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POINT: Who Are the Real Heroes?

For an alternate viewpoint, see: COUNTERPOINT: Elisha Dicken is a hero

Calling the young man who shot a mass shooter at a mall in Indiana a “hero” has deadly consequences. It’s not that the young man didn’t act heroically.  He did. He was also lucky. It’s that calling him a hero is dangerous. Giving massive publicity to a young shooter feeds our country’s horrific violent crime crisis.

It feels like good news when we focus on the prevented deaths. However, when we examine the big picture, the hero intervening encourages more guns to be bought, with significant negative consequences. It increases the likelihood of untrained citizens engaging in cowboy-style exchanges with often military-style armed individuals, causing innocent bystanders to be killed or injured in a prolonged battle. It takes control away from professional law officers and makes the distinction between the “bad guy” and the mass killer ambiguous.

The 22-year-old is not one of society’s heroes in the long-term sense of the word. Giving him this label has grave consequences. It encourages imitations, many of which will not turn out well.

Lives were saved in Indiana. We can be pleased with that. However, considering this a heroic deed feeds into the myth that it is smart and manly to own weapons built to kill other humans. It is not.

Imagine a world of would-be-armed heroes, some well-trained and most not, some with good aim and judgment, but most not. Picture yourself in a mall with your children caught in the crossfire of many armed citizens shooting from multiple directions. You’ve seen such episodes portrayed in cartoons, but there’s nothing funny or heroic here — just potential carnage.

We are currently awash with guns. The NRA, gun companies and retail gun stores are undoubtedly delighted over this young man’s behavior. It plays into their storyline and profits. Gun-promoting governors likely have a smile on their faces as well.

The young man’s actions coincide with the imagery of weapons manufacturers and the pro-gun lobby. For the gun manufacturers, his action will bring millions of dollars to an already bountiful business. Gun retailers, too, will be pleased. They benefit from a considerable supply of young men wrestling with their identity, youngsters vulnerable to the mythical power gun ownership provides.

The manufacturers and gun retailers tell buyers they can win the lottery of being a hero, a protector of loved ones and others.

The media played right into the hands of the pro-gun advocates. “Hero” and “Good Samaritan” filled television spots on the right and left, freely giving out the hero label. The local police chief called the young man’s action “nothing short of heroic.” Fox News described him as “a true American hero,” a ready-made quote for weapon companies. These remarks come as police chiefs across the country mourn the widespread availability of guns, tying it to the increase in violent crime.

The challenge of this “good news” of a mass killing interrupted is that it also conveys a ghastly myth that more Americans can be a hero carrying a gun. Gun manufacturers, retailers and conservative politicians will undoubtedly pounce on this perception for personal gain.

Here are a few facts these gun proponents will leave out in their promotion of the gun-toting hero. States with the highest gun ownership have the highest rates of gun violence, including the highest rates of deaths by guns. When gun ownership goes up, suicides and accidental deaths and gun injury increase. The Jim Brady website states, “Every day, 22 children and teens are shot in the United States.”

The Gun Violence Archive recorded 692 mass shootings last year and 356 through the first three weeks of July 2022. That’s 1,048 mass shootings. Where were the remaining 1,047 “heroes” to save the day? Heroes are not the answer. Changing our gun culture and restricting the number of guns that kill human beings is the only answer that makes sense.

We have no shortage of heroes. They are not on the front pages of our newspapers. They are in legislatures where men and women are attempting to reduce the number of handguns in our nation. They are the parents building up young men and women to be strong, not needing a weapon to give them an identity. They are the real heroes working to save lives.

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SCHILLINGER: Back The Blue With Just More Than Words!

It is time that those in law enforcement gets the support that they deserve from elected officials.

The Wolf administration has failed our men and women who put their lives in danger every day to keep us safe. I am running for lieutenant governor to be the voice for law enforcement. Many people may not know this but the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor is in a unique position to be a strong ally to the men and women in blue.

In Pennsylvania, the lieutenant governor chairs the Commonwealth Board of Pardons. This important role allows the lieutenant governor to make sure that dangerous criminals do not get released, undermining our police officers and leaving them to fend for themselves.

I have had a number of conversations with police officers about what the real issue is when it comes to the skyrocketing crime we have seen not only in Pennsylvania but across the county, as CNN reports the US records the highest increase in the nation’s homicide rate in modern history.  Many of you may be expecting what I was expecting to hear: The ‘Defund the Police’ movement.

