This letter is sent to you in response to Bryan Dean’s January 17 article in the Oklahoman: “Oklahoma City Police Chief Laments Criminals’ Access to Military-Style Guns.”
Pastor Tom Vineyard
Open Letter to Chief Bill Citty
January 19, 2011
Dear Chief Citty:
I want to start this letter by saying thank you for your 33 years of service in law enforcement. Having personally been the victim of a violent crime, I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to all those who put their lives on the line every day in order to keep the citizenry safe.
Since 1985, the members of Windsor Hills Baptist Church have had the privilege of honoring city, county, and state law enforcement officers on our annual Law and Order Sunday. By our conservative estimation, we have honored approximately 300 such officers, of which at least 75 have been from the Oklahoma City Police Department. We even made efforts this last fall to invite Officer Katie Lawson in order to honor her.
I am writing this letter because of the January 16 article written by Bryan Dean that was printed in the January 17 Oklahoman. There are some things in the article that you were quoted as stating that I feel need to be addressed.
Mr. Dean stated in the article that you see “no practical reason why someone needs an AR-15 or similar weapon.” A few paragraphs later you said, “There are just more and more assault rifles out there, and it is becoming a bigger threat to law enforcement each day. They [law enforcement] are outgunned.”
With all due respect, Chief Citty, I would like to point out a few things about the article and your comments in it.
It needs to be clarified that there is a great difference between an AR-15 and an assault rifle. To place both in the same group is incorrect and misleading.
The Free Online Encyclopedia defines an assault rifle as a “military firearm that is chambered for ammunition of reduced size or propellant charge and has the capacity to switch between semi-automatic and fully-automatic fire.”
The definition goes on to state that “assault rifles have become the standard infantry weapon of modern armies. Their ease of handling makes them ideal for mobile assault troops crowded into personnel carriers or helicopters, as well as for guerilla fighters engaged in jungle or urban warfare.”
Please note that the U.S. M16, NOT the AR-15, is included on the list of Military/Assault rifles.
The website NSSF.org additionally explains that sporting rifles based on the AR-15 cosmetically look like military rifles but do not function the same way that Military/Assault rifles do.
“AR” stands for Armalite rifle, not “assault rifle.” NSSF.org states, “AR-15 ‘style’ rifles are NOT assault weapons or rifles. An assault rifle is fully automatic – a machine gun.”
The article goes on to state that the term “assault weapon” is a political term created by California
anti-gun legislators in order to ban some semi-automatic rifles there in the 1980’s.
Additionally, NSSF states that the AR-15 style rifles fire “only one round with each pull of the trigger. Versions of the modern sporting rifles are legal to own in all 50 states, provided the purchaser passes the mandatory FBI background check required for all retail firearm purchases.”
“AR-15 style rifles are no more powerful than other hunting rifles of the same caliber and in most
cases are chambered in calibers less powerful than common big-game hunting cartridges like the 30-06 Springfield and .300 Win. Mag.”
Chief, may I respectfully remind you that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution assures the right and responsibility of individuals to protect themselves, their family, and their property: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
May I also respectfully remind you that the Constitution of our great state of Oklahoma clearly states in Section II-26: “The right of a citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power, when thereunto legally summoned, shall never be prohibited; but nothing herein contained shall prevent the Legislature from regulating the carrying of weapons.”
As a Christian and a pastor, I feel it my duty to also respectfully remind you that it is the God-given right and responsibility of every individual to protect themselves, their family, and their property.
Abraham armed his trained servants in Genesis 14:15 in order to recover Lot, his family, and his goods as well as everything else from Sodom. Abraham was just one man in a strange land.
David armed himself with the sword of Goliath in 1 Samuel 21:9. By 1 Samuel 25:13, every one of David’s men was armed with a sword.
