The Year Gun Control Died

Gun opponents would leave predatory cops armed and their victims helpless.


For fans of legal restrictions on self-defense rights, 2020 is a disaster. It provides continuing evidence that to push gun control proposals is to advocate that the likes of Derek Chauvin—the Minneapolis cop who killed George Floyd—should be armed, while the communities they terrorize should be helpless. It is also to insist that when police fail at their supposedly core task of protecting the public, people should be deprived of the means for defending themselves. As many Americans lose faith in law enforcement and do what's necessary to shield lives and property, it's unlikely that they'll be an enthusiastic audience for future disarmament schemes that would make those of us who don't work for government even more vulnerable to those who do.

Back in December,* prominent gun control advocate and then-presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg responded to reports that an armed church security guard stopped a would-be mass murderer by sniffing that such behavior is inappropriate.

"It may be true—I wasn't there and don't know the facts—that somebody in the congregation had his own gun and killed the person who murdered two other people, but it's the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot. You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place," he said.

That comment hasn't aged well in a world dominated by names of victims of police violence such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and uniformed perpetrators like former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Before he was charged with murder for the killing of Floyd, Chauvin had 18 prior complaints filed against him. Of the three other officers fired and charged over Floyd's death, Tou Thao also had a record of complaints—six in total, including one that resulted in a $25,000 settlement for the use of excessive force.

Chauvin and Thao are part of a larger problem. Five years after a U.S. Justice Department report called for changes in how the Minneapolis Police Department handles officer misconduct, "law enforcement agencies have lacked either the authority or the will to discipline and remove bad officers from patrol. They have also failed to set clear criteria on the use of force and de-escalation," according to The Marshall Project.

That's the back story leading up to George Floyd's death, which resulted in protests and riots across the United States.

In response to the disorder, the FBI asked the public to submit "information and digital media depicting individuals inciting violence." Americans promptly responded—with evidence of cops behaving badly from coast to coast.

"Many on Twitter quickly began sharing video clips and photos of police cracking down violently on protesters," noted Newsweek. "In some, an officer or officers attack a group of protesters, seemingly unprovoked. Other clips showed police spraying tear gas in protesters' faces or shoving them violently to the ground."

In Washington, D.C., law enforcement forcibly and very publicly ejected mostly peaceful protesters from the area in front of St. John's Episcopal Church so the president could stage a photo op.

How convincing can Bloomberg's "only cops should have guns" sentiment now be to Americans who have seen and shared fresh examples of unjustified and brutal police conduct?

Of course, police aren't the only ones terrorizing the public. Rioters and looters also put lives and property at risk, and in many areas law enforcement agencies have failed to do much about it.

Just days ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo complained about the performance of New York City cops. "The police in NYC were not effective at doing their job last night," he said. "Have you stopped looting in the past? Have you stopped rioting in the past? Do that again."

Residents of Chicago, Long Beach, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and other communities voiced similar concerns as store windows were smashed, businesses burned, and people injured.

"We always assume when we need the police they'll be there for us," the disappointed manager of a looted Philadelphia ShopRite supermarket told The Wall Street Journal.

A good many Americans who weren't already enraged by examples of gratuitous police brutality were disgusted by evidence of law enforcement's ineffectiveness at a core responsibility. So, they took responsibility for their own safety—including people who fully support protests against police misconduct, but see no reason to allow themselves to be victimized by hotheads and opportunists.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, black residents stood armed guard against looters outside local businesses. Business owners in Kirkland, Washington, did the same.

"U.S. retailers are stepping up patrols by armed security guards and transferring merchandise to secure locations as widespread civil unrest sets back the economic recovery from the coronavirus shutdown," reports the Los Angeles Times.

Video captured a Bellevue, Washington, cigar shop owner chasing-off looters at gun point. In South Philadelphia, looters discovered why breaking into a gun shop is a high-risk proposition, with one of their number dead at the scene at the hands of the owner.

Many police departments conceded the limits of their abilities. In Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd advised Polk County residents to shoot looters. High-profile psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, a gun control supporter, marveled on Twitter that, when he called Santa Monica police over a protest-related confrontation, they told him, "Sir, the city is under attack. Do what you have to do." (He also observed officers "throwing tear gas at really peaceful people.")

For those who have been advising Americans for years that we should lay down our own weapons and trust armed government employees to protect us and treat us with respect, 2020 has been a massive reality check. The year so far has demonstrated (once again) that the police can't be relied upon to defend our lives and property, and often themselves pose threats against which we need to guard.

"It's the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot," Bloomberg and other gun control advocates insist.

No, thanks. If we were to follow the advice of those who would disarm us, we'd be even more at the mercy of Derek Chauvin and his buddies, and of anybody else with ill intent.

*CORRECTION: The original version of this article misidentified the month of Bloomberg's speech. It was December, not January.