Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027
Phone (800) 869-1884
Fax (425) 451-3959
June 15, 2005
Recently we sent out a JPFO Alert (http://www.jpfo.org/alert20050610.htm) that included a link to a video of an officer pulling over a woman driver for speeding and equipment violations, but then arresting her for driving on a suspended license. The woman protested the stop, tried to use her cell phone, and delayed in her response to get out of the car. In very short order the officers used the high-voltage electric Taser device on her to compel her cooperation.
The video with live audio and added commentary from a police representative, was available for on-line. Viewers could get the same facts that we did.
Our Alert clearly stated we did not draw a final conclusion about whether the officers used excessive force or whether the arrest was justified. We wrote:
"Was this arrest proper? Did the officer use the appropriate amount of force? The legal answers are for a judge and jury."
We stated our main message:
"For gun owners, the message is clear. This video shows one real way that "gun control" laws will be enforced against you. As registration and licensing and other so-called reasonable "gun control" laws are enacted, your risk of breaking those laws increases. A paperwork violation will be enforced; the enforcers will use batons, Tasers, pepper spray, or sidearms to take you down and bring you in."
A handful of viewers contacted us to challenge the Alert. We welcome debate. Here are some of the challenges and our brief responses to them:
Challenge No. 1: The driver "thought that being a black woman would protect her" from the consequences of breaking the speed law, not wearing seat belts, an equipment violation and her "big mouth."
Response: There is no way to know what the driver thought about the race issue, because that information is not in the video. The driver was black, the officer was white. There could have been racial tension both ways. We don't think race is a good reason to employ the Taser, or not to employ the Taser. Moreover, it was not the police officer's job to punish what he might have thought was the driver's attitude; on the other hand, we don't assume that the officer was racist at all. The final decision on that question, however, is for a judge and jury who receive all of the facts.
Challenge No. 2: The woman should not have argued with the officer. She should have saved her arguments for the judge.
Response: Sometimes it might be a good idea not to argue with an officer on the site of an arrest, as a matter of prudence. On the other hand, standing up for your rights at the moment of their being violated can be the most important thing you do. This driver might have been quite smart to proclaim her rights on the spot, because then her position is clear on the recorded video. She spoke loudly and helped record every event that took place. Nobody could later claim that her "clever lawyer" created her legal defenses out of thin air. More to the point: why is verbally protesting a police action and proclaiming your rights a good reason to increase the force used against you?
Challenge No. 3: The Taser attack would never have become necessary if the woman had simply turned off her cell phone in mid-sentence and gotten out of her car when ordered to do so.
Response: This speculation is probably true. Nevertheless, we have to ask the question: if the driver had been a Hollywood star (black or white), or a local politician or government official, would the officers have escalated to Taser force so rapidly? Would a city council person (black or white) been allowed to finish her telephone call to alert her family of her arrest before being taken in? Authorities tell us that the Taser is a "a non-lethal alternative to using a firearm." We have to ask: should an officer use Taser-level force against a person who is non- violently delaying compliance with orders to get out of a car? Have we become a nation of people in such a great hurry that we expect our police officers to get control and dispose of suspects immediately, without extending common courtesies or a certain amount of patience?
We aren't second-guessing the police officer in this case; he might have been doing exactly what he was supposed to do. We are warning the average, ordinary hard-working citizen and retired senior citizen about the kind of force that police officers can use to compel your submission. As the gun laws proliferate, ordinary citizen gun owners will run an increasing risk of violating some law. This video shows how the laws are enforced -- using powerful equipment -- against citizens who aren't famous or well- connected.
Challenge No. 4: The woman driver did endanger other people by her speeding, driving with a brake light out, and driving on a suspended license.
Response: The video provides no evidence that anyone was actually endangered. Some of the popular police video TV programs do show how speeders and fleeing felons blast through crowded traffic and hit other cars or terrify other drivers. That kind of driver misconduct threatens and causes immediate harm to others. This video showed nothing like that. This woman engaged, at most, in dangerous activity.
Gun owners should understand the difference between "dangerous activity" and "endangering others." It may be dangerous to drive 100 mph, but on an open Arizona highway without traffic, only the driver is endangered -- nobody else. Similarly, carrying a loaded sidearm is more "dangerous" than carrying an unloaded sidearm, because the chance of unintended discharge or misuse of the loaded sidearm is greater. Nevertheless, we do not say that a person carrying a firearm in hand or in a holster, concealed or openly, is always "endangering other people."
Getting a traffic ticket for speeding does not mean you were necessarily endangering anyone but yourself. Traffic tickets are typically for rules violations, not for violent crimes. Similarly, driving with a brake light out or a broken windshield, or driving on a suspended license, are all rules violations, not violent crimes.
Most of the "gun control" laws in America establish standards of conduct or paperwork requirements. These laws do not prohibit violent crimes -- they punish non-violent violations. It is a federal felony to fail to submit to paperwork requirements to purchase firearms from dealers, for example, even though no endangerment is involved.
We recognized from the outset that the police officer in the video might have used appropriate force in the situation, depending upon the facts and the law that may apply. Our Alert addresses a different issue by helping gun owners understand how paperwork violations and non- violent conduct can reap some serious physical consequences, even before trial and conviction. This woman driver didn't have a weapon, yet she was Tasered. What happens to you, a peaceful but armed citizen, when you argue with a police officer at a traffic stop?
JPFO fights against "gun control" laws and policies that lay legal traps for citizens. We work to re-establish firearms ownership as a great American heritage. We don't want firearms possession by itself to be a reason that officers use to escalate force against nonviolent citizens. It is important for Americans to know what that escalated force looks like. Agree or disagree with the Florida officers in this case, this video shows the realities that citizens need to know.
- The Liberty Crew
JPFO mirror site located at www.jpfo.net. Updated simultaneously with our main site.
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