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The End of the Meet-and-Greet?



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The bile one sees vented in reaction to the Tucson shooting has been as tedious as it’s been predictable, perhaps nowhere more so than in Keith Olbermann’s Saturday tirade placing some measure of blame for the crime on Sarah Palin.  Other media voices were more subtle (and how could they not be?) in their attribution of responsibility to people who might be labeled as conservatives. 

The Washington Post, for example, was quick to point out that Arizona’s gun laws are among the “most lax in the nation,” leaving the reader to infer that Arizonans, those notorious abusers of illegal aliens, are wanton in their disregard for public safety.  The Post story linked to an earlier one, from August 18, 2010, that ran under the headline “Gun-toting soccer moms a scary thought in D.C. area, but not out west.”  One scarcely need read that story to know its message: We enlightened ones here in Washington, D.C., are bemused if not appalled by the “gun culture” that proliferates out there in the howling wilderness between the Beltway and Beverly Hills.  The Post notes that in Montana, where the “full embrace of firearms is just as fervent” as in Arizona, at least one firearm can be found in nearly two-thirds of all households.  “Montanans feel so strongly about their right to own guns for hunting, fending off grizzlies and — if it comes to it — fellow humans,” says the Post, “that lawmakers passed a measure last year that challenges the federal government’s authority to regulate guns made and kept in their state.”

And so you might suppose that Montana must surely be one dangerous place to live.  Why, in clement weather they must use the snow plows to clear away the bullet-riddled bodies.  Well, not exactly.  The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2009 reports that Montana’s murder rate that year was 2.4 per 100,000 in population.  Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska had a rate of 3.1, and Idaho, another one of those backward red states brimming with gun nuts, had a rate of just 1.4.  Meanwhile, in the Washington Post’s backyard of Maryland, the murder rate was 7.7, and in the District itself, where the gun laws are among the most restrictive in the country, it was a horrifying 24.0.  Yes, those hooligans out west sure can take a lesson from us here in the capital, can’t they?

I’m certain we will soon see any number of new laws proposed, the advocates for which will claim that such outrages as the Tucson shooting can be averted by the stroke of a president’s or governor’s pen.  The laws allegedly broken by accused gunman Jared Loughner are probably too numerous to count; it’s unlikely he would have been deterred by one — or a hundred — more.

And finally, in my career with the Los Angeles Police Department I’ve had a hand in the security preparations for any number of special events.  I’m sure I could come up with a plan for a congressman’s meet-and-greet at which the risk of an attack such as occurred in Tucson would be all but eliminated.  I’m just as sure that such an event, stripped of all risk to the participants, would be one where the congressman didn’t meet or greet anyone.  A committed attacker can overcome almost any reasonable obstacle placed in his path.  The appropriate response to what happened in Tucson is not more intrusive measures imposed on the law-abiding, but rather a well-trained and well-armed contingent of professionals who can be counted on to take action at the first sign of a threat.

— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber.



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