Accused of promoting vigilantism, Detroit’s top cop explains stance on Second Amendment

Detroit Police Chief James Craig had to explain his stance on citizens’ packing firearms after his views landed him on the cover of a gun rights publication put out by the National Rifle Association.

Following a series of fatal defense shootings in Detroit, Craig said earlier this year that he had never seen as many homeowners defending themselves by shooting intruders. In January, he told the Detroit News, “We’re not advocating violence; we’re advocates of not being victims. We’re advocates of self-protection. We want people to be safe.”

Craig’s stance on gun laws was the focus of a recent cover story in America’s 1st Freedom magazine titled “A show of courage in Detroit.” It claims Craig, who is leading a limited force in a decaying, bankrupt city, sees the Second Amendment as a solution for public safety. It’s those views that he had to reiterate in a press conference this week.

“Critics will say, ‘Chief, are you saying the Detroit Police Department can’t do its job?’ That is absolutely an untrue inaccurate statement,” he told reporters. He said many have come out in support of his views. “A police officer cannot and will not be on every corner in front of every house, every business in the city. That’s just not realistic. So when a person who is a law-abiding citizen who has a CPL [concealed pistol license] or CCW [concealed carry weapon] … They’ll deal with an imminent threat to life.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, when asked at the press conference whether he is in favor of open carry, or carrying weapons in plain sight, Craig said: “It’s the law. I support the law.”

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality spoke out in a statement last month against what it calls the police department’s irresponsible rhetoric defending vigilantism.

And the group’s spokesman, Ron Scott, issued a press release this week, stating that Craig’s cover story sends the wrong message at the wrong time, CBS Detroit reported.

“In a time when the citizens of Detroit are trying to find their way out of the current cycle of violence, this is not the time for the Department to use the Chief’s public persona to unify with the political posture of the National Rifle Association,” Scott said. “This is a public safety and community issue, not simply a Second Amendment issue.”

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 06: Detroit Police Chief James Craig talks to reporters about a shooting outside of a barber shop where nine people were shot November 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Chief Craig confirmed that three people were killed and the suspects were still at large. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Detroit Police Chief James Craig in 2013. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Craig spoke against vigilantism in the article, saying: “In my view when you talk about vigilantism, you’re talking about someone who has made a decision to do law enforcement’s job — go out and enforce the law. This is not that at all. This is about self-defense, protection, an imminent threat to life, very different response.”

Craig told America’s 1st Freedom that the number of licensed gun holders in Detroit today is very different than it was when he grew up there — or even started his career there.

“[Now] there were a lot of CPL holders, a lot of good Americans, good Detroiters that were fed up with being victims,” he told the magazine. “And they responded.”

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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