Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has come under fire for a public service announcement in which he urged citizens to no longer call 911, but rather take classes in operating a firearm.
The message recorded by Clarke said it is simply no longer best to call 911 when in an emergency situation, partly because so many police officers have been laid off.
“Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there,” Clarke said. “You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”
Possibly the top opponent of Clarke and his proposition is Mayor Tom Barrett. Barrett has been a staunch advocate of gun control and has released a statement through his office saying,” Apparently, Sheriff David Clarke is auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie.”
Both Barrett and Clarke made an appearance on Piers Morgan’s talk show Tuesday. Barrett made an argument that it is not Clarke’s job to be advising citizens on what to do in emergency situations. In addition, he argued that Clarke is advocating exploiting loopholes in gun-ownership laws.
“The Milwaukee police chief and I agree that, if there is an emergency, individuals should call 911,” Barrett said. “And the fact is that the ad implies that the sheriff and the sheriff’s forces are not going to come to residences when they call 911, and that simply isn’t true. The sheriff’s department has jurisdiction over our freeways, over the airport, over the court, but it is the police officers that respond to these calls, and to have a sheriff basically imply that it’s not going to help you to call 911 is irresponsible.”
Clarke responded by defending his position and also attacked Barrett on the lack of funding for law enforcement.
“The mayor is completely wrong,” Clarke said. “I am the top law enforcement agent in Milwaukee County.”
Jeri Bonavia, executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, supported the mayor’s ideology and questioned Sheriff Clarke’s motive behind the announcement and his appearance on CNN.
“I think that this announcement was irresponsible and dangerous,” Bonavia said. “If you decide you want to use a firearm for personal protection, he should have explained the risks, and he did not do that.”
Both the mayor and sheriff argued that guns could have altered certain situations. Throughout the 11-minute time slot on CNN, the two discussed situations in which a gun could have prevented or stopped a death from occurring in the city of Milwaukee.
In 2012, 73 of 92 (81 percent) homicides within the city of Milwaukee involved a firearm.