The man's right: Get in the game

Wisconsin sheriff catches flak for telling the truth about self-defense

Much has been made of a Wisconsin sheriff’s recent advice to citizens to take responsibility for their own safety, including training and arming themselves.

But he’s irrefutably right. Police can’t be everywhere at once, and most often the best they can do is investigate a crime that’s already occurred.

Personal safety, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said in a radio public service spot, is “no longer a spectator sport; I need you in the game.”

It never was a spectator sport. Relying completely on police protection has never been wise. Again, they just can’t prevent a lot of crimes. But Clarke also referenced officer layoffs and furloughs as well: He had to lay off 42 officers last year, and the city is furloughing 1,500 officers three days each this year, he said.

“We’re partners now,” he told citizens in one interview.

“You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. But are you prepared?” he asked in his announcement.

Even in self-defense, certainly, there’s only so much you can do – and not everyone is in a position to safely “fight back.” In some cases, it might make things worse. You have to gauge your own abilities and each situation that might arise.

But in response to concerns that having more armed citizens might only be dangerous, Clarke says, “I trust law-abiding citizens. The people that scare me ... are the criminal elements. ... The firearms are out there anyway.

“It’s always been my belief that safety is an individual responsibility.”

The sheriff’s only crime is speaking a truth that so many others do not.

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