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Police Killing People with Drones

HUTCHINS, TX - JUNE 13: Dallas Police use a robot to gain access to an armoured van, which authorities believed was rigged with explosives, and was driven by a suspect who attacked Dallas Police Headquarters in Dallas, Texas, June 13, 2015. A lone shooter in an armored van, believed to be rigged with explosives, opened fire on the Dallas Police Headquarters early Saturday morning. The shooter reportedly unleashed multiple rounds and planted explosive devices around the station before leading police on a chase that ended in a standoff in the parking lot of a fast food resturant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

HUTCHINS, TX – JUNE 13: Dallas Police use a robot to gain access to an armoured van, which authorities believed was rigged with explosives, and was driven by a suspect who attacked Dallas Police Headquarters in Dallas, Texas, June 13, 2015. A lone shooter in an armored van, believed to be rigged with explosives, opened fire on the Dallas Police Headquarters early Saturday morning. The shooter reportedly unleashed multiple rounds and planted explosive devices around the station before leading police on a chase that ended in a standoff in the parking lot of a fast food resturant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

I’ve been traveling the last few days, so my already sporadic blogging has been even lighter. One story that has emerged in the wake of the horrible shooting spree in Dallas that killed four police officers has intrigued me, however, in that it raises a new issue rather than simply rehashing the longstanding arguments about guns and race.

A posting at Anti-Media is typical of reactions I’ve seen in my Facebook feed:

The Dallas shootings have ushered in a very new world for U.S. citizens. For the very first time, a drone has been used on U.S. soil to kill an American without trial or charges.

The suspected shooter in yesterday’s tragic killings, U.S. Army veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, was, according to police and press reports, holed up in a parking garage and would not give himself up. After hours of what police claimed were fruitless negotiations with Johnson, a weaponized robot was sent to where he was hiding and blown up, taking Johnson with it.

Get past the horror of what Johnson was accused of doing and think about that precedent for a moment. Is it not chilling?

RPI regular contributor Peter Van Buren, a retired State Department official who did a tour in Iraq, put a very fine point on the “robot” bomb:

Indeed, even without wings, this was a drone sent in to kill an American suspected of a crime.

Police claim that continuing the negotiations was pointless and attempting to capture him would have put officers at risk. He was supposedly shooting. While no sane person wants police officers to be killed, risk is something we are told they willingly accept when they sign up for police duty. There are plenty of low-risk jobs out there.

The media and opinion-leaders are presenting us with a false choice: if we question the use of drones to kill Americans — even if we suspect they have done very bad things — we somehow do not care about the lives of police officers. That is not the case. It is perfectly possible to not want police officers to be killed in the line of duty but to wholeheartedly reject the idea of authorities using drones to remotely kill Americans before they are found guilty.

Well, sure.

We should, of course, question it every time our police kill someone. While it may sometimes seem otherwise, our streets are not a battlefield. Police officers ought indeed take exceptional risk to protect innocent lives. Nor, unless their lives or the lives of innocents are in grave danger, should they kill even suspected criminals if they can be apprehended without lethal force.

In this particular case, we have a psychopath who has been actively shooting police officers and who was a real risk to continue shooting people.  It strikes me as unreasonable to expect police officers to take a very high risk of getting killed in order to capture him.  It’s the classic case where the ue of lethal force is justified.  We should, of course, investigate this and any police shooting after the fact to ensure that best practices were used. Perhaps there was another way to have gone about this and, if so, we should learn from it. And, if such practices would reasonably have been expected to be employed by Dallas PD, then punitive action should ensue.

Regardless, however, of whether lethal force was justified in this instance, I have no issue with the means employed. My position here is identical to the one I’ve formed over the years of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (aka “drones”) on the battlefield:  (1) I strongly prefer the use of technology that kills bad guys at minimum risk to good guys but (2) have some fear that technology that makes the act killing easier makes the decision to kill easier and thus more likely.  On the battlefield, I’m happy with killing bad guys more efficiently so long as we don’t redefine bad guys too broadly simply because killing them is now easier. I’m also worried that we increase our risk of inflicting collateral damage—killing noncombatants—by increasing the number of strikes as a byproduct of said easiness.   On our streets, I’m happy to make it easier to kill bad guys without getting the good guys killed or maimed.  But I do worry about further normalizing the killing of people that police identify as bad guys.

The bottom line is that the discussion should be about the rules for killing rather than the means of killing.  Drones, whether flying or otherwise, are simply a tool. If the job needs doing, I’m all for doing it safely and well.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    Normally when an officer shoots a suspect he/she is put on paid administrative leave to allow for an investigation. I wonder who goes on leave when a robot does the job? The person who ordered it? The operator who complied?

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  2. CSK says:

    What’s the difference between using a drone and using a gun in this particular case? Both constitute deadly force, which in this situation appears to have been justified. A continued exchange of gunfire might have resulted only in more people getting killed.

    I think what’s bothering people is the “sci-fi” aspect of using a robot. Would anyone be all that troubled if a cop had gotten Johnson with one headshot?

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  3. Slugger says:

    Of course, there is a legitimate way of using deadly force to stop a murderous threat to oneself or an immediate threat to others. In my opinion the Dallas police was right to end this episode with the means they used.
    However, we, the public, need to be vigilant. There has been a militarization of police. This is not an unmixed blessing. In 1985, the police actually dropped a bomb on a Philadelphia neighborhood killing eleven. No charges were ever brought.
    Yes, there are times when the cops need something more powerful than a gun. Yes, there can be misuse of powerful weapons. Yes, every police department bigger than Mayberry is going to want a robotic bomber. And yes, vigorous civilian oversight of the police power to kill will continue to be needed.

