“I love this shit.”
That’s what White County, Tenn. Sheriff Oddie Shoupe said after ordering one of his deputies to open fire on Michael Dial, a man who was attempting to flee police because he had a suspended driver’s license.
“I said don’t ram him ― shoot him,” Shoupe is heard saying in a video. “Ain’t gonna tear my cars up.”
White County Deputy Adam West proceeded to open fire on Dial’s truck. In a video released of the incident, which occurred last April, Sheriff Shoupe not only appeared unfazed by the death of Michael Dial, but seemed pleased.
In 2017, police killed 964 people, according to the Washington Post’s fatal force database. That’s a higher rate than in 2016, and despite high-profile protests against police brutality, the numbers show no sign of decreasing.
Over the past several years, we have seen a trend in police departments implementing body cameras in an attempt to curtail bad behavior. In theory, video is supposed to make cops more accountable, but this has not been the case. Time and again, we have seen documented cases of police brutality go unpunished, such as the killing of Samuel Dubose, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing for a missing front license plate and a suspended driver’s license.
Since the beginning of 2018, police have shot and killed 123 people. Gun violence is not only relegated to police though. We have suffered through eight school shootings since the beginning of the year and just a few days ago, a mass shooting left seventeen dead in a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Since the shooting, Floridians have seen lawmakers regurgitate their usual speeches, sending thoughts and prayers for the victims. Yet they take no actual action to fix the problem. GOP Senator Marco Rubio went as far as to say that gun laws would not have prevented the shooting, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows he has received $3,303,355 (and counting) in campaign contributions from the NRA.
Florida has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the country. The day after the shooting, Florida Republicans were caught attempting to sneak language easing requirements for concealed weapons permits in an agricultural bill and backed off when faced with intense backlash from outraged Floridians.
It is clear that gun violence in America is endemic. This is hardly surprising considering that there are more guns than people in America. When the requirements to purchase a gun are so lacking, coupled with a lack of mental health care in this country, we’ve created literal ticking time bombs and innocent people unfortunately pay the price for these bad policies.
Healthcare reform and broad gun control in this country are both needed to tackle this issue, but if public safety is truly a concern, there needs to be a push to disarm police officers as well.
This is not a radical idea. Police in Britain, the Irish Republic, Norway and New Zealand currently do not carry guns. In England and Wales, police did not kill a single person between March 2012 and March 2014 and out of 31,000 London police officers, 92% are unarmed due to a desire to make firearms response come from “a group of highly specialist and highly skilled officers.”
In Iceland, which actually ranks 15th worldwide in gun ownership per capita with one third of Iceland residents owning guns and where police routinely patrol unarmed, there is only one recorded incident of a suspect shot and killed by police in the country’s entire history.
It would seem like the practice of arming police with guns actually creates more gun violence than it prevents. Countries which have chosen not to arm officers believe that policing should operate by consent and trust from the public rather than intimidation.
It is unfortunate, but the toxic influence of lobbyists from groups such as the NRA on our lawmakers is a significant reason that Congress refuses to take meaningful steps to remedy this issue. Disarming police officers in this country would be a first step to easing a frenzied gun culture and would go a long way in improving public safety for all Americans.