by Hong Minh
I will never condone gun violence.
However, I do support a recent proposal that allows law enforcement officers in Viet Nam to shoot particularly aggressive violators.
This authority should be limited to police and forest rangers, who currently face many dangers while going about their daily duties.
Violence against law enforcement officers has increased in recent years, both in frequency and in severity.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Public Security, more than 13,700 people assaulted on-duty officers in the last decade.
Just last Sunday, a group of young people attacked three policemen in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Kon Tum's Kon Ray District, assaulting them with iron rakes, knives and swords.
One 23-year-old police officer was injured by a rake that struck his head, while his colleagues suffered multiple wounds on the rest of their bodies.
Local authorities said this was the third attack against on-duty officers in the province since the lunar new year.
Violence against forest rangers is also on the rise. Recently, in the central province of Phu Yen, a group of rangers was attacked when they tried to stop two buses suspected of illegally transporting timber.
The drivers ignored the stop signals and sped up, despite warning shots from the rangers. When they were finally stopped after a 15km chase, the loggers beat the officers with iron pipes and wrenches – resulting in one of the rangers being hospitalised for serious injuries.
Sadly, this situation is all too common. Truong Tat Bat, an official from the Forest Protection Department, said that since 2005, eight rangers had been killed on duty.
Even traffic officers are frequently assaulted by drivers who violate regulations. In the latest such case, a police officer was beaten with a helmet.
Can handcuffs – or even warning shots – really stop such violators?
The new proposal, which for the first time allows officers to shoot aggressive attackers, was released publicly last week as part of a draft decree of the Ministry of Public Security.
I think it would be an effective measure to curb the increasing violent attacks on law enforcement personnel.
The decree does not condone outright force. Rather, it encourages officers to first admonish violators and tell them to obey regulations. Only when admonition fails can the officers use force. Moreover, guns are only permitted in very serious situations when the officers' life is threatened.
Currently, before shooting criminals, officers must fire warning shots. This has reduced their advantage against serious criminals, who are increasingly equipped with deadly weapons. As a result, violators sometimes fire before officers can do anything to protect themselves.
Allowing law enforcement officers to fire at extremely threatening individuals would definitely make all criminals respect the law and law enforcement personnel.
However, before the proposal goes into effect, the Ministry of Public Security should clarify what makes a case serious enough to justify violence – both to the public, and to law enforcement officers. Police should be trained on how to react in different scenarios to avoid firing their guns as much as possible.
Innocent people should not be concerned, as only those who carry deadly weapons will risk being shot by police officers. After all, it's not easy for anyone to point a gun at another human being. — VNS