Sometimes someone steps onto the public stage with such moral clarity that people stop and really listen. When this person is an elected official who defies stereotypes to deliver a politically incorrect message, people begin to question what they’ve been told.
Pretty soon, journalists begin sticking their pens in such a savant, sure he or she must be full of hot air. Politicians with opposing positions throw mud, certain it’ll stick. But when the person doesn’t deflate and the political dirt won’t obstruct the message, the detractors step back. By contrast, this startlingly honest official can show them for what they really are.
Such is how those who would ban guns now see Sheriff David Clarke Jr. of Milwaukee County, Wis. Sheriff Clarke has decades of law enforcement experience in a large city—and he is a vocal defender of the Second Amendment.
Sheriff Clarke began speaking out about gun rights after he saw that the police were struggling to effectively protect the people of Milwaukee. The average response time for 9-1-1 calls in the city of Milwaukee had grown to nearly an hour.
“If people have to wait an hour for help, then they have to be able to protect themselves until the good guys arrive,” Clarke says.
With budgets being cut, Sheriff Clarke had to reduce his force. The same thing has been happening with the Milwaukee Police Department. Given this situation, Sheriff Clarke decided to ask the residents of Milwaukee County for help. He went to a radio studio and recorded a series of public-information spots.
In one radio spot, Sheriff Clarke asked: “With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 9-1-1 and waiting is no longer your best option. You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed or you could fight back. But are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course on handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”
Sheriff Clarke had decided it was his duty to tell residents they could now get a permit to carry a concealed firearm. This was a relatively new development. In 2011, the state of Wisconsin actually became the 49th state to allow citizens the right to carry concealed handguns. (Illinois was forced by the courts to be the 50th last year.) By law, the Wisconsin Department of Justice must now issue a concealed-carry license to any resident applicant who is 21 years of age or older and who is not prohibited under state or federal law from possessing a firearm.
As a former homicide detective, Sheriff Clarke knows firsthand how important this freedom is. U.S. crime statistics published by the U.S. Census show that in 2010, for example, the violent crime rate for Milwaukee was higher than the national average by 159 percent.
“To put it bluntly, self-defense is the first law of nature,” Sheriff Clarke said recently in an exclusive America’s 1st Freedom interview. “When good people have the freedom to carry concealed firearms, society gets safer.”
Sheriff Clarke is not politically naïve. He is, and was at the time of the radio campaign, well aware that asking individuals to take some responsibility is a direct attack on the politically correct view of gun controllers. Anti-gun elites would argue that citizens can’t be trusted as “partners.” Citizens who don’t have armed escorts are simply supposed to call 9-1-1 and wait; they are not supposed to protect themselves and their loved ones with potentially lethal force. No, the average person can’t be trusted with so much freedom, even if it is a founding principle of our free republic, says Milwaukee’s Mayor Tom Barrett and others who oppose Second Amendment-based rights.
This Sheriff Trusts the People
The view of those on the anti-gun left is that a person like Sheriff Clarke must be an unsophisticated rube who can be put on a national stage and mocked by the much-more urbane, anti-gun media elite. So former CNN show host Piers Morgan invited Sheriff Clarke on his then hour-long show. When Sheriff Clarke couldn’t make the time slot, Morgan’s producers stayed after him until they found a time that worked.
The sheriff says now he knew it would be a fight, but he didn’t realize just how rude Morgan would be.
After playing a recording of one of Sheriff Clarke’s radio spots, Morgan said, with dragged-out syllables strumming a you-must-be-stupid tone, “I mean, Sheriff, listening to the way that you phrased yourself in that ad, the kind of Hollywood voice you put on, the deep tones, making it all sound terribly exciting and dramatic, it sounded like some kind of John Wayne movie.”
To a lot of Americans, a John Wayne allusion is a profound compliment. But to Morgan’s English peers and his liberal American fans, this is a code word for someone so simpleminded that he actually sees himself as a swaggering cowboy who can outdraw the bad guys every time.
When Morgan finally paused, Sheriff Clarke began, “Well, first of all, I object to the Hollywood voice. This is the way I talk.”
Indeed, his voice was the same on Piers Morgan’s show as it was for the radio spot. Now, if you watch Morgan’s expression when Sheriff Clarke says this, you can see his face contort slightly as he realizes he miscalculated. This Sheriff Clarke wasn’t just a swashbuckling sheriff from a flyover city. He’s real and has come to deep moral conclusions based on decades of law enforcement experience and a scholarly study of the history of freedom. Sheriff Clarke has no problem rattling off constitutional amendments by number and citing their legal precedents and meaning.
Actually, if Piers Morgan ever wants to reflect on why his show failed in America, he should look back at the way he treated Sheriff Clarke. Clarke’s 35-plus years as a law enforcement professional began in 1978, at the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD). He was promoted to detective in 1989, and nine months later was selected for the specialized Homicide Division, where he was part of a team that investigated more than 400 homicides in a four-year period.
Clarke was promoted in 1992 to lieutenant of detectives and was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Bureau. In 1996, he was promoted to MPD’s command staff as captain of police, and soon became commander of the department’s First District. In 1999, Clarke became Commanding Officer of MPD’s Intelligence Division. Clarke served as the department’s liaison with the U.S. Attorney as coordinator of the CEASEFIRE violent crime reduction program.
In March 2002, Gov. Scott McCallum appointed Clarke as sheriff. Eight months later, he was elected to his first four-year term. Sheriff Clarke is now in his third term.
Faced with such a genuine article, Morgan should have asked probing questions to understand the sheriff’s stance on the issues. Instead, he shifted into a derisive attack designed to pummel a stoic and deferential man.
In his attempt to get the upper hand, Morgan asked a question that’s statistically impossible to answer: “In your time as the sheriff, how many people in Milwaukee, to your certain knowledge, have defended themselves and their family at home by firing a firearm?”
Sheriff Clarke replied, “I don’t have those statistics.”