Sanford, Fla., Police Flip-Flop On Scheme To Disarm Neighborhood Watch


The Sanford, Fla., police department has reversed its position on a scheme that sought to disarm neighborhood watch volunteers who patrol the suburbs, even if they’re lawful gun owners.

The original plan, coming in the aftermath of the now-infamous show trial of Sanford resident George Zimmerman over the stand-your-ground shooting death of Trayvon Martin, appeared to be a police effort to rehabilitate the city’s maligned public image by preventing neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns so that there would never be a repeat — however unlikely — of the circumstances that led to Zimmerman’s self-defense shooting of Martin.

But, according to the Orlando Sentinel, the police department has adjusted its stance from recommending an outright legal ban on neighborhood watch volunteers bringing their weapons with them on patrol to a simple “recommendation” that they should leave their guns at home.

“We originally came out with a stern, ‘You should not,'” said Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith Monday. “We took a second look at it.

“We want people to feel as though they are part of a movement. And it’s smarter for us to say, ‘Listen, if you’re going to be a part of it, you need to abide by the rules. And it’s a voluntary organization and if you choose not to be a part of it, you don’t have to be a part of it.’”

That sounds a bit like grudging equivocation from the police chief, but his department faced a backlash from locals who take the Bill of Rights seriously.

The Sentinel cites the argument of one such resident, neighborhood watch coordinator Phil Unser, as illustrative of how fallacious a ban on guns for watch volunteers would have been.

If a Neighborhood Watch volunteer was driving home with a gun in the car and saw someone breaking into a house, for example, would he have to take his gun home and lock it up before reporting the crime to the police?

“It doesn’t even make sense,” Unser said.

In all, the department floated the gun ban idea for only a week before the city council voted to “recommend” that volunteers remain unarmed. However, the “Legal Insurrection” blog reports: “It remains true that volunteers in a more thoroughly organized form of neighborhood watch — called ‘Citizens on Patrol’ — will be prohibited from being armed.”

In other words, after a week’s worth of protestation from local watch volunteers, nothing has changed, except that the city council held a meaningless hold-harmless vote to absolve it — if only in spirit — from the bad press that could attend another progressive outcry over any future stand-your-ground incidents.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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