Detroit Police Chief James Craig could not be described as a pro-gun guy, but he recently acknowledged that law-abiding Americans who carry guns help to reduce crime. Speaking Thursday at a press conference, Craig repeated a sentiment he expressed last month during a radio interview, when he said that he believed having citizens with CCWs (carry concealed weapon permit) acts as a deterrent.
A 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles, CA Police Department, Craig was not previously known for his pro-gun view. In the past, he has supported the idea of a ban on “assault weapons” and restrictions on high-capacity magazines. He attributes his new attitude towards armed citizens to the time he spent as Chief of Police in Portland, Maine. “Coming from California, where it takes an act of Congress to get a concealed weapon permit, I got to Maine, where they give out lots of CCWs.” He said, explaining that his preference was to deny CCW applications. “I changed my orientation real quick. Maine is one of the safest places in America. Clearly, suspects knew that good Americans were armed.”
The purpose of Thursday’s press conference was to announce that the violent crime rate in Detroit had dropped 7 percent in 2013. Relative to its size and population, however, Detroit remains one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Last year, there were as many homicides in Detroit as in New York, a city with ten times the population.
Gun-control advocates disagree with the Police Chief, arguing that there is no evidence that the presence of guns reduces crime. Making a statistics-based argument either for or against the carrying of guns is difficult because there is no reliable method of quantifying how much crime is prevented by the presence of armed citizens. Police Chiefs in large urban centers are not known for being in favor of citizens carrying guns. Robert Stevenson, Director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, however, says “a lot of police officers have no problem at all with law-abiding citizens having guns.” He went on to point out that many police chiefs do not want to comment on the subject. “It’s a divisive issue,” he says, “a lot of times chiefs are reluctant to get in the middle of those debates.”
Several mass-casualty shootings across the country in recent years have been used by anti-Second Amendment groups to justify more restrictions on gun ownership. Every one of these shootings, however, has taken place in a location known for being a “gun-free zone.”
Whilst attitudes in the law enforcement community differ on the subject of gun-ownership, a survey carried out in March 2013 by a website for law enforcement officers showed that almost 90 percent of the 15,000 officers who participated believed that the presence of legally armed citizens at shooting incidents reduced casualties. In that same survey, more than 80 percent of the officers who participated were in favor of arming teachers who had received proper firearms training. According to the website, “the survey found that the overall attitude of law enforcement is strongly anti-gun legislation and pro-gun rights, with the belief that an armed citizenry is effective in stopping crime.”
In Detroit, where citizens must obtain a Concealed Pistol Licence (CPL), the Police Chief believes that the presence of legal guns is an effective deterrent. “Good Americans with CPLs translates into crime reduction.” Craig says. “I learned that real quick in the state of Maine.”
By Graham J Noble
The Detroit News