minneapolis third precinct riots

Rioters outside of a burning liquor store near the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020 (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Proponents of the right to private gun possession have long noted that the police are not always available to be of assistance, certainly not in sufficient time to prevent criminal action. A commonly-heard refrain is “when seconds count, the police are minutes away.” During recent protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, calls have arisen to “defund the police,” which can mean anything from small cuts in funding to something close to abolishing the police altogether. Already, as of this writing in early September 2020, some cities have substantially cut police funding.

Mainstream liberals, who had previously been strongly on the “rely exclusively on police and not on a personal firearm for protection” bandwagon, seem unwilling or unable to defend the importance, competence, and efficacy of the police in the face of allegations of institutional racism against American law enforcement. In short, the argument that Americans should trust the police to protect them, already greeted with skepticism if not derision in gun-rights circles, has been undermined further by the anti-police movement.

In short, conservative and libertarian guns rights proponents have long asserted that the existence of professional police forces is an inadequate substitute for a right to armed self-defense, and progressive advocates of gun control and even confiscation have, to a significant extent, now joined the anti-police bandwagon. Given that reality, there does not seem to be much of a constituency left for the argument that the right to armed selfdefense has been rendered anachronistic by the development of professional law enforcement.

Perhaps even more significant, the events of Summer 2020 demonstrate that putting aside how one feels about the police from a theoretical or philosophical approach, law enforcement in fact often cannot be relied up to “do their jobs” in the face of significant disorder. As this article has shown, in cities around the country police forces failed to preserve law and order.

In some cases they were ordered to stand down by elected officials who sympathized with the law breakers; in some cases because in an environment dominated by anti-police agitators, police supervisors thought it unwise to ratchet up police presence and activity; and in some cases, grassroots police officers, frustrated with the hostility shown by the public, quit, either permanently, or, as with the “Blue flu,” temporarily refused to do their jobs.

In constitutional law terms, all this supports the notion that the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes should be extended beyond the home. During this past Summer’s unrest, many Americans have either made the choice to defend themselves, or had that choice forced upon them when attacked with no viable retreat possible. Try telling them that the right to bear arms in self-defense is obsolete thanks to the police.

– David E. Bernstein in The Right to Armed Self-Defense in the Light of Law Enforcement Abdication

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