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  4. JKB says:

    Of course, we don’t know what killed the killer. The ROV was sent in with a C4 charge, but I doubt it was a large charge. Probably designed more to stun the guy with the concussive force, perhaps to also set off any IEDs he had set up for approaching officers. He’s said to have had a lot of ammo strapped to his chest. Or he may simply have been blown into something. Or perhaps in the moment he approached to close to the ROV when it was detonated. There is no reports of the police including anything designed to become shrapnel.

    He died as a result of this novel method, but only after exhaustive efforts to negotiate surrender and only conventional deadly force methods to take him into custody were deemed to put more officers at risk of death.

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  5. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    There is a difference between using a bomb and handcuffs.

    If you make it easy for the cops to kill people, then they’re going to do it more often. That’s what makes some of us nervous.

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  6. michael reynolds says:

    There is a militarization of police because there is a militarization of the population. It’s an arm’s race. In the UK where criminals are generally armed with knives, the cops have batons. If a criminal has a .32 caliber six-shooter, the cops can get by with handguns. Give criminals assault rifles, the cops need assault rifles and body armor. The better-armed the population, the better-armed the cops.

    When you saturate a society with high powered weapons, the cops need high-powered weapons. In the ’30’s when gangsters carried tommy guns we regulated and effectively outlawed automatics. Now, when the criminals have assault rifles we react by giving them extended magazines.

    Soon enough some bright bulb of an NRA fan will be arming drones and a Republican Congress will pretend that robots with shotguns are what the Founders wanted. We live in the trap the gun cult made for us. We are absolutely batshit insane, and unmistakably stupider than Australians.

    The Dallas shooter killed 5 cops with a weapon he only had because of the NRA and the blood-stained whores who populate our Congress. This is a sick country full of sick people.

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  7. CSK says:

    @Pch101:

    In this case, the cops had tried negotiating with him for two hours; the negotiating broke down when Johnson resumed shooting at them. That being the case, I don’t see this as a rush to judgment (or rush to kill) on their part.

    Yes, the potential for abuse is quite real. But, as I say, in this case, I think that the decision to use the robot was undertaken as a last resort, and to prevent further loss of life.

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  8. Slugger says:

    @Slugger: An addendum to my previous thoughts about cops using bombs.
    Since this happened in Texas, let me add one word: Waco.

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  9. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    I understand that it was justifiable in this particular instance. But the police generally have a propensity for escalation that contributes to the broader problem, and we should not be eager to add to this armed occupation mentality.

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  10. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: sure, sure, they tried to use just enough explosives to stun the shooter… You realize that makes no sense, right? It’s the equivalent of shooting to graze the suspect with a glancing blow across the head, knocking him out.

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  11. Ben in RI says:

    @CSK:

    Yes, the potential for abuse is quite real. But, as I say, in this case, I think that the decision to use the robot was undertaken as a last resort, and to prevent further loss of life.

    Unfortunately history has shown us that if there is potential for abuse, it is a certainty to occur eventually. And history has also shown us that means that are meant to be a last resort (such as no-knock raids) soon become SOP.

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  12. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This is a sick country full of sick people.

    Having one of those days, huh?

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  13. michael reynolds says:

    If the shooter had been armed with a knife would we need a drone with a bomb? No.

    If the shooter had been armed with a handgun would we have needed a drone with a bomb? No.

    Who ensured he had access to an assault rifle and unlimited ammo? The NRA.

    Who made bomb-carrying drones necessary? The NRA.

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  14. CSK says:

    @Ben in RI:

    I am more fearful of a small town police department getting hold of this sort of weaponry than a big city force. Big city cops, because of what they’ve seen and done, seem to have far less need to prove they’re tough than do small town cops, who spend most of their time nabbing speeders and DUIs (nothing wrong with taking impaired drivers off the road), investigating the vandalism of someone’s mailbox, or chasing teenaged drinkers off the town bandstand. I’m not denigrating small town cops in general, but some of them might be more likely to enact a Rambo fantasy than some of their urban brothers and sisters.

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce: He’s not wrong, is he?

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK:

    I’m not denigrating small town cops in general, but some of them might be more likely to enact a Rambo fantasy than some of their urban brothers and sisters.

    Switch it around and the statement is just as true. Small towns are going to have good and bad cops in the same proportions as large cities. Having interacted with plenty of both in all kinds of locations, I can assure you, it doesn’t matter.

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  17. Scott F. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Don’t forget that arms manufacturers are in the mix as well. They’re making bank arming both sides.

    It ain’t just NRA dues paying to buy Congress.

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  18. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I don’t question your experience in the least. It may be possible that there are differences in attitude and ethos between northeastern urban and rural cops and their southern counterparts. I’m speculating on the basis of what I observed as a consultant to the Criminal Justice Training Council for a few years. I’ve seen bad apples in rural and urban areas of the northeast. I did encounter fewer potential Rambos among people who had actually been in dangerous or even life-threatening situations.

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  19. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    He’s not wrong, is he?

    I wouldn’t blame the NRA for Dallas or our gun policy, no.

    @michael reynolds: If the shooter hadn’t just killed 5 cops and left another half dozen fighting for their lives, would they have used the drone? Probably not.

