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Cops and Armed Citizens

Cops and Armed Citizens

Sergeant Betsy Brantner Smith

I grew up around guns. My dad, a farmer by trade, was also an auxiliary deputy with the local sheriff’s department so he owned a pistol or two. My cousins were hunters, and we always had a shotgun in the house that my father could get to if he needed to eliminate an errant raccoon in the garden or a family of moles tearing up our front yard. I was neither fascinated nor frightened by firearms, they were just a part of our lives in the rural Midwest.

When I graduated from the police academy in 1981, I was pretty excited about my “right to bear arms” both on and off duty. Although I was a patrol officer, I invested in a couple of concealed holsters for my big Smith & Wesson model 59 (completely the wrong handgun for a girl with the hands of an 8 year old, but that’s another article). I pretty much carried my gun everywhere. Young, single, and new to the “big city,” I spent lots of time in and around the Chicago area, enjoying the museums, the sports teams, the shopping, and of course, the nightlife. I never gave my safety much thought because (a) I was armed, and (b) I was usually in the company of other (armed) off duty cops. Life was good.

I’ve always enjoyed lively political discussions so I was happy to enter into debates about the Second Amendment and whether or not ordinary citizens really had a “right to keep and bear arms” as I continued to gain some patrol experience. At the time, I really didn’t understand what the big deal was. I was fine with people who were hunters, or enjoyed shooting sports, and even wanted to keep a “home protection” gun in their bedroom, but as a young cop, I was pretty sure I didn’t want ordinary, untrained people walking around “my” streets carrying concealed handguns. I mean, if everyone had a gun, how could we tell the good guys from the bad? If everyone was armed, wouldn’t people be shooting each other over parking spaces and other petty issues? Besides, I secretly (and selfishly) enjoyed the feeling of superiority in knowing that I was one of the few people allowed by Illinois law to carry around a loaded gun. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

In 1989 I was invited to travel with the University of Illinois’ “Fighting Illini” men’s basketball team to the Final Four in Seattle, Washington. My uncle was the head coach so my dad and I were going to fly on the team plane. What a blast! Unfortunately, this was about the same time that serial killer Ted Bundy was all over the news, the “Green River Killer” investigation was in full swing, and I was obsessed with reading Seattle-based author Ann Rule’s true crime books. Not exactly a great time for me to be heading for Washington State. But hey, I was cop! I got to take my gun to Seattle, carry it everywhere, and feel safe and secure. Great for me, but it got me thinking about all those young female murder victims; many of them close to my age. What if one of them had been armed? Could she have saved herself and ultimately, many others? And back in Illinois we had our own famous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, still in the news. He killed 33 young men and boys before he was arrested. Hadn’t they deserved the legal right to able to try and protect themselves to the best of their ability?

Two and a half years later, on October 16, 1991, the infamous Luby’s Cafeteria shooting occurred in Killeen, Texas. In what we would now call an “active shooter” situation, George Hennard drove his pick up truck through the front of the restaurant and was able to stalk, shoot, and terrorize the 80 lunchtime patrons, killing 23 and wounding another 20 before police cornered him and he turned a gun on himself. He’d been able to reload several times before police could arrive, and there were no armed citizens to challenge him. I was now a patrol sergeant and really starting to really re-evaluate my stance on citizen carry, and frankly, the Luby’s incident scared the heck out of me. After all, just like my state, the law in Texas at the time forbade citizens from carrying handguns. The Texas “serious crime” rate was 38 % above the nation average. After the post-Luby’s passage of the CCW law, serious crime in Texas has dropped 50% faster than the United States as a whole. Illinois, however, continued to prohibit CCW.

The whole citizen carry issue, often mixed in with the broader debate over “gun control” in general, has been terribly politicized and the debate rages on to this day. Yes, the United States is the leader in “per capita gun deaths among industrial nations,” a statistic that gun control advocates love to throw around. However, as most cops will tell you, the issue is a whole lot more complicated. One of the best resources out there is John Lott’srecently updated book “More Guns, Less Crime.” Basically, Lott concluded in an 18 year study that states who allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons saw violent crime goes down. Pretty logical stuff; the more law abiding citizens who train and arm themselves, the less victims we have. He has continued to study this issue objectively but passionately; every crimefighter should read his work.

My adopted home town, the city of Chicago, is a perfect example of Lott’s conclusions. We’re averaging 20 – 40 shootings a weekend, three Chicago cops have been killed this year, off duty, since May, and yet Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation! Who’s got the guns? The cops and the bad guys; and frankly, the cops tend to be out-numbered and often out-gunned. All the gun laws in the world aren’t going to keep thugs from owning, carrying and using firearms, so all the City of Chicago is doing is keeping law abiding citizens from legally obtaining personal protection firearms.

I’m retired now, but as I travel throughout the United States, training with and filming law enforcement personnel, I take advantage of HR 218; I am always armed, and I’m grateful for the privilege. I am now a firm advocate of well-trained, well-armed civilians, and this is an issue that police officers must get more involved in. With layoffs, cutbacks, workplace violence and the raging “war on cops” in the United States, we may have to depend on our citizens to step up, jump in, and help out in an armed encounter. After all, you don’t have to have a badge to wear a white hat and be one of the good guys. Stay safe!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    3 months ago


    There are several cities that have mandatory all citizens have to own a gun. Crime rates in these cities is almost nil. Liberals want people to think that guns are evil and the cause of violence. If any Major Media Outlet reported this fact Liberals would cringe. their theory would be shot all to hell.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 1 year ago


  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 1 year ago


    Great article!

