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Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.
Gangs

Gangs, Guns, and Political Games

Fight politicians who would take guns from law-abiding citizens, giving gangs an undue advantage.

November 21, 2007  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

What's the difference between an Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Murder? Answer: About an inch and a half. That would be the distance of the trajectory of a pistol or rifle bullet through your body, from your heart, brain stem, or other lethal clustering of circulatory vessels or nerve centers. The answer could also be "three to five minutes." This would be the expected arrival time of paramedics or the extended travel time to a proper trauma center.

In the year 2006, 52 law enforcement officers were killed by firearms in the United States. But murder is a very poor measure of the criminal use of firearms against the police. After our experiences in treating gunshot victims first in WW II, and later in Korea and Vietnam, our scientific and medical skills to treat and save gunshot victims increased tenfold. In other words, if it were not for science we would have lost 10 times the officers we lost in 2006—that would mean a number more like 520 killed by gunfire.

A better statistic to measure the level of violence American police must face today would be the FBI criminal aggravated assault index, which would put us at about 300 aggravated or serious assaults per 100,000 people. This would make us about seven times more likely to be the victim of a serious assault in Washington D.C. than in most capitals in Europe. But why? Maybe we get shot more because we have more guns?

Legal Gun Ownership Does Not Increase Violence

In Switzerland every able bodied person is required to keep and maintain an assault rifle in his residence. Yet Switzerland has a very low incidence of gun violence. Mexico, on the other hand, has very strict laws against its citizens, and even some of the police, from possessing and carrying any firearms (with the exception of a few hunting weapons). The gun violence in Mexico by all reports seems about equal to Iraq. Every day hundreds of poor disarmed average citizens are murdered, robbed, shot, and kidnapped at gun point by well armed bad guys in Mexico. In L.A. the murder rate is 3.9 per 100,000; in D.C it is 9.6 per 100,000; but in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, it is 33.3 per 100,000.

Believe it or not, things were worse than today's statistics in the streets of U.S. cities in the peak years of 1991-1995, when we had almost 450 aggravated assaults per 100,000 people. During the Los Angeles crack epidemic of the 1980s our super high murder rate was attributed by the media to "assault rifles" like Mac-10s, M-16s, and AK-47s in the hands of every gang member and drug dealer. We did sometimes find a weapons cache that included these weapons, but in my experience gang members—even in Los Angeles—did not kill people with these kinds of weapons. So I checked this out with the L.A. coroner's office and with the Bulldog detectives at LASD Homicide. I found that gang murderers preferred a small caliber handgun like a .25 or .32 semi-automatic. But the most common killing weapons used by gang members were the Glenfield or Marlin .22 rifles. The second place went to shotguns—usually sawed off shotguns.

Los Angeles and California politicians followed this assault weapon myth with all kinds of foolish regulations against "military looking" weapons. I remember the memo that circulated in the Department demanding that deputies who owned these types of weapons turn them in, or at least register them (which would have resulted in their confiscation). Surprisingly the department didn't get many deputies to turn in their $1,000 rifles. The clueless politicians also banned armor piercing rounds, although no officer had ever been attacked with them, as well as magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.

The city of Hollywood banned the sale of all bullets. Los Angeles County outlawed gun shows because gang members might buy their guns there. Have you ever noticed that these same politicians have armed bodyguards that travel with them and they live in the most secure homes with alarms and the insurance of instantaneous response from the local police?

Gun Bans Don't Deter Gang Members

I have personally arrested, or been involved in the arrest of, thousands of people. Almost all of them have been gang members, because that is what I did as a LASD gang cop. A large percentage of these arrests involved guns. But I have never arrested a gang member who lawfully possessed a gun and who purchased it legitimately. So banning legitimate gun-related purchases only disarms the lawful citizens, making it easier for the unlawful to victimize them.

In California, juvenile neophyte gang members are already forbidden to possess weapons because of their age, even fixed ammunition. After the first few years as a new gang member, the majority of them have sustained at least one felony conviction, and are therefore again not lawfully permitted to own or carry a firearm. However, gang members are not dissuaded by the fact that something is illegal. They are outlaws and criminals by their very nature and definition. How many drive-by shootings have been prevented by the assault weapon or the high-capacity magazine ban? Answer: NONE!

Gang members recognize this and do not normally purchase their weapons at a gun show, Big 5, or Turners stores. I guess it is "possible" that a few, stupid convicted felons might take the unnecessary risk and use the nerd cousin or girlfriend to make a straw purchase. But in my 33 years of experience, 95 percent or so of all gang members are more likely to get their guns from the same place they buy their dope: in the underground system on the street. Guns, like dope, are the "coin of the realm" and are stolen and bartered back and forth among criminals. In the cities that impose these draconian second amendment restrictions, like New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. are the streets any safer?

I live in the "Great Free State of Arizona" where it is easy for non-felons to get a permit to carry a weapon. Arizona is a gun friendly state. Except for the Los Angeles-like areas around Phoenix, this is a community of polite law abiding people. But I sometimes hear police from California blaming Arizona for the guns in the hands of Los Angeles gang members. I sometimes hear the same kind of complaint from New York and Chicago cops blaming the surrounding states for the guns in their gang members' hands. Yes, the streets of all our cities would be safer if these gang members did not have guns, but what is the real problem? The guns or the gangs?

