Sunday, June 14, 2015

Disarm Yourself?

'Disarm Yourself,' say the police.
Confiscated knives on display.
The other evening, I was buying an electric shaver in one of the Sanandresitos along Calle 13, an area known for fencing stolen cellphones and money laundering. The shop also had a display of pocket knives - instruments not known for cutting bread and cheese.

As I was leaving, a tough-looking fellow crossed the dark street, purchased a knife and departed with it under his coat. He wasn't heading off to prepare his dinner.

Bogotá has just prohibited the carrying of 'armas blancas,' which include knives and other sharp weapons. It's potentially a positive move, since almost nobody carries knives to defend themselves, whereas criminals routinely do to threaten others.

A jackknife. Tool or weapon?
The trouble is enforcing the law, since knives, stilettos and other such weapons are easy to hide. And, how do you distinguish between someone carrying a knife to commit crime, and someone carrying one for work or carrying home new-bought knives to prepare dinner?

When I was a kid growing up in California, we carried jackknives or pocket knives to be cool and manly, but not to cut anybody.

Regulating the market is even more difficult, since there are legitimate uses for those weapon-like knives, such as camping, hunting and fishing. And, unlike a gun, you can make a knife at home.

All those grey areas leave the armas blancas law open to abuse. Still, for those of us who don't want to be mugged by a drugged out addict, as has happened to me, see the law's advantages.

On the other hand, a week ago I was going home late at night in La Candelaria when two cops stopped and searched me, even tho they had no reason to think I was up to any crime - which I wasn't. Perhaps frustrated by not finding any reefers in my pockets, they confiscated the pepper spray I usually carry, as I have been mugged on my way home at night.

"Where's your permit for carrying this," they asked me.

In fact, no permit is required for carrying a pepper spray.

I've since talked to several police officers, who agree that what those two cops did was rob me. The cops did not deposit my pepper spray in the police station. Perhaps they threw it away or sold it.

For whatever reason, criminals don't use pepper spray to commit crimes, but the spray seems to have saved me from several muggings.

Do the police really want more crime victims?

Congress is now considering requiring a permit to carry such personal protection. That might be reasonable. But disarming law-abiding people of this non-deadly protection device would just make criminals' work easier.

On the other hand, prohibiting pepper spray and similar devices will compel some people to resort to guns, replacing a non-deadly, non-injuring weapon with a deadly one.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Stephen Willhite said...

Good to know as I own a business in La Candelaria.