Phobias are an incredibly valuable currency which politicians spend without shame. From Muslims to Mother Nature, irrational emotions and wild accusations are invented and leveraged to support egregious, oppressive policies that would otherwise make no sense. In South Carolina, the Department of Public Safety wants to spend half-a-million dollars to equip highway troopers with AR-15 rifles for the expressed purpose of reacting to potential, future mass shootings.
It doesn't take much work to look back on the past year and recall several terrorist incidents in which multiple people were killed. Whether officers carrying deadlier automatic weapons would have made a difference in the outcome is certainly debatable and logic suggests that, in many cases, troopers carrying AR-15s would have had zero impact on the outcome. It certainly wouldn't have changed the outcome of the Mother Emanuel terrorist attack in Charleston. However, it seems that carrying AR-15s might be less about keeping people safe and more about empowering police officers with bigger guns.
According to a local ABC news report, S.C. patrolmen wanted rifles that were more lethal than their standard shotguns "so badly" for "potential confrontations" that over 50 of them have purchased their own, deadlier rifles to carry with them on duty. Officers have been allowed to carry these self-purchased rifles due to a policy change and after attending an 8-hour training on handling the weapon. I'd like to know if any of that training involves when not to shoot someone.
The fact that S.C. troopers wanted deadlier guns "so badly" that they used their own money to purchase them suggests that this move is based on fear, a knee-jerk reaction. The concept of fear is the issue we should really be tackling. People of color have legitimate fears of police based on a multitude of police shootings where people have died for no reason. Police also have legitimate fears to consider. Reviews of many police shootings reveal human beings who were frightened and lacked confidence in a high-stress situation. It's this fear that results in situations that escalate needlessly with people being shot in the back or while reaching for requested paperwork.
The decision to provide AR-15s to a fearful police force ignores the more immediate and legitimate issue of people being needlessly killed by police officers with itchy trigger fingers. While S.C. troopers carrying semi-automatic assault rifles might, one day, change the outcome of a "potential" confrontation, it's more likely that it will result in innocent people being killed by 90-120 bullets per minute.
The truth is that bigger, bloodier guns are just a band-aid approach to a larger problem. If there is a legitimate concern over mass shootings that warrant troopers carrying deadlier weapons, then it would make sense for them to be fully capable of responding to such a "potential" crisis. Why stop at AR-15s. Let's get troopers equipped with sniper rifles, flash grenades, and armored vehicles that rove like ambulances in larger cities for potential violence.
Then again, if we are facing increasing risks of mass shootings, perhaps we should be addressing the cause of those shootings. For example, foreign policies and mindless Tweets that encourage the hatred of America. The lack of access to psychiatric and emotional help for those who need it but can't afford it is a factor of empathy. Finally, the political dichotomy that preys on our various social divides and keeps independent thinkers out of office is our biggest stumbling block. Progress requires a denial of the modern political machine, however, and we are becoming increasingly complacent in the bridge-building world while ingesting the bridge-burning propaganda like champagne on New Year's Eve.
Why not start making America great by acknowledging the reality of poor police relations and people being murdered by officers with badges. Instead of simply giving them deadlier weapons, let's spend the money to provide increased training so that officers feel more prepared and confident pulling over a person of any color and are less likely to shoot someone unnecessarily. When the first thought regarding a deadly police shooting is about victory over villainy instead of whether the victim was black or white, then we can tackle less mathematically probable scenarios, such as domestic terrorism, with S.C. state troopers.
That's not to say that AR-15s wouldn't be a better option than currently standard shotguns in a potential, future mass shooting. But before police officers are given deadlier weapons, unnecessary police shootings, which result in the death of American citizens, need to stop being regularly occurring news stories. When police officers no longer kill people because of a "potential" threat to their own well-being, then we can talk about arming them to the teeth for "potential" terrorist attacks. Until then, I would rather take my chances in a world of random of acts of "potential" violence where police officers regain their reputation as trusted protectors of the community. The "potential" is there.