The California prison system is the best example I can think of, of the most efficient closed and regulated society where all weapons are banned for all inmates. However, the gang members who reside there are proficient in manufacturing clubs, spears, knives, guns, and even bombs with which they continue to kill each other in great numbers every year. Banning weapons will not work.

Why would the police want to disarm the citizens that they have sworn to protect and serve anyway? The politicians that wish to use the police to do just that are the same ones who want to give convicted felons and prisoners the right to vote and support the illegal aliens and the terrorists in their claim for U.S. constitutional "rights." They are advocates for rights of others over the rights of lawful citizens of this country to protect themselves. Did you know that the Courts have found that a governmental agency cannot be sued for failing to come to the aid of the victim of a violent criminal act? The courts have opined that the fundamental responsibility for protecting one's life is self protection.

Armed Citizens to the Rescue

I remember the summer of 1965. My neighborhood was ablaze as outlaw bands of criminals robbed, raped, and rioted in Los Angeles. These were militant days of armed revolutionary gangs with fully automatic weapons against policemen armed with .38 revolvers and a few shotguns. The cops were getting their butts kicked and retreated away from the violent center of the rioting. The firemen too refused to respond to the epicenter of burning buildings and machinegun fire. But we lived there, and we were not supportive of the rioters. We felt like we were additional victims thrown to the wolves.

But some of us would not be victims because we were armed citizens. I saw WW II veterans and Korean War veterans of all races go into their closets and bring out their old M-1 carbines and hunting rifles. They protected their own homes and families until the National Guard was deployed. Some of them passed weapons to the outgunned police.

On Firestone Boulevard in nearby South Gate the Weatherby's gun shop opened its doors and properly armed many of the LAPD and LASD officers for free. I saw this happen again to a lesser degree after the Rodney King Riots of 1992 when our cowardly LAPD and LASD police administrators ordered us back from rioters while the rioting gangs pulled innocent people from their cars and beat them to death while we watched. It happened again when B&B gun shop provided rifles to the outgunned LAPD officers pinned down in the infamous Bank of America shootout in North Hollywood.

Now compare these incidents that I described with what happened after Hurricane Katrina. The government and law enforcement disarmed people and seized their weapons citing the "emergency situation." How can you protect your home and family when the police cannot respond to your 911 calls, unless you are an armed citizen?

There are those in this society who think that only the wealthy and the elite and their minions should be armed. They will use the natural fear of crime, gangs, and terrorism to pass laws to disarm the people. But it is these elitists who should be feared the most. The gang members laugh at these laws and ignore them. They will have no problem finding and accessing illegal weapons to continue to commit the violence that is their way of life.

I will continue to support the Second Amendment and the lawful possession of firearms to defend the citizens I have made an oath to protect and serve. I don't fear the sheep; I fear the wolves.


Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

hansen @ 11/21/2007 3:06 PM

Damn good article!!!! I have always said this myself!

As a firearms instructor to civilians (CCW), I have always told them that next to criminals, Politicians are our next enemy. Taking guns for law abidding people only makes for a "DEFENSE FREE ZONES" for criminals.

If you look at states that have the CCW program they have gad a decline in crime. Maybe not huge drops, but drops. If 2 people are not killed or raped do the the state having a CCW program, it makes it all worth while!!!!

CCW folks are a cops best friend. CCW carrying people have helped cops in AZ!!!!

hansen @ 11/21/2007 3:11 PM

I should add that I myself have GMICeD too many to count gang members and not one have I ran into that bought the gun legally!

David Moore S-55 @ 11/23/2007 6:44 PM

Excellent!! This is a very needed message - politics in Law Enforcement & Military get's folks killed, due to administrative liability concerns. You cannot not function safely when the mind is more concerned about what will happen to you when you use force, (Oath)... for self-protection or protection of other's. This hesitation for any reason, is deadly. You have three types of citizens - (those who follow the law, those who walk the line between right & wrong or push the envelope until caught, and those who never follow the law). I strongly believe the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that bans on handguns, carrying firearms within the home, and possession of loaded or operable firearms for self-defense violate these, my rights.

adfisher @ 11/24/2007 7:15 AM

Excellent article! Valdemar oozes common sense. Keep on oozing!!

petbull @ 11/24/2007 11:20 AM

Excellent article Rich! As a cop for over 18 years in LA, I completely agree with Rich. He is absolutely correct about the gangsters.

CPD169 @ 11/26/2007 8:58 PM

Outstanding article! I find it refreshing to see that common sense hasn't died, but is alive and well in California.

jwpedraza @ 11/29/2007 4:48 PM

Excelent article. All these facts should be shown to the politicians and citizens of DC.

deltaalpha @ 12/11/2007 4:41 PM

You can also attribute alot of Police officers lives to a little thing called ARAMID FIBER or Kevlar as it is known....Give tons of praise to those companies who manufacture Body Armor. Wiould you feel less safe entering a known Suspect who is armed with or with out a vest?

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