The Following Article was printed in Outdoor Guide Magazine, which covers hunting, fishing and shooting in Missouri and Illinois. For a free copy of the latest issue, call (800) 706-2444.
by Sgt. David C. Jones, Ret.,St. Louis Police Department
Upon retiring from a 35-year law enforcement career in 1995, I became enthusiastically involved in the Second Amendment/gun rights struggle here in Missouri. I had long been troubled by the fact that Missouri is one of only a hand-full of states that continue to deny its citizens a means of personal protection outside the home.
As I discussed the issue with some skeptical friends they would ask, "Why do you want more guns and more killings out there on the streets?" Usually I would respond by quoting official statistics that reflect just the opposite, and also the 2nd Amendment but I seldom changed any minds.
Soon I found myself testifying before a Missouri Senate Committee on a Right-to-Carry Firearms Bill. Tough questions from the panel were coming fast and furious as I stumbled nervously through my many pages of well-documented statistics.
During my law enforcement career I occasionally experienced some degree of discomfort while on the witness stand but nothing similar to what I was experiencing here. My meticulously prepared pages of state and national firearms related homicide statistics, suddenly became cold, confusing and meaningless. Just numbers on paper. A few cold stares from the Senators convinced me I wasn't impressing anyone.
I decided to ignore my written speech speak from the heart.
I alluded to my personal on-the-street police adventures during the very violent 1970's and 1980's. This was a period when the City of St. Louis won the dubious distinction (three times, I think) of being "Murder Capitol, USA". We led the Nation in per capita homicides. I had volunteered to work the mid-night watch for two reasons; First, I enjoyed the action, excitement and fast pace. Secondly, it permitted me to attend my college classes during the day. So, there I was, working the night watch in the bloodiest district, in the bloodiest city in America.
In the Senate Committee meeting, I felt my discomfort slip away. I even detected a dramatic positive change in the demeanor of the committee members as I began to move from statistics to honest-to-God, real life events.
I presented a real life example of my position by relating a scenario in which I had been a player, leaving no details to the imagination: Let's go back to a warm Spring evening in the 1970's.
Mr. Smith is an honest, hard working, law abiding, husband and father, trapped in the inner-city. After work, he strolls down the block to the corner store for a loaf of bread. He is accosted by armed (likely drug crazed) criminals who take his money. He does not resist. Upon discovering only a couple of bucks on their prey, they coldly and methodically shoot the unarmed Mr. Smith (with an illegal weapon) and leave him dying on the sidewalk.
Enter Patrolman Jones: The police dispatcher directs: "Car 721, respond to Delmar and Goodfellow and investigate a shooting". Upon arrival, I call for an "urgent ambulance". I hear the poor soul ask "Why?" and then "Why?" again -- as he draws his last breath. I must accompany the body to the City Hospital to have him officially pronounced "Dead on Arrival". Amid the rancor, I hear a nurse ask "why?" Next, it's on to the morgue where I know I will face that chilling, rhetorical, question again.
Lastly, and most dreadfully, as any law enforcement office will confirm, I must go to his home and knock on the door. I will notify his wife and children that their husband and father will not be returning. Amid the shouts and screams of anguish I hear it again, over and over -- "why?" I try to answer, but in vain. It's only a simple three-letter word. . I am helpless. Much later, the next day, as I toss and turn, praying for the sleep that eludes me, I ask my God "why?"
Now, many years later and with many more "Mr. Smiths" in their graves, the answer is clear. We, as Missouri citizens have failed to demand the free exercise of our Constitutional right of self-protection. Personally, I am ashamed that for 35 years while I was legally armed and relatively safe, I did nothing to assist my fellow law-abiding Missouri citizens in their quest for justice.
I believe the foregoing scenario clearly illustrates why the overwhelming majority of rank-and-file Missouri police officers favor some degree of armed personal protection for honest, qualified, law abiding citizens.
It is significant to note that The Board of Directors of our 1,300 member St. Louis Police Officers Assn., (in which I am a proud charter member), recently voted 11-1 in favor of the current Right to Carry Referendum (Proposition B) which will be submitted to Missouri voters on April 6, 1999.
I do not expect to see the customary opposition from the "politically correct" organizations that represent appointed (Chiefs) and elected (Sheriffs) law enforcement officials. Proposition B is a referendum. It is designed to permit the people, not the Legislature, directly determine the issue.
I urge you to work diligently, in your neighborhoods, on your jobs, and among your friends and encourage them to vote for Proposition B.
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