By Cassandra Lans
No matter what side of the gun control issue that one may be on, it appears as though remarks made by Sheriff David A. Clarke are continuing to spark a lot of passionate debate.
Clarke is known for speaking out, and most times he attracts the attention of two extremes. Individuals who are for whatever issue he is speaking out about respond with great passion and those who are against do the same.
Two weeks ago, the sheriff did a radio ad addressing citizens in Milwaukee County. Here is the 30 second spot that ran: “I am Sheriff David Clarke, and I want to talk to you about something personal, your safety, it’s no longer a spectator sport, I need you in the game but are you ready, with officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed or you can fight back, but are you prepared, consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so that you can defend yourself until we get there, you have a duty to protect yourself and your family, we’re partners now, can I count on you?” The safety message was sponsored by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office.
The reaction to the radio spot even received national attention, that lead to Clarke and Milwaukee Mayor Barrett sparing on CNN’s Piers Morgan program last week. During the broadcast Morgan said that Clarke’s remarks were turning Milwaukee into the “Wild Wild West”, Clarke clearly felt attacked, and asked the commentator if he was going to allow him to speak or not? In the end, the interview failed to shed much light on the issue other than Clarke refusing to answer questions that he didn’t want to answer.
In an earlier interview on CNN with journalist Soledad O’Brien, O’Brien played a clip from the radio spot. She responded to the spot with, “Wow. Wow. What’s the goal in this? Because it’s kind of scary. Is it to scare people? Is it to get everybody to run out and buy a gun?”
Clarke responded: “Once the wolf is at the door. Once the intruder is inside your home. Once you’re on the street and someone sticks a gun in your face to take your car or your wallet, you don’t have the option of calling 911.”
Clarke said he just wants to give citizens options of how to defend themselves.
During the interview with Clarke, O’Brien read a quote from the police chief in Chicago, who said, “If you put more guns on the street expect more shootings. I don’t care if they are licensed, legal firearms. People who are not highly trained, putting guns in their hands is a recipe for disaster.”
Clarke responded by stating, “That’s fine. That’s his opinion. I trust law-abiding citizens. The people who scare me are the criminal elements.”
Advocates for gun rights are coming out strongly, praising the sheriff’s remarks, and those who are for establishing more gun control issues, such as more intense background checks, and stricter laws on selling guns in secondary markets such as gun shows and individual sales are greatly concerned. Mayor Barrett attempted to get the sheriff’s opinion on these issues during their sparing match on CNN, but Clarke didn’t respond, he changed the subject.
But what about the opinions that fall in the middle? What about the sheriff putting just as much passion in educating law abiding citizens on how to learn about preventive measures in preparing themselves against crime.
Robert Miranda, editor of The Milwaukee Spanish Journal wrote: Instead of sounding the panic alarm and using the media to tell citizens to arm themselves, the Sheriff might have been more helpful in fighting crime had he asked citizens to:
1. Secure surroundings. The Sheriff says that burglaries are on the rise. Well, why not ask the public to have a family meeting and go over ways they can secure their homes and other property? Checking to see that windows are secure, locking doors, lighting up dark areas outside of the house and making sure garage doors are locked would be a good reminder to the public to help stem the rise of burglaries.
2. Be aware of your surroundings. The Sheriff says that armed robberies are on the rise. Instead of asking citizens to put themselves in harm’s way by arming themselves, other options could have been suggested. Such as: a) avoid high crime areas. b) walk in well-lit public places. c) walk in areas where there are people you can ask help from. d) do not resist. Give the robber what they demand. More often than not no one gets hurt.
Referencing sensible kinds of approaches to fighting crime normally do not attract media attention like calling for citizens to arm themselves from the hordes of “evil doers” lurking on our streets.
Other citizens have weighed in with concern as well, stating that the danger in Clarke’s message caters to individuals’ fears. Some have even related the highly profiled cases where individuals took the law into their own hands, such as George Zimmerman, the accused killer of Trayvon Martin who would have turned 18 years-old this week, and locally John H. Spooner, the alleged killer of 13 year-old Darius Simmons, who was found competent to stand trial in Milwaukee this week.
These accused killers stated that they felt that their lives were in danger, or in Spooner’s case thought that Simmons had stolen from him. And both decided to take the law into their own hands. Zimmerman called 911, but didn’t wait for them, and Trayvon is dead and reportedly did not have a weapon.
“These two examples are exactly why remarks made by the sheriff are dangerous. These remarks can very well lead to vigilantes like Zimmerman and Spooner, that end in the loss of innocent lives.” a caller to the Courier remarked.
“You have to be careful in what you ask for,” was the response by Alderwoman Milele Coggs in response to Clarke’s radio spot.