When Nehemiah and the men of Jerusalem went to rebuilding the wall, they each had their sword girded by their side, working in the work with one hand and holding their weapon with the other. (Nehemiah 4:17-18)
Even the Lord Jesus Christ instructed His disciples who did not have a sword to go and buy one. (Luke 22:36)
This is just a few of the many examples that the Bible presents, from Abraham to Christ, of people who armed themselves with the preferred weapon of their time, the sword. We could very easily say that it was the AR-15 of their day.
Mr. Dean stated that you see “no practical reason why someone needs an AR-15 or similar weapon.” Again, with all due respect, Chief Citty, you have obviously never been the victim of a violent crime.
In just a few days, sir, will be the sixth anniversary of my family being robbed in our home while we were missionaries in Africa. Every day since then, when I look in the mirror to brush my teeth, wash my face, shave, or comb my hair, I see what I call my trophy from Africa, a scar on my forehead where I suffered a skull fracture from a rifle that was used on me while I was fighting to defend my family against five armed men who broke into our home. I nearly lost my hearing and my ear in the attack, and still have daily headaches to remind me of it.
Please understand that when they entered our home, we were unarmed. The law there in that country prohibited citizens from possessing firearms of any kind.
We cooperated with the thieves and even went so far as to show them where things were so that they could take what they wanted and then be on their way. For reasons we still do not know, they were unsatisfied with what we had and proceeded to tell us that they would kill our children if we did not give them more money. Chief, all that I had left that I could do to protect the lives of my children was to fight with my hands. It was not enough. To borrow your expression, I was “outgunned.”
Again, with all due respect, sir, I beg to differ with you that THERE IS a practical reason why someone needs an AR-15 or a similar weapon. If you and your family were ever robbed by someone who was armed while you were unarmed, you would understand.
You used the term “unscrupulous gun sellers.” How is it unscrupulous to engage in commerce? Are you implying that those who sold the gun did it with the intention of him shooting a police officer?
Can you not see that to raise the restrictions on firearms such as the AR-15 is simply to take them out of the hands of law-abiding citizens but not out of the hands of the bad guys?
You stated that Officer Lawson was outgunned. I would like to ask why? From what I understand in talking to police officers, they are permitted to carry shotguns and even AR-15’s in their vehicles. Did she not have one? Is your department underfunded and unable to provide each officer on duty with a shotgun and AR-15? If so, may I help you in a fund raising effort to provide each on-duty officer with a shotgun and AR-15? I am confident that with the multitude of law-abiding citizens who are thankful for law enforcement that we could easily raise the needed funds to properly arm our law enforcement officers.
According to the December 31, 2010, article that Bryan Dean wrote, “Oklahoma City officer recounts night she was ambushed,” Mr. Dean reported that police carry their own AR-15 rifles in their cars, but that Lawson “never had a chance to retrieve hers.” So it is obvious that Officer Lawson was not completely outgunned; she was only taken by the element of surprise. What law could be passed to stop such a crime if the death penalty is already in effect in Oklahoma? The answer is NOT to prohibit law-abiding citizens from purchasing sporting rifles such as the AR-15.
The question was asked, “How does a teenager get an AR-15?” While an 18 year old is still a teenager, an 18 year old is also old enough to drive, to vote, and even to go serve our country in Iraq
or Afghanistan. It is understandable that since the majority of 18 year olds are law-abiding citizens it is legal for them to purchase a firearm if they can afford it and so desire to do.
Chief, it is unacceptable that the military would trust some 18 year olds enough to send them overseas with a fully-automatic weapon in their hand to defend themselves and their country while at the same time you want to take semi-automatic sporting rifles out of those same law-abiding citizens’ hands in order to “make it harder for criminals to get such weapons.”