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    almost 3 years ago


    armed normal citizens are quite scary than of armed cops citizens.. the civilians are sometimes abusive of the power of having a gun.


  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 3 years ago


    CPd82, I just read your post, and I have to say that the biggest part of it was the most presumptuous piece of garbage I have ever read.
    Do some homework on the subject, the remove your head from your backside. The citizens that you speak down on through your enitre post are the people that you SERVE, and it looks to me as though you think they are a bunch of crazy, violent people who want to shoot at anyone or anything, just to do it. To think that citizens want to play cop because they carry a gun is just asinine. CITIZENS...the free people of this country want to be able to protect their homes, their familes and their own skin..simple as that. Your attitude toward the people that you serve (yes, I said that again) tells me that you either (1) have the same selfish attiude that the author of this artice admitted to having, or(2) you just simply think that you are above everyone else. If it is number one, that can be fixed by education on the subject..then your ignorance will not lead the way when you post things in an open forum...if it is number two, then do the citizens that you hold in so much contempt a favor and find a new line of work.

  • Img_5510_max50


    almost 3 years ago


    CPD82, I am Ex-military and have a WA-CHL, I own and carry ALL the time, I have numerous pistols and rifles, I am glad I do not live in your area, where you would restrict what and how many firearms I could own.

  • Rabidkoyote_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Excellent article Ms. Smith and with your permission I would like to refer to some its content in my effort to strike down California Assembly Bill 144, the banning of openly carried empty-handguns in public places. The bill has already passed the Assembly and is now working its way through the California Senate.

  • Img_0160_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I Totally agree! As a military police officer, and a CWW holder, I support the idea of having RESPONSIBLE/ WELL TRAINED citizens being able to have the right to bear arms. You never know when you may need help in an armed situation, and to have someone that knows how to handle the situation, or help de-escalate the problem can make all the difference.

    Many times I have thought about how a situation would unfold had I ever encountered a situation where a fellow officer needed assistance, and sadly i have to say that the answer wasn't always pleasent because many police officers feel that a citizen with a weapon is an added danger even after informing them of their creditails.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    As an Arizona Highway Patrol Officer in rural areas I had citizens assist me several times. Their weapons varied from fists to tire irons. I wouldn't have minded a bit if they had a gun. In every instance they waited for my direction on what to do. I don't think that attitude would have changed simply because they had a gun.

    Some police officers' fears about armed GOOD citizens just doesn't make sense. It's like they equate them with BAD citizens. In a tight situation with no police back up, give me an armed GOOD citizen any time.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    to JohnLocke... while the constitution does give us the right to bear arms, it doesn't mean you should.
    ccw classes and basic skills classes dont' necessarily make you a good shot, but at least you get some training. we don't live in the age of guns they had when the constitution was written, you had stop, load, aim fire, that took 30 sec to a min, depending on how skilled you were. a complete idiot can fire a gun now and can be very dangerous to themselves and others. another point on the time line. EVERY family had a couple of guns, they hunted daily and had to protect themselves daily. today, guns are a decoration piece with little or no knowledge of how or when to use them.
    I'm all for ccw, but I would prefer they abide by state law, take a basic ccw class and skill test for their protection, others protection and especially mine.
    we can't be everywhere, in fact no matter how much of a proactive dept you work for, we are for lack of a better world in a reactive condition. having armed citizens at least buys LEO's time to arrive, makes fewer victims. (bullies bully victim minded individuals and tend to leave those who refuse to be victimized alone).

  • Derrick_max50


    over 3 years ago


    The two states that do not have conceal carry but have the highest crime/ gun violance in the nation. The state of Illinois wants only criminals and police officers to own and carry guns and the politicians of this state do not care about law abiding citizens. Innocent citizens are getting rob, shot at and killed and there is nothing the police or the politicains can do about it. The only why this is going to stop is if law abiding citizens are allowed to carry a conceal hand gun in the state of Illinois/ city of Chicago. When are they going to wise up and smell the coffee. Great article the truth must be told. GOD BLESS.

  • 100_0388_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Great article! Im in Tennessee and though I am a reserve officer and aspiring Patrolman, I have been an armed citizen since I was 21, trained and licensed. Being raised around guns my whole life, I am a firm beliver in citizens being armed if possible. I've been shooting semi-autos since I was in dipers; granted my father held the gun, but I was pulling the trigger. I wish there were more licensed and trained armed citizens. And I promote the aspect every chance I get. Outstanding job and thank you for what you have done.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    Outstanding article! In Oklahoma we allow concealed carry for people who pass a background check and some basic training. I am not concerned about this at all, in fact I support concealed carry 100%. Sure you will get a bad apple once in a while but the good far outweighs the negative.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    I think armed citizens can be a great thing. Our state has a good concealed carry process, with an all day classroom, and a range qualification portion. As long as they know the law and can handle the weapon it's a good idea.

  • Photo_00006_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I think its great that the ordanary citzen can be armed most people no whats right and whats wrong , they will help the police if their is a robbery or some other felony if given the chance the state with ccw permits the crime rate has gone down in those states so if you see a person carring a weapon give him or her a chance i would like to see the states give the citizens achance for more training

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