Their answer was chilling and not at all what I had expected. They explained that the number of times they deal with repeat criminals makes their job extremely hard, and was the single biggest issue they were facing. Police are putting their lives in danger day in and day out by locking up criminals and yet two days later, they get the same call for the same criminal and the same crime.

Why? The radical left is favoring criminals over our men and women in blue. Two of the most well-known radicals are current sitting Attorney General Josh Shapiro and District Attorney Larry Krasner in Philadelphia.

A teacher in the Kensington section of Philadelphia shared with me that during the height of school closures he was so discouraged as he logged into his zoom class and zero students would be online. So he, in his words, “hit the streets.” He explained that he would walk the streets of Kensington to find his students. He found them on the streets making quick easy money. Joining gangs, selling drugs, prostitution, and all the above. The opportunity to escape poverty, to lower crime, and to achieve the American dream was stripped away from these students in a blink of an eye.

No matter the ZIP code, our kids need access to a world-class education system that equips our youth with knowledge, setting them on the path to success rather than condemning them to a life of crime. It is our duty to ensure these tools and resources are available to our families and students. This is not what we have now. Instead, we see our elected officials blatantly ignoring the needs of our communities. It is time to say enough is enough! Stronger communities will lead to safer communities. A safer community helps our men and women in blue get home to their families after their shift.

There is no doubt that America is founded on second chances. But with anything in life, these successes are earned. Not given. That is exactly how we need to address the criminals that have looted our stores, burned our cities, and who have been made to feel empowered to continue their criminal activities. They must earn their release not have it handed to them.

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Long-time Law Enforcement Officer Throws Hat in Ring for Delco Sheriff

When Larry Weigand was 13 years old he received the Carnegie Hero Award.

In 1985, Weigand, who was a junior firefighter at the time, saved his playmate, Judy McGrath’s, life.

“The roadway was all blocked off for paving and we were playing in the neighborhood and we were playing in the street that was blocked off, and a drunk driver jumped over the curb and (came at a) high-speed in our direction and she didn’t recognize it was coming. And I did. So I, I ran out and I grabbed her,” Weigand told the Delaware Valley Journal.

That incident may have presaged a life in law enforcement and community service.

Weigand, 49,  a Republican running for Delaware County sheriff, is still a firefighter at the Marcus Hook Trainer Fire Department, where he’s a sixth-generation first responder. He spent nearly 23 years with the Chester Police Department before retiring as a detective, and he also served as a part-time officer for Marcus Hook at the same time.

“When I entered in law enforcement, it was the early ’90’s. We were having, not unlike we are seeing right now, a pretty big surge in crime,” Weigand said.

There were record numbers of homicides and shootings then, he said. A federal crime bill allowed cities and towns to hire more police officers, “nearly 100,000 nationwide,” he said. And just like now, crime is crossing over from Philadelphia into the suburbs.

“We have some urban sprawl,” he said.  Delaware County borders on southwest Philadelphia and there is crime that “spills over.”  Chester is very urban, as are parts of Upper Darby, Sharon Hill and Folcroft, while much of Delco has a suburban feel.

“There’s not as many officers out there, yet again,” said Weigand. “And what do we have?   We are having this very large spike in violence and in crime. People like to say ‘gun violence,’ but you know, it’s violence overall that is ruling the day…It’s not just people shooting, there are large fights all over the place, too. And that takes a harsh toll on the community.”

As the sheriff, Weigand would be a voice for law enforcement at County Council and also interact with all 47 police departments in Delaware County. The sheriff’s deputies serve warrants and protect the courts, he said.  Previous sheriffs fielded about 65 deputies.  Right now the department is about 15 deputies short of that now, he said.

While the deputies did get a raise under Sheriff Jerry Sanders, a Democrat who is running for another term, they still do not make as much money as deputies in other counties, he said, so it’s a problem keeping trained deputies onboard.

But the sheriff’s deputy’s jobs can be dangerous if they serve a warrant on someone or try to bring a scofflaw in who resists, he said. The deputies also have to transport prisoners, sometimes to jails in other parts of the state.

However, Delaware County is a unique place, Weigand said of the county he calls home.

He likes that people