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  20. Mu says:

    punitive action should ensue

    By the very definition of the process the police should never have punitive rights. What’s next, a quick public beating in the square, skip the paperwork? And who authorizes publicly sanctioned execution, a judge, a patrol sergeant, the 911 operator? Nearly every SWAT situation can be described as “holed up, shooting at someone, officers in danger”. We’re not talking slippery slope, we’re talking Judge Dred type of abyss.

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  21. SKI says:

    First, it was a pound of C-4. Which is a bit of an interesting amount given the military standard block is 1.25 pounds – or the standard used to destroy a vehicle. This was a killing amount. No question.

    Second, if they could get the robot in with a pound of C-4, why couldn’t they get the same freaking robot in with a concussion grenade?

    Or wait him out? He wasn’t going anywhere. They didn’t know if he did or did not have accomplices (despite what he told them).

    Why the need to execute him then?

    Note, I’m NOT suggestion a conspiracy, just that extra-judicial killings aren’t something we should be encouraging or celebrating.

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  22. SKI says:

    On our streets, I’m happy to make it easier to kill bad guys without getting the good guys killed or maimed.

    Why be happy about killing bad guys at all? Particularly when we know the police have a, shall we say, spotty record about actually identifying good from bad at times?

    Sure, in this case, there is little doubt but it is the exception. Police work isn’t soldiering and our streets aren’t a battlefield.

    Really bad take, James.

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  23. CSK says:

    @SKI:

    They seem to have tried waiting him out, and spent a few hours negotiating with them. He started shooting at them again after the negotiations broke down. If they’d let the shooting go on, more people might have been killed. Rock and a hard place, but they probably made the right call.

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  24. SKI says:

    @CSK:

    I am more fearful of a small town police department getting hold of this sort of weaponry than a big city force. Big city cops, because of what they’ve seen and done, seem to have far less need to prove they’re tough than do small town cops, who spend most of their time nabbing speeders and DUIs (nothing wrong with taking impaired drivers off the road), investigating the vandalism of someone’s mailbox, or chasing teenaged drinkers off the town bandstand. I’m not denigrating small town cops in general, but some of them might be more likely to enact a Rambo fantasy than some of their urban brothers and sisters.

    Based on my experience with cops in Baltimore City, I’m actually far more worried about the big city cops. Small town cops actually know their constituents. They don’t view them as the great and evil “other”. They haven’t internalized the mindset that they are at war with the populace (at least the black-skinned portion) and haven’t become numb to the dehumanizing aspects of that corrosive mindset/training.

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  25. James Joyner says:

    @Mu: I was referring to punishing cops for bad behavior, not the cops meting out punishment.

    @SKI: I explicitly said that. My point is that, if a situation arises where cops need to kill, I want to minimize the chances of cops and innocent civilians getting killed.

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  26. Moosebreath says:

    @CSK:

    I think you are correct. If there were still negotiations going on, the cops would not have sent the drone in. Once they broke down and the shooter resumed shooting, I do not blame the cops at all.

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  27. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    He could not have killed 5 cops with anything but an assault rifle. An NRA supplied assault rifle. You needed power to penetrate vests and you needed rapid fire.

    Every crime committed in this country with an assault rifle is an NRA crime. The blood of those five officers is on the hands of the NRA, the gun makers who are the NRA, the dupes who support the NRA, and the gutless whores who populate Congress and for a $10,000 donation will serve their fellow Americans up for slaughter.

    Every time, James, every single goddamned time someone uses a high-powered, large magazine people-hunting weapon, the blood is on the hands of the NRA and their supporters. They make the weapons available to murderers.

    You know, the hypocrisy on this is really getting thick. Some ISIS bomb maker hands a suicide vest to some jacked up kid who then blows up a room full of people, do you claim the bomb maker is innocent? No, of course not. You’d have to be morally depraved to excuse the bomb maker.

    If Russia sells bombs to Assad and he drops them on his opponents, do you pretend that Russia is innocent? No, of course not. You’d have to be morally depraved to make that argument.

    So let’s please cut the bullsh!t on this. Every assault rifle in civilian hands in this country is there because of the NRA. Every murder committed with one of those weapons is enabled by the NRA. So stop making excuses for American terrorists that you would never make for a foreigner. It’s dishonest. It’s hypocritical. And it is morally depraved.

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  28. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: Parallelling your thoughts, over at the New Yorker:

    Once again, the difference in policy views is clear, and can be coolly stated: those who insist on the right to concealed weapons, to the open carrying of firearms, to the availability of military weapons—to the essentially unlimited dissemination of guns—guarantee that the murders will continue. They have no plan to end them, except to return fire, with results we know. The people who don’t want the regulations that we know will help curb (not end) violent acts and help make them rare (not non-existent) have reconciled themselves to the mass murder of police officers, as well as of innocent men and women during traffic stops and of long, ghostly rows of harmless civilians and helpless children. The country is now clearly divided among those who want the killings and violence to stop and those who don’t. In the words of the old activist song, which side are you on?

    The Horrific, Predictable Result of a Widely Armed Citizenry

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  29. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I explicitly said that. My point is that, if a situation arises where cops need to kill, I want to minimize the chances of cops and innocent civilians getting killed.

    And my point is that I don’t want to give the cops a tool that lets them kill easily and with no risk given that they heavily abuse their existing power now.

    They kill way too easily now. They regularly burst down the wrong door with no-knock warrants. What on earth gives you any confidence that they can be trusted with such additional power?

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  30. george says:

    @SKI:

    And my point is that I don’t want to give the cops a tool that lets them kill easily and with no risk given that they heavily abuse their existing power now.