The article states that the gun was tracked to a dealer in Tulsa. The original sale was a legal sale. The weapon was tracked to its source. The shooter was found. Were you able to put it in his hand when he committed the crime? I believe the correct answer is yes. Adding extra hoops for law-abiding citizens to have to jump through will not keep criminals from breaking the law by shooting or killing someone. It makes absolutely no sense to cumber law-abiding citizens with even more regulation and further hinder them from protecting their families from those who have no regard for the law and will get and use guns even if they were completely outlawed and banned. It has been said that everywhere that gun regulation has been implemented, it is eventually followed by gun confiscation. Simply look across the pond to our friends in England and to those in the southern hemisphere in Australia as proof of this. Please understand that I am not implying this of you personally, but the reason that our founders included the 2nd Amendment in our Constitution was to protect the citizens from a government overstepping its bounds.
I challenge you to research the statistics in places such as Chicago, Washington D.C., Australia, and Great Britain where guns are prohibited. You will find that crimes with firearms still take place. More restrictive laws will not keep bad guys from committing crimes. Has the sign with the little pistol with the slash through it ever stopped a crime from being committed in places where firearms are forbidden? No, absolutely not! There are still school shootings like the one yesterday in California or the school board shooting in Florida. Even the shooting in Arizona would have most certainly turned out differently if the Safeway there had been “Concealed Carry” friendly.
At the end of the article, you said that officers are running into guns at a much higher rate now than they did 20 years ago, “even on routine traffic stops.”
A clarification of your term “guns” would be helpful. Are you speaking of the encyclopedia definition of a fully-automatic Military/Assault rifle, or a sporting AR-15 rifle, or are you speaking of the legal conceal carry pistols that law-abiding citizens are permitted to carry? Well, there is a problem if what you are referring to is the legally permitted conceal carry or even a rifle or shotgun without a round in the chamber.
Correct me if I am wrong, but does not Oklahoma law permit the transportation of firearms in the vehicle as long as there is not a round in the chamber? Are you speaking of those type guns that are legal under Oklahoma law?
I want to respectfully challenge your statement about running into guns at a much higher rate now than twenty years ago. I don’t know if you are from Oklahoma or how long you have been here, but when I was a teenager growing up here in Oklahoma, I remember seeing pickup trucks with gun racks carrying a rifle. Our school would play other schools in smaller, more rural towns where it was common to see them even in the pickups of the boys we played in football. That’s Oklahoma, Chief! Go back and study the statistics of shootings in smaller, rural towns. I am sure that you will find that while the guns in the back windows of pickups were common, the shootings were few and far between.
Oklahomans, in general, are good people, Chief. The majority of us are law-abiding citizens.
We respectfully reserve the right to keep and bear our arms, even our AR’s, protecting ourselves and our families. It is our state Constitutional right. It is our U.S. Constitutional right. And if either or both of them were to be taken away from us, it is our God-given right!
God forbid that those who would seek to disarm the citizens of the United States or the citizens of Oklahoma ever get their way here as they have elsewhere. My personal sentiment is and my reaction will be that of Charlton Heston, “I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands!”
If our Oklahoma City police officers are truly outgunned, then let me help you get an AR in each of their patrol cars. I would like to boldly suggest though that the real problem is not the style of guns that citizens are allowed to possess, but the illegal immigrants who are the cause of many such crimes.
Mr. Dean’s article completely overlooked the fact that Mr. Hector Mercado who had previously been deported and was in the country illegally was pulled over for a traffic violation.
May I remind you, Chief Citty, that after HB 1804 was passed, law enforcement offices all across the state were permitted to cross-train some or all of their officers and deputies with ICE agents to help apprehend and deport illegal aliens. I would like to know if you have accepted this offer for Oklahoma City police. I am further going to research to see if Sheriff Whetsel has allowed his deputies to be trained in this program.
I think that I can confidently speak for the majority of law-abiding citizens in the state of Oklahoma that they would much rather you focus your attention upon the much more pertinent issue of illegal immigrants in our state and in Oklahoma City than to try to fabricate illegitimate reasons to regulate the state and country’s lawful liberty to keep and to bear arms.
Sincerely your friend and servant,
Tom Vineyard, Pastor
Windsor Hills Baptist Church
5517 N.W. 23rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73127