Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Sept. 22, 2021

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In Our View: For Detective Brown, let’s talk about our guns

The Columbian

Friday’s fatal shooting of Clark County Sheriff’s Detective Jeremy Brown is a tragedy. His loss is felt not only by his family and other law enforcement officers, but by an entire community that depends on police to be a linchpin of a civilized society.

Brown, 46, was a 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and a detective with the Clark-Vancouver Drug Task Force. He is survived by five adult children and his wife, Jill. On Monday, he was posthumously promoted to sergeant by Sheriff Chuck Atkins, who said, “I know how much he wanted that.”

Three suspects have been arrested in relation to the shooting, which occurred as Brown sat in an unmarked police vehicle while conducting surveillance at an east Vancouver apartment complex. While there will never be an adequate explanation for Brown’s death, and while some details remain unclear, some early thoughts are warranted as we process the shooting.

One is that Brown’s death highlights the need for fully funded and fully supported police departments. On Monday, Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said in court that the weapon used was one of dozens allegedly stolen in June by Misty Raya, who fled the shooting scene and later was captured.

A probable cause affidavit accuses Raya of stealing 27 guns — including AK-47s — and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition from a Vancouver storage facility; she is not accused of being the shooter. Such firepower is not uncommon, and it demonstrates the risk that police are tasked with confronting.

Indeed, there is a place for police reform and for community involvement in improving police procedures. But adequate policing and better policing are not mutually exclusive propositions; our community can — and should — have both. We can — and should — demand both. Police officers have a difficult job, and they must have the resources to do it effectively.

Brown’s death is a stark reminder. If there are people among us willing to shoot an officer sitting in a car, what harm would they be willing to inflict upon us and our families? We are grateful for the honorable officers who risk their lives against such threats.

Another thought is that the number of guns in this country is at the point of madness. According to World Population Review, the United States has 120 privately owned guns per 100 people — about twice the rate of the next-highest country. America has six times as many civilian guns per capita as France and Germany; compared with England, guns are 26 times more prevalent here.

The United States’ gun fetish has created a self-destroying escalation of firearms that benefits only the weapons manufacturers. When dozens of guns can be stolen from a storage facility and used to kill a law enforcement officer, we are teetering on the edge of anarchy.

According to The Columbian, nine officers in Clark County have died in the line of duty since 1922. Brown’s death is the second since 1987, and we are thankful that such tragedies are not more frequent.

None of that, of course, provides any solace to Brown’s family, his fellow officers or our community. The death of any officer represents an extraordinary loss, and the callous viciousness that led to Brown’s death is particularly disturbing.

On Monday, Sheriff Atkins remembered Brown’s “quick smile” and called him “a man I so admired.” Police officers have been under much scrutiny across the nation, yet our admiration for those who are noble servants continues.