    They can already do that. The reason they don’t is because that ability is controlled by laws, and in most (but obviously not all) cases their own ethics. The same laws that keep them from simply driving a tank or using a LAW missile are applied to robots.

    People are afraid of robots because they sound futuristic. There is no shortage of standard equipment that can allow the police to kill without risk if not bound by laws.

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  31. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    He could not have killed 5 cops with anything but an assault rifle. An NRA supplied assault rifle. You needed power to penetrate vests and you needed rapid fire.

    Sadly, no. Bombs do the same regularly in various parts of the world. Or just rent a 4 ton truck and run a group over. In a modern industrial state there is no end of ways to kill large numbers.

    And I say this as someone who supports gun control. Thinking that making guns illegal is going to stop a dedicated mass killer is a pipe dream. What it’ll stop is more casual killings (which make up the majority of killings).

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  32. SKI says:

    @CSK:

    They seem to have tried waiting him out, and spent a few hours negotiating with them. He started shooting at them again after the negotiations broke down. If they’d let the shooting go on, more people might have been killed. Rock and a hard place, but they probably made the right call.

    Source for assertion he had started firing again? I had seen that “negotiations had broken down” but no reference to renewed fire in any story.

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  33. SKI says:

    @george:

    They can already do that. The reason they don’t is because that ability is controlled by laws, and in most (but obviously not all) cases their own ethics. The same laws that keep them from simply driving a tank or using a LAW missile are applied to robots.

    Except we know the law doesn’t work now to deter them from killing. Why make it easier?

    People are afraid of robots because they sound futuristic. There is no shortage of standard equipment that can allow the police to kill without risk if not bound by laws.

    This isn’t a robot issue. It is an “easy” and “no risk” issue.

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  34. Jenos Idanian says:

    @michael reynolds: Hey, genius, why don’t you offer your solution? Give your definition of “assault weapon,” how you would ban them, and whatnot?

    The last time we let ignorant morons write an “assault weapons ban,” we ended up with this abortion that banned “scary-looking guns” that did absolutely nothing effective. Its main results were:

    1) Pre-ban weapons became more valuable to resell.

    2) Manufacturers made tiny, cosmetic changes and kept on selling.

    3) Morons patted themselves on the back for their good work.

    4) People who actually know something about guns laughed at them.

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  35. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    The last time we let ignorant morons write an “assault weapons ban,” we ended up with this abortion that banned “scary-looking guns” that did absolutely nothing effective.

    Absolutely right.

    Which is why we should drop efforts at piecemeal cosmetic bans and institute the actual effective types of gun control that exist in the rest of the civilized world. You know, places where there isn’t a mass gun killing every couple of weeks and the police don’t have to assume anyone reaching for his wallet is pulling a gun instead.

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  36. Mu says:

    Michael R, do even realize how stupid you look with your assault rifle claim? Johnson didn’t use your beloved AR 15, he used a SKS, a gun mostly known for being used by the Chinese during the Korean war. A gun so obsolete even CA doesn’t consider it an assault rifle unless it’s been modified. As for shooting a lot of people sniper style, you might read up on Charles Whitman who managed the feat with a simple bolt action hunting rifle.
    Hey, but never let facts in the way of a good rant, I’m sure you can repeat it in another half dozen threads.

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  37. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Mikey: Feel free to start by marching into our inner cities, where they have the strictest gun control laws, and round up all the illegal guns. Prove your commitment by going after those guns that are already illegal.

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  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce: The NRA is one of, if not THE, main lobbying groups for the civilian arms industry. To say that it is just a group of citizens who are passionate about the 2nd Amendment is to buy into their propaganda and stands in direct contrast to reality. What they do helps the average gun owner not one single bit but pads the profits of their corporate sponsors more than a little.

    I own guns, and I would never give that terrorist supporting organization a dime.

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  39. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Sadly, I must agree with your point here. Guns in America are a Pandora’s box, which we opened and can no longer close. There are so many guns, legal and illegal, in America that it may well be impossible to bring them all under control in the short term, maybe even the long term.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, of course, just as we must try in other vital circumstances when victory is far from assured. But it’s an incredibly difficult problem.

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  40. Daniel says:

    @michael reynolds: The last time Americans cared about how the British run their country, was July 3, 1776.

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  41. James Pearce says:

    @SKI:

    Police work isn’t soldiering and our streets aren’t a battlefield.

    Except, that night in Dallas, the streets were a battlefield.

    @michael reynolds:

    He could not have killed 5 cops with anything but an assault rifle.

    And yet, the gun nuts remind us that it wasn’t an “assault rifle,” not technically.

    And while I’m sympathetic to the “They make the weapons available to murderers” argument, and don’t support the NRA at all, I’m getting sick of the politics of this issue. To me, the shootings of Phlando Castille and the events in Dallas should have changed the conversation.

    But if it’s changed, it’s only gotten dumber.

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  42. Pch101 says:

    @Mu:

    Obviously, the bullets fired from an obsolete gun must not hurt.

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  43. SKI says:

    @James Pearce:

    Except, that night in Dallas, the streets were a battlefield.

    No, they weren’t. They were still civilian streets with lots of civilians and a single crazed gunman.

    Just because something is dangerous, doesn’t make it a battlefield. Calling it such, blurs reality and leads to improper behavior.

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  44. James Pearce says:

    @SKI: Just curious: Do you think the DPD was wrong to kill Micah Johnson?

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I own guns, and I would never give that terrorist supporting organization a dime.

