Police officers Steven Davis and Nicholas Kline, of Solon, and Brandon Savage and Erin Thomas, of Middlefield, are living heroes. But, despite being among the very best trained individuals in the use of firearms, they very well could have been dead heroes.
At 9:45 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, after Mr. Davis and Mr. Kline attempted to make a routine traffic stop on Bainbridge Road, their cruisers came under fire from a semiautomatic pistol. Quite likely, Mr. Davis, who was struck in the chest and left arm, is alive today only because he was wearing one of the bullet-proof vests that are required for Solon officers on patrol. Fortunately, Mr. Kline was not struck by any of the wild-flying bullets that penetrated his vehicle.
Unfortunately for Kevin M. Bailey, 22, of suburban Toledo, who either had a death wish or some sort of mental disorder, those well-trained and courageous Solon officers didn't miss. He was killed by their return of fire.
Mr. Bailey's weapon was similar to the one pulled by Ashford Thompson in the wee hours of the morning on July 13, 2008, to pump three bullets into the head of Twinsburg police officer Joshua Miktarian, who was making a routine traffic stop in that nearby suburb. Solon police know all too well how guns in the wrong hands can be deadly at any given moment, even for those who receive continuous training and are on the highest alert.
Middlefield police know that too. At about 5:55 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, after Mr. Savage and Ms. Thomas stopped a driver for a traffic violation on North State Avenue, they came under fire from an assault rifle. Mr. Savage was shot in the leg, and Ms. Thomas was wounded in the hand. Fortunately, their assailant wasn't a better shot.
Unfortunately for James L. Gilkerson, 42, of Mentor-on-the-Lake, who either had a death wish or some sort of mental disorder, those well-trained and courageous Middlefield officers are better shots. He was killed by their return fire.
The AK-47 used by Mr. Gilkerson was among the guns listed by name in the 1994 American assault-weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004.
Forty-seven police officers in the United States, all of them much better trained in the use of firearms than the vast majority of American gun owners, died as the result of gunshots last year. One of them, former Akron officer Frank D. Mancini, 72, somehow had clung to life for 47 years after being shot and paralyzed while attempting to apprehend a robber in 1965. The killer had managed to grab the gun from the well-trained policeman and turn it on him and two fellow officers.
With 310 million guns owned by civilians in America today and just 4 million of them in the hands of law enforcement and the military, nobody in his right mind believes that the government can or would try to confiscate them. There may be some logic as to why the country shouldn't do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who are not in their right minds -- including Ashford Thompson, Kevin M. Bailey and James L. Gilkerson.
Law-abiding citizens of sound mind surely have the right to own guns for hunting, sport shooting and, yes, self-defense. But, as the best-trained gun handlers in the country know full well, successful self-defense is a matter of hit or miss -- even for the police. Those who believe otherwise are playing with fire.