LEO's respond to concealed carry debate


We Asked, You Answered: How Your Opinions Stack Up Regarding Off-Duty/Retired Concealed Carry

Related Article: Have Gun, Will Travel?

When we asked for your opinions about off-duty and retired LEOs carrying concealed weapons when traveling, as now allowed by federal law, you sent 'em-in spades!

Both PoliceOne.com and the Force Science Research Center have been flooded with feedback to Force Science News #12.

Some members saw the controversy in starkly simple terms: Better judged by 12 if problems arise than carried by 6. Others misinterpreted our mission, concluding that we opposed concealed carry and the legislation that permits it rather than understanding that we intended only to raise questions that should reasonably be considered in making what ultimately is a very personal decision. Some offered insightful arguments for or against going armed. Others suggested tactics to make concealed carry when out of uniform safer and more effective. Some described vivid and memorable personal experiences.

We did not pose a formal survey as part of Transmission #12, but in reviewing and assessing your responses at the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato some conclusions can be drawn.

Commitment to carry in state:

  • 49.06% of you clearly stated a commitment to carry a concealed firearm within your state of residence when off duty or retired
  • Another 45.28% implied such a commitment
  • The remaining 5.66% were inconclusive

Commitment to carry out of state:

  • 20.75% of you stated a clear commitment to carry when traveling out of state
  • 30.18% implied such a commitment
  • 7.54% of you stated or implied that you would never carry out of state
  • The rest were inconclusive

Firearm use:

  • 24.52% stated or implied that you would use a firearm carried off duty or when retired only to defend yourself or your immediate family
  • 35.84% stated or implied that you'd likely use it to prevent other criminal acts as well as to defend the lives of yourself or family members
  • The remaining 39.64% were inconclusive on this subject

"The sophistication shown in responses from Force Science News readers regarding the legal, interpersonal and psychological consequences of using lethal force is very impressive," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSRC's executive director.

"Most officers, of course, understand that when they consider using lethal force it's in truly righteous situations where the person they're shooting literally needs to be shot. But the number of officers we've seen charged with homicide or manslaughter after what they believed was an appropriate shooting and the impact they've suffered on their personal finances, family relationships, career and lifestyle is sobering.

"Often it's difficult even to convincingly re-create the circumstances you faced in reaching a deadly force decision. If a threatening suspect ends up inadvertently shot in the back, for example, it may be hard for you to justify without the use of extensive research and resources. And if you are all by yourself in this challenge without the resources of your agency, your union or your federation to count on, the toll can be enormous.

"The issue can be far more than just 'being judged by 12' in today's environment. That's why pre-event planning, discipline and conservative decision-making under stress are so important when carrying off-duty or when retired."

The Force Science News staff is currently in the process of posting a cross section of responses on the Force Science News Web site. As soon as that effort is completed, we'll let you know.

Meanwhile, here is one of the particularly memorable emails.

It comes from an officer who was caught in a threatening situation in a "foreign" locale without a weapon, but through fast-thinking and the right demeanor escaped unscathed.

CAUGHT WITHOUT A GUN, A BLUFF WORKS…THIS TIME

My partner and I had attended the day's festivities during National Police Memorial Week in Washington D.C., a few years ago, and were walking back to our hotel across town at about 11:45 pm. I was then an officer with the Chicago Housing Authority PD. Neither of us was armed, having left our guns at the hotel. We were in civilian dress.

As we approached an intersection, we noticed groups of males standing on all 4 corners. As we got closer, they all left their positions and approached (surrounded) us. There were about 9 of them.

Knowing what was potentially going to take place, and having nothing else to rely on but my training and God, I merely reached my hand under my jacket at my side, pretended to make a weapon adjustment, and brought my hands to waist level in the fashion one would when making a field contact. I then, in my best field-contact voice said, "Good evening, gentlemen. Is there something we can help you with?"

Immediately the looks in their faces changed. The predatory looks in their eyes turned to looks of uncertainty and fear. They began parting, and walking away. One of the group, I'm guessing the leader, said, "Uh, no sir... OFFICER."

As we resumed walking, my partner and I acknowledged that this had been a close one. Sighs of relief followed. What we couldn't believe is that here we were, in the nation's capital with tens of thousands of police officers, and we had almost been robbed, assaulted, or worse.

I've looked back on that situation several times, and I've come to this conclusion:

My partner and I must have initially appeared to be your average tourists in the DC area. Easy prey. It's hard not to have this appearance when in an unfamiliar place. What saved us was the ability to get back into "police mode"--bladed stance, hands up, donning the attitude of being calmly in charge (even though we clearly were not).

My hand gesture inside of my jacket gave the impression that I was armed, but ultimately, what made these thugs decide to move on to easier pickings was the fact that they realized they were about to confront 2 law enforcement officers. They knew there was a fair chance we'd fight back, and possibly kill one or more of them in the process.

Since then, I've vowed not to travel anywhere unarmed. Church, to the grocery store, anywhere. Period. Unless you've come face to face with that feeling of helplessness, being seriously outnumbered by those who mean you harm, you won't understand the comfort a firearm can bring from the knowledge that, if ALL ELSE FAILS, you stand a fair chance of seeing your family again, after the confrontation.

The question becomes: Would we have done anything differently that night had we been armed?

Truthfully, I don't know. I can only guess that I would have acted the same way, but would have definitely pulled and used my weapon had my actions failed to get a favorable response.

Det. Troy Price
Vancouver, WA PD

We'll have more compelling feedback to share soon, so stay tuned…

QUOTE TO REMEMBER

"Policing isn't pretty. I'm sorry. If people would just give up, throw their hands up, it would be great. But they run, they shoot us, they fight us, bite us and it's not pretty."

That's Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton talking. He's quoted in a recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News, which reports that "With an occurrence unparalleled in LAPD history, officers have been repeatedly attacked while on routine patrol this year, although there has been little media attention or community activism on this issue."

"Despite the increasing danger to officers," the story claims that "political correctness" is preventing LA's street personnel from being equipped with the force options they need to fight back most effectively.

The full article:
"LA Police Need Means to Restrain Suspects; Controversies Come From Small Number of Cases" by Bob Baker.

About the author

The Force Science Institute was launched in 2004 by Executive Director Bill Lewinski, PhD. - a specialist in police psychology -- to conduct unique lethal-force experiments. The non-profit Force Science Institute, based at Minnesota State University-Mankato, uses sophisticated time-and-motion measurements to document-for the first time-critical hidden truths about the physical and mental dynamics of life-threatening events, particularly officer-involved shootings. Its startling findings profoundly impact on officer training and safety and on the public's naive perceptions.

For more information, visit www.forcescience.org or e-mail info@forcescience.org. If you would benefit from receiving updates on the FSRC's findings as well as a variety of other use-of-force related articles, please visit www.forcesciencenews.com and click on the "Please sign up for our newsletter" link at the front of the site. Subscriptions are free.

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