    You are not the only gun owner I’ve encountered who has a negative opinion of the NRA. Politically, the NRA is influential to one faction only. (The other factor could give a shit, and indeed would a take an NRA “F” rating with pride.)

    Forgive me if I think the NRA’s power and influence is a bit overstated most of the time.

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  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian: ANY semi automatic or automatic firearm with a detachable magazine and/or capable of holding 7 or more rounds. There I just defined assault weapons. True, a whole lot of firearms that people do not consider ‘assault weapons’ will become illegal. Tuff shit. Don’t like it? Come up with another definition that the slimeball mofo arms manufacturers can not game to their advantage.

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  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    Forgive me if I think the NRA’s power and influence is a bit overstated most of the time.

    Wholly agree, which is why I am dumbfounded by the GOPs marching in lockstep with every NRA pronouncement. I just don’t get it.

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  47. James Pearce says:

    @SKI:

    No, they weren’t. They were still civilian streets with lots of civilians and a single crazed gunman.

    A single crazed gunman? There were several gun nuts running around interfering with the police’s efforts to stop the killer.

    The civilians scattered.

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  48. C. Clavin says:

    I disagree with James on this one.
    There is a huge difference between shooting someone in the heat of the moment who poses an immediate threat, and sending a robot in to kill a guy that you have pinned down in a parking garage who poses a limited threat.
    In no account I have read was this a kill or be killed scenario.
    Certainly the guy deserved it…but that’s not justification for eliminating due process.

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  49. gVOR08 says:

    @Jenos Idanian: IIRC Reynolds has in the past offered his solution, slow societal change until our kids, and yours if you have any, say about guns, “WTF were they thinking?”

    OK, the assault weapons ban wasn’t hugely effective. What harm did it do? No credit for variations on, ‘You’re not the boss of me’, and ‘Freedom!!’

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  50. Jenos Idanian says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: ANY semi automatic or automatic firearm with a detachable magazine and/or capable of holding 7 or more rounds. There I just defined assault weapons.

    Congrats, you just defined as “assault weapon” a grand total of… zero guns.

    Most guns hold one round. The magazines hold the rest. (Shotguns are an exception.)

    You’re talking about banning magazines there, not guns.

    I’m reminded of the (possibly apocryphal) debate among the Founding Fathers, who wanted the standing army be limited to 3,000 men. George Washington allegedly said he was fine with that, as long as the Constitution also limited invading armies to no more than 3,000 men.

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  51. Jenos Idanian says:

    @gVOR08: OK, the assault weapons ban wasn’t hugely effective. What harm did it do?

    It gave idiots a totally unwarranted sense of accomplishment and set a precedent. It also gave the idiots the opportunity to say “this isn’t working, we need more laws like it!”

    They refused to recognize that that law was ineffective, pointless, and only inconvenienced people who were already inclined to obey the law — in other words, the ones not causing the problems.

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  52. Pch101 says:

    I have to give the right-wingers credit: They make the same lousy arguments time and time again without fail.

    Let’s get down to brass tacks: It’s bad to fire bullets at people. (The fact that the gun that fired it was old and Soviet makes no difference.) We don’t want this to keep happening.

    At the same time, we recognize that some weapons are more easily abused than others. So the effort here has to produce a compromise: Instead of banning guns entirely, there has been some effort to be selective so that hunters can hunt and collectors can collect.

    As it turns out, compromising with these gun fan club has been a waste of time; they want it all. The country is obviously incapable of owning guns safely, so who are we kidding?

    Perhaps we should have a policy that you only to get to own a bolt-action hunting rifle or two, and that they must be stored at all times at an approved range except during hunting season for those who have obtained hunting licenses. No need to argue about assault rifles versus non-assault rifles and whatnot — just ban the whole lot.

    If that’s what you gun nuts want, then keep arguing about gun minutiae in an effort to keep everyone kind of gun in circulation. Otherwise, there would be a lot fewer headaches if this debate about differences were tossed aside and all of the guns were lumped together into one big illegal pile. After all, the only reason to worry about the differences is to appease the wingnuts.

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  53. steve s says:

    Does every police chief in the US Murka think he’s a 4-star general? That shit looks embarrassing.

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  54. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Wholly agree, which is why I am dumbfounded by the GOPs marching in lockstep with every NRA pronouncement.

    I am less dumbfounded. The GOP, as an institution, has devolved into decadence. It doesn’t have the immune system to avoid becoming someone’s dog.

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  55. steve s says:

    pch101, I think it’s going to go like gay marriage. Smart people compromise and win something, dumb people demand everything and lose. A lot of gay people would have been fine with civil unions. That would have been a compromise. The anti-gay bigots refused. in some places they even made it illegal to have any legal arrangement which acted like a civil union. Finally people said get lost, stupid bigots, and the bigots lost everything.

    Guns might go the same way. Better restrictions and penalties would reduce deaths. But the NRA will refuse any compromise. So nothing will change until enough people get tired of the stubborn idiots, and then the stubborn idiots will lose completely.

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  56. Lit3Bolt says:

    @SKI:

    I see all the sides of this argument, because if you give the police discretion to throw C4 at suspects, eventually we’re going to end up with dead innocents. It’s an unsettling precedent, but at the same time, this guy was essentially killing officers at will and running circles around them all night. Police had no idea if this guy was setting them up for a new attack or if he was alone or not.

    But eventually, a C4 robot is going to knock on the wrong address somewhere in America and cause collateral damage. I know White America is fine with the police being a blunt instrument, but even this might be a bridge too far.

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  57. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Pch101: Let’s get down to brass tacks: It’s bad to fire bullets at people.

