 100,000 in 1992 to 458 per 100,000 in 2008. By 2011, the number had fallen further to 386 and continues to drop.
Why do we need more heavily armed police and more inadequately armed citizens? Why would free people allow it?
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.