Police Chief Craig: Armed Detroiters cut terror risk

George Hunter
The Detroit News

The city’s police chief said he believes violent extremists would be reluctant to target Detroit, as they had Paris last month, for fear armed citizens would shoot back.

“A lot of Detroiters have CPLs (concealed pistol licenses), and the same rules apply to terrorists as they do to some gun-toting thug,” Chief James Craig said. “If you’re a terrorist, or a carjacker, you want unarmed citizens.”

Oakland University criminal justice professor Daniel Kennedy agreed that terrorists would be reluctant to attack armed citizens.

“We don’t have laboratories where we can test these theories, but there is something to the argument that terrorists want a high body count — and if they can only shoot a few people before they’re taken out themselves, it wouldn’t have the kind of impact they want.

“An armed citizen won’t give them a high body count. Look at the theater in Paris,” the Bataclan Café, where four men with AK-47 assault rifles killed 89 people during a rock concert. “If some of those people had been armed, it would’ve been a much different story.”

Although no specific threats have been identified, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security last week released a bulletin to 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, warning there could be attacks similar to the Nov. 13 terrorist strikes in Paris that killed 130 people.

In Detroit last year, 1,169 handgun permits were issued; more than 8,000 guns were registered with the police department. Statewide, more than 115,000 gun permits were issued, according to the Michigan State Police. More than 30,000 Detroit residents are legally armed, according to Michigan State Police. There were 6,974 concealed-pistol licenses issued to residents in 2013, more than double those in 2009, and 7,584 issued in 2012, the state police said.

Craig, who made national headlines after he told The Detroit News in 2013 that he thought more armed citizens would help drive down the crime rate, said some gun control advocates are softening their stances amid the concerns about terrorism.

Craig pointed to comments Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier made last week during a “60 Minutes” segment about active shooting situations, in which she said citizens should “take the gunman out” if faced with a threat.

Lanier, who has been criticized by some for the low number of gun permits her department authorizes, told host Anderson Cooper: “If you’re in a position to try and take the gunman down, to take the gunman out, it’s the best option for saving lives before police can get there.

“And that’s, you know, that’s kind of counterintuitive to what cops always tell people, right? We always tell people, ‘Don’t ... take action. Call 911. Don’t intervene in the robbery.’ We’ve never told people, ‘Take action.’ This is a different scenario.”

Josh Horowitz, director of Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said, however, the risk of someone encountering a terrorist is minimal compared to the risk of harm caused by having a gun.

“The chances of running into a terrorist are small, but you’re increasing your risk if you have a gun,” he said. “Even assuming you’re going to be useful against terrorism, you’re increasing your own risk the rest of the year. Is that the right balance for your family? That’s the question you need to ask.

“Are there specific instances where having a firearm can be helpful? Of course. But you have to balance the overall chances with the increased risk of homicide or suicide you face when carrying a firearm. It’s not really an either-or question. The bottom line is, carrying concealed weapons doesn’t make communities safer.”

Ex-New York City police officer and terrorism expert Beau Dietl said he’s armed and ready to face any threat — and encouraged more citizens to do the same.

“On my hip I’ve got a 9 mm Glock, so I’m prepared if something happens,” he said. “If everyone was prepared to get involved, maybe we’d have fewer casualties. Even domestic terrorists hit places where they don’t think they’ll get much resistance, like movie theaters.

“I think the answer is, whoever is able to carry a gun legally, it would help.”

Starting Tuesday, Michigan is making it easier for citizens to get concealed gun permits. Three-member county gun boards will no longer issue, deny, revoke or suspend licenses. Instead, county clerks will assume those responsibilities.

Michigan was the last state with local gun boards, which meant different rules in each county. The National Rifle Association has said the new rules will eliminate licensing delays and arbitrary denials.

Craig praised the new state law, and said they will help citizens fight back against criminals and terrorists.

“If you look at what happened in Paris, I’m not saying if more citizens had had guns it would have stopped the terrorists,” he said. “But it sure might have helped.

“If you’re sitting in a restaurant, and you aren’t allowed to have a gun, what are you supposed to do if someone comes in there shooting at you? Throw a fork at them?”


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Associated Press contributed.