    No, you simplistic twit. SOMETIMES it’s bad to fire bullets at people. Sometimes it’s good to fire bullets at people. Because some people need shooting.

    People fired bullets at the Muslim fundamentalist who shot up the gay night club. That was a good thing.

    At another night club, there was another mass shooting. It was stopped when one of the people being shot at fired a bullet at the bad guy, and stopped him. That was a good thing.

    Here are a bunch of other people who disagree with being disarmed so you can feel better.

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  58. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: You’re really asking Reynolds–who has written more about specific plans to do this over the course of the last 3 or 4 years than you have making lame-arse excuses–to, yet again, “show us his plan?” Really? Are you that big a doofus?

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  59. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Shirt! Take some pride in being a troll, for gosh sakes!

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  60. Jenos Idanian says:

    There are now two narratives for the Minnesota shooting of Philando Castile.

    In the initial story, he possessed a concealed-carry permit, was legally carrying, and was shot by the cop when he was obeying the officer’s order to get his license and registration out.

    In the later story, Castile was pulled over because he matched the description of a wanted armed robber, had the gun in his lap, and was reaching for it when shot.

    There is little conclusive evidence at this point. Castile apparently had a very, very bad driving record, but no criminal history. There is also doubt as to whether or not he actually had a permit.

    I’m sticking with my initial tentative opinion that this was a bad shooting, but I’m withholding a solid opinion for now.

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  61. Tony W says:

    @Mikey:

    Guns in America are a Pandora’s box

    That we cannot solve the problem in a single stroke is not a reason to do nothing as some gun strokers have suggested.

    We make the most ridiculous ones illegal, the majority of those are turned in and the remaining ones are seized piecemeal as they are discovered.

    Meanwhile, we register and create personal liability for all other guns in the US. The insurance industry will get a big boost, maybe they’ll lobby as effectively as they did for the ACA.

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  62. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Tony W: I greatly admire your logic. It operates in total defiance of reality.

    1) Most gun crimes are committed with handguns.

    2) Most gun crimes are committed in places with very strict gun control laws.

    3) Most gun crimes are committed by people who are in illegal possession of their gun.

    So, your solution: a crackdown on law-abiding gun owners and their long guns!

    Start your confiscations where they have the biggest problems: the inner cities. Start with Chicago, New York, Baltimore, DC, LA. Go there and start confiscating the guns. That’ll save a lot more lives (especially black lives) than your little delusion.

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  63. gVOR08 says:

    @Jenos Idanian: So you agree, no substantive harm.

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  64. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    In the later story, Castile was pulled over because he matched the description of a wanted armed robber, had the gun in his lap, and was reaching for it when shot.

    I don’t know if I would believe that, Jenos…

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  65. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Pearce: I don’t know if I would believe that, Jenos…

    The armed robbery report and the description part check out so far. But yeah, I’m not buying into that story yet.

    Nor am I buying into the “innocent guy murdered by cops” story yet, either.

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  66. MarkedMan says:

    This thread is probably lost, but FWIW, I think it is worth contemplating that using drone robots might make police less likely to shoot. Not in a situation like this, but imagine a future traffic stop:

    Cop pulls someone over and the robot drops from it’s pod and scoots over to the drivers side. As he cranes the robots head from side to side he notices a suspicious bulge in the guys pocket. How panicked is he going to be that the guy is going to pull out a gun and shoot there robot? How much more likely is he going to be to take those precious seconds to make a good judgement call?

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  67. MarkedMan says:

    This thread is probably lost, but FWIW, I think it is worth contemplating that using drone robots might make police less likely to shoot. Not in a situation like this, but imagine a future traffic stop:

    Cop pulls someone over and the robot drops from it’s pod and scoots over to the drivers side. As he cranes the robots head from side to side he notices a suspicious bulge in the guys pocket. How panicked is he going to be that the guy is going to pull out a gun and shoot there robot? How much more likely is he going to be to take those precious seconds to make a good judgement call?

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  68. Mister Bluster says:

    @SKI:

    “He was secreted behind a brick corner,” he said, “and the only way to get a sniper shot to end his trying to kill us would be to expose officers to grave danger.”
    When his officers proposed using the robot, Brown said, “I approved it. And I’ll do it again if presented with the same circumstances.”
    “You have to trust the people whose lives are at stake. I appreciate critics, but they’re not on the ground, and their lives are not at risk,” he said.
    http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/10/politics/dallas-shooting-police-chief-david-brown/index.html

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  69. James Brown 32 says:

    Its seems my fellow white citizens have no problem expanding the ways and means in which Police can kill “The Others”. Historically then never have. This will go over like gang busters. Darkies dead by the scores….until the one faithful day the wrong white person is blown up….then it will be an outrage.

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  70. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Nor am I buying into the “innocent guy murdered by cops” story yet, either.

    Well, “murder” might be a bit much, but there is no doubt that the cops killed him.

    As a supporter of gun rights, this statement from the cop’s lawyer should make you a little uncomfortable:

    “Deadly force would not have been used if not for the presence of a gun.”

    “If not for the presence of a gun.” Philando Castile was not killed for committing an armed robbery. He was not killed for pointing a gun at a cop. He was killed for “failure to comply” and being a gun-owner in America. Do you really want your anti-liberal positioning to put you in the position of defending that?

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  71. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Pearce: For the sake of argument, let’s take the cop’s lawyer’s story at face value. In that scenario, Castile had the gun in his lap while driving the vehicle. That is an incredibly dangerous and aggressive move, justifying the cop taking the extraordinary measure of drawing his own weapon. And if Castile moved as if he was picking up the gun, then the shooting would be justified.

