Violent crime rates have been dropping for 20 years -- they're down nearly 50% since 1990. But increasingly, both law enforcement and civilians seem to be living in fear. Homeland-security types inside the government, and gun-nuts on the outside, are both telling their respective constituencies that they're facing some kind of threat that can only be kept at bay by acquiring more arms and ammunition.
I don't know why there's this strange fear infecting people, from local police departments to old guys hiding in their houses with loaded guns to keep themselves "safe". I can't help thinking that the media -- TV and internet -- is largely to blame. But how do you get people to just calm down and realize that they don't need to be armed to the teeth and living in fear?
1. That Neenah hasn't had a murder investigation in 5 years is not very relevant to the question whether the police there should or should not have a large armored vehicle. I don't think they PD intended to use that vehicle for murder investigations. More relevant would be whether they have or may face situations involving standoffs with suspects who may be armed with rifles. Trust me, if you're the person who's dealing with that sort of mess you will want something more substantial than a Ford Crown Victoria between you and the suspect.
I don't think the police are loading up on this sort of equipment because they're afraid. They're doing it because the federal government is giving this shit away at little to no cost. Now small town police forces can have equipment that previously only very large cities could afford. Sure, an armed standoff is probably less frequent in Neenah compared to Los Angeles or Chicago, but when it happens the risks to the police officers are the same. Do you want to tell your small town officers their lives are less worth protecting than the LA officer's? "Sorry Mack, we could have had one of those big trucks from the Army too, but the Chief figured it would look bad rusting in the lot 364 days out of the year. So quit bitchin' and put on your vest and go get 'em!"
Believe it or not, sometimes even the Neenah police put their lives on the line to perform the dirty work the community hires them to do.
2. Also, I think your opinion that keeping a gun handy is indicative of a higher level of fear is wrong, and based on faulty analysis, or more likely no analysis.
A small percentage of people probably have a gun because they DO experience greater fear due to a specific threat or circumstances they're facing. But most people aren't facing any specific threats in their lives, sharing the same general threats as everyone. So why keep a gun handy when not facing a higher level of threat? Let me give you an anology.
When my son was about 2-years old, he was running through the house and stumbled into a table causing a nasty gash on his forehead. It was at this moment we realized we only had a box of regular band aids on hand. The band aids weren't that good at patching him up for the drive to get stitches. As a result, since that time I've always kept a large tool box packed with first aid materials including the sort of things I wish I had on hand that night: surgical pads, rolls of guaze bandages, tape. Is my fear of injuries occuring greater than it was before my kid's head was gashed? No! Is my fear that I'm not as prepared to handle such an injury reduced? You betcha! If anything, my large first aid kit indicates that I live with less fear, not more.
You can apply the same analysis to keeping a gun around. I don't believe I face any greater threat of criminal activity than the average person faces. But like accidental injuries in the home, I recognize that a general threat of crime is always present. The gun, among other things, makes me better prepared in the event that it does happen. Consequently, I live with less
fear in my life because I know with the gun I have more options available to me than if I didn't have a gun. More options means a better chance of a satisfactory outcome. You may believe the gun I keep on me is a sign of enhanced fear. But my fear of being a victim of crime is probably about the same as yours. My fear of whether I would be able to respond effectively to a criminal is probably notably less because, like my first aid kit, I have the ability to effectively handle a wider range of situations. If we're faced by 3 attackers, you could run, so could I. What if there's no way out? Well, you could choose to submit to a beating or be killed, or choose to duke it out. I could choose those things too. But, I have another option that you don't.