By Trevin Geier
The public execution of George Floyd, a black American, by police officers has sparked anger and outrage, not only across the United States but throughout the entire world. After the now-infamous video showing an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck, mass protesting has erupted with major cities in every US state taking part.
Rightfully so, people are angry, upset, and heartbroken. And while much of media discourse is surrounding the validity of different forms of protesting, focusing on “riots,” “looting” and the presence of “outside agitators,” there is no one correct way to protest. I don’t endorse violence. But I also do not condemn the destruction of property. Especially if said property was built upon, and exists solely because of the exploitation of others, which is true for most institutions in the US. The majority of protests happening around the world are peaceful. Only one group consistently refuses to keep the peace, refuses to abide by the law, and chooses to escalate violence at seemingly every opportunity.
If we want to reduce the amount of gun-related incidents involving police officers and civilians, we must take away the police officers’ ability to escalate the situation into one of life or death.
This militant group justifies the use of force by claiming that its role in society is to protect its citizens. The police have been the primary on-the-ground opposition to Black Lives Matter protests. Over the past few weeks, many examples of police using “riot” gear against protesters have surfaced. This military-grade weaponry has shown to be incredibly powerful and dangerous. While baton use can cause severe bruising and broken bones, deep wounds have also been afflicted by launching tear gas canisters and shooting rubber bullets. A few noteworthy cases have resulted in victims of rubber bullet shootings sustaining life-altering injuries and in one documented case, completely losing sight in one eye.
These “less-lethal” forms of weaponry that have been disgustingly displayed and used against peaceful protesters should not be overlooked. Individuals engaging in these protests must be made aware of the dangers of these oppressive tools. But if these “less-lethal” weapons are so incredibly dangerous, that begs the question: Why have lethal weapons at all?
Why should police officers carry lethal firearms on their person in the first place? Why guarantee the ability to kill at a moment’s notice? Why sign off on issuing weapons that have the ability to end life faster than you can pull your headphones out of your ears to hear what’s going on? There is no good reason.
People may argue that as long as the Second Amendment stands and people have guns, officers should too. And yes, kinda, sorta, that makes sense. We want police officers to use force when there are crises that pose imminent threats to public safety. Crises in which the lives of American citizens are at risk. Crises that may actually justify the use of lethal force. However, every day is not a crisis. Traffic stops are not a crisis. Foot patrol in public areas is not a crisis. If we want to reduce the amount of gun-related incidents involving police officers and civilians, we must take away the police officers’ ability to escalate the situation into one of life or death.
Think about the murder of George Floyd, only this time, imagine that none of the police officers have guns. Would a bystander have intervened? Would the people be more evenly matched in confronting officers as they murdered a civilian? Maybe the police officers wouldn’t have exerted such blatantly excessive force in the first place if they couldn’t hide behind their guns. Without guns, David McAtee and Sean Monterrosa who were both killed by police during protests these past few weeks would still be alive. Police do not need guns to effectively enforce laws and protect citizens. Just look at our European neighbors. Fewer officers possess guns and fewer deaths are carried out by the hands of the police.
And yes, The United States is a bigger country with more crime. And you could argue that our crime rate necessitates police carrying lethal weaponry. But to me, this seems like a vicious cycle. Police executions and gun violence lead to fear. Fear leads to buying guns. More guns in combination with fear then mean more death. While the crime rate in the US is higher than in other countries, the difference between the rate at which police in the US kill civilians and the rate at which police in other countries murder civilians is substantially greater. The United States has a rate of 4.96 intentional homicide victims per 100,000 citizens  (A metric used for measuring violent crime). Compare this to the 1.20 rate in the United Kingdom and you may think that the United States has a justification for their differing policing policies. But if we look at the rate of killings by police officers we see a much more alarming discrepancy. In the United Kingdom, there are .5 police killings for every 10 million citizens . In the United States, there are 30.4 . So although the United States has a violent crime rate five times greater than the UK, we have 60 times the amount of killings at the hand of law enforcement.
It’s also important to note that compared to other countries we then have many more guns. We rank #1 in the world with citizen gun possession clocking in at a whopping 120 guns per 100 citizens . The Falkland Islands, who rank second, have half that. European countries like Germany and Sweden have around 20 guns per 100 people (Germany at 19.6 and Sweden at 23.1 ). It’s no surprise that with more killing machines comes more killings.
The end goal should be a complete abolition of the current police state. Completely disarming police officers of lethal and “less-lethal” weapons. If we must have an intermediary step, “less-lethal” weapons should be used only in situations in which there is an immediate threat. I expect police officers to be well-trained both in physical skills and in communications. An adept police officer should have no problem effectively subduing dangerous perpetrators with “less-lethal” force. Perhaps without their killing devices police will be forced to rely less on guns and more on communication and de-escalation techniques. Disarming the police state will be no easy task, but the power and the will of the people is strong.