    A gun should be secured at all times it is not in hand. Having it in one’s lap is never a good idea. Having it there while driving is an even worse idea. They make these things called “holsters” that, I am told, do a wonderful job of keeping a gun secured while still fairly accessible.

    So yes, I disagree with the lawyer, but I suspect he misspoke. It wasn’t the presence of the gun, but the placement of the gun that made deadly force likely. If the gun had been in a holster, either openly or concealed, and not ready at hand, then things might have evolved very differently.

    Again, still way too early to jump to conclusions. I want more facts.

    One fact that is clear, though, is that there was a reason for Castile to be agitated about being stopped by the police:

    “I got … the Roseville Police got me handcuffed, my phone is about to die. I’m on Larpenteur and Fry and the Roseville Police Department just shot my boyfriend. They shot him four times. He has a license to carry. We had a busted tail light. And we had some weed in the car that’s about it.”

    As I said… way too early to jump to any conclusions.

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  72. Jenos Idanian says:

    I also have been thinking of ways to reduce police misbehavior. I’ve had two ideas: mandatory dash and body cams, and getting rid of police unions.

    The cams will provide, in nearly every case, immediate, objective evidence of the officers’ actions and situations. And the unions? Their primary purpose is to keep officers from being disciplined or fired. And that is regardless of the merits of any such actions. If you find you have a bad cop, you are in for a hell of a fight with the union to get rid of him or her.

    These are two big sticks to shake at the police, so I think that a carrot or two might be in order, but that’s my opening thoughts.

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  73. Davebo says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    While they certainly try it’s not police unions that protect bad cops. It’s DA’s and often upper management in the department.

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  74. Monala says:

    @Jenos Idanian: A gun in his lap is an incredibly unlikely scenario. As you said, it’s a very stupid thing to do. Not to mention, Castile knew he was being stopped by the cops. If indeed the gun was in his lap, he would either: a) hide the gun, in order not to appear a threat; or b) pick it up, if he intended to use it. Keeping it in his lap makes no sense from either an innocence or an aggression point of view.

    Regarding his driving infractions: more than half of them were dismissed in court, which suggests that some or even many of his stops were due to racial profiling. I’ve been to traffic court twice and saw no one whose infractions were thrown out. A couple of people had their fines reduced due to mitigating circumstances, but none were dismissed altogether.

    Finally, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that his concealed carry permit has been confirmed by a source. They don’t name the source (and noted that names of CC permit holders are not public record),

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  75. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    In that scenario, Castile had the gun in his lap while driving the vehicle. That is an incredibly dangerous and aggressive move

    We don’t know if he had it in his lap or if he produced it from its concealed location after he was pulled over. Since there was no attempt to stash the gun, I’d guess it was the latter.

    I’d also guess that having the gun in his lap and not in his hand or concealed was his attempt to cooperate with the officer. If he reached for it, it may have been to put it in a more secure position for the interaction.

    This doesn’t work either:

    It wasn’t the presence of the gun, but the placement of the gun that made deadly force likely.

    We can agree that the placement of the gun was unwise. Not only might you shoot your balls off, but you might scare a cop.

    But deadly force should be reserved for situations much more dangerous than unwise gun placement.

    And, sorry, dude, but this is silly:

    And we had some weed in the car that’s about it.

    It’s absurd that anyone in America should be worried about being shot by the police for having “some weed in the car.” In my state, the cops don’t even care.

    As for your suggestions, I don’t mind body cameras. I think they will do more to fuel newscasts than reduce police violence though.

    The police union idea is interesting, but I mistrust it. I hope this isn’t just the usual anti-union first principles stuff, because while police unions do defend bad cops, with PR and legal defenses, they also serve a useful purpose for police officers generally.

    Here’s my big suggestion: Tell the cops they can’t treat anyone like this. If they don’t listen, get rid of them and get new cops. It’s a lot harder that body cameras, I admit, but it’s the only way.

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  76. Pch101 says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    While it’s nice to see that you’ve brought both of your IQ points to today’s discussion, you should try to provide links that are actually worth reading and that don’t make you look like an idiot.

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  77. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: I see your point. I just would be comfortable if I was confident that the 15% who will always do the right thing were setting the agenda in the police departments for the 70% who will go with the flow. It doesn’t look to me as though the police departments are any better than the general population that also seems unwilling to consider anyone other than themselves on many issues. The problem is that when the police use that value system, we keep having situations where citizens are getting capped for no apparent reason.

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  78. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I can’t speak for other places, but where I have lived before the police do not come up to the car of a “because he matched the description of a wanted armed robber” stop and ask for his ID.

    But you keep reaching for that doubt that you need to find. I know how much you want to believe that every time the cops shoot someone “he had it comin’.”

    “Accrochez-toi, a ton reve.”

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  79. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Too lazy to look for it, but someplace in SoCal, there were 720 “malfunctions” of body cameras during the first month they were in use.

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  80. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Too lazy to look for it, but someplace in SoCal, there were 720 “malfunctions” of body cameras during the first month they were in use.

    That’s when you explain to the fine officers that the cameras are there for their benefit as well, and are a mandatory part of their job.

    Then remind them that mistreating police equipment is a major offense, and can result in firing.

    Then also remind them that they are expected to know how to operate their equipment properly, and if they can’t figure out how to NOT turn off the cameras by accident, then perhaps they need to find a new line of work.

    I repeat myself: this is a big stick. It should be accompanied by a carrot of some sort for the officers.

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  81. KM says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    That’s when you explain to the fine officers that the cameras are there for their benefit as well, and are a mandatory part of their job.

    Oh, be sure that no “malfunctions” happened when it was beneficial for the officer to have a record of what happened. We’d be hearing about it from police unions that their officers were forced to work with substandard equipment and that’s hampering their ability to prove themselves innocent if so. Eventually, it’s gonna to backfire spectacularly in that some decent officer who has legitimate equipment trouble will not be believed in court; I’m sure somewhere some kid really did have their homework eaten by the dog but it would take an act of God to get the teacher to believe that tired old lie.

    Your stick needs to be a bit bigger: any “malfunction” of any kind is an automatic suspension without pay for two weeks. More then three in a year without an outside agency certifying actual technical issues is mandatory retraining in cop pre-K, all unpaid of course. No wiggle room, no appealing, no mitigation of the punishment. Good cops will get the hint fast… but then, good cops aren’t the problem here. This needs to stop and allowing “malfunctions” as legitimate excuses to seep into an already corrupt culture is asking for it. The carrot is the knowledge that this process will help weed out those in their ranks that are causing their lives and livelihoods to be endangered, making them safer and increasing public trust.

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  82. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    That’s when you explain to the fine officers that the cameras are there for their benefit as well, and are a mandatory part of their job.
    Then remind them that mistreating police equipment is a major offense, and can result in firing.
    Then also remind them that they are expected to know how to operate their equipment properly, and if they can’t figure out how to NOT turn off the cameras by accident, then perhaps they need to find a new line of work.

    Which is all fine and good if you are white male and and enjoy white privilege.
    Not so much if you are black and 3 times as likely to get shot by that cop.
    With every comment you prove just what a maroon you really are.

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  83. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    can result in firing

    Umm. Dr. Einstein? Cops in America regularly kill citizens with little or no cause and get away with it. I don’t think we are going to see a lot of firings over this issue.

    When cops in NYC turned their back on the mayor, who after all is at the top of the chain of command, it became crystal clear that they consider themselves to not be answerable to civilian control. The way I remember it “conservatives” were cheering.

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  84. Jenos Idanian says:

    @KM: We’re disagreeing on style, that’s all. We’re going for the same goal here; I’m just saying we should start off trying to be reasonable and persuade, you’re going for the brute-force method. I think my way is more likely to work, but again, it’s a matter of style.

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  85. Jenos Idanian says:

    @C. Clavin: @anjin-san: You are both cordially invited to micturate upon an electric fence posthaste.

    (Not to be confused with micturating on an electric fencepost hastily, but that should have the same results…)

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  86. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Sorry dude, that would interfere with my plans for the next week or so – Hollywood Hills, Malibu, Corona del Mar… I’ll be at The Vibrato Grille on Thursday night for their Bastille Day show & at The Baked Potato on Friday night. Drop by if you can.

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  87. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: I’d say I’ll miss you, but neither of us would believe that.

    Somewhere in there, though, if you do find an electrified fence…

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  88. KM says:

    @Jenos:

    We’re going for the same goal here; I’m just saying we should start off trying to be reasonable and persuade, you’re going for the brute-force method.

    Perhaps. Personally, I think they’ve had plenty of time to understand and accept that the public is sick and tired of this and they need to shape up fast. I see little reason to keep offering chances and options for persuasion since we shouldn’t have to be persuading them to do the right thing in the first place. Refusal to adopt and willingness to sabotage a technology designed to record the unbiased truth is at heart admitting they are not reasonable to begin with. They want an on-command CYA and use it often to cover their (potential criminal and fatal) mistakes with frightening regularity.

    This whole thing serves as an ironic metaphor: we’ve negotiated long enough with the armed killers, time for the bomb robot to prevent further deaths. That such drastic measures are necessary is disheartening but results from the choices of the shooter. It sets an extremely negative precedent. Nobody wins; we just end up with less bodies on the ground.

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  89. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: The cops carry guns there. Generally they just have them better hidden than the cops in the USA. Excluding all the ones carrying real assault rifles.

    Granted I haven’t been in England in a decade but my friends there haven’t seen any changes on that front.

    @michael reynolds: He used a sks which is so old and antiquated it’s considered a curio relic. It’s almost on par with a bolt action rifle (internal magazine requiring stripper clips etc just like a bolt action). It’s miles away from an “assault rifle”. It would be nice if you’d actually stick to something resembling the facts when making statements.

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  90. Matt says:

    @george: Actually what makes up the VAST majority of killings are gang/drug/crime related murders. Don’t associate with gang/mafia affiliated people and your chances of being murdered drops to below that of drowning in a swimming pool.

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  91. DrDaveT says:

    @SKI:

    Second, if they could get the robot in with a pound of C-4, why couldn’t they get the same freaking robot in with a concussion grenade?

    This.

    There are a million gradations of response between “do nothing” and “blow him to smithereens”. There are nearly as many possible responses between “wait for him to get sleepy/thirsty” and “blow him to smithereens”.

    If you can attack him with a bomb without risk to bystanders, then you can attack him with ___ without risk to bystanders, for pretty much any value of fill-in-the-blank that has any business being in a police arsenal. So where was the concussion grenade? The tear gas or emetic gas? The remote-operated taser? There are lots of nonlethal options, and they weren’t used. (If the reason is “cops were dead; we don’t arrest cop-killers”, add one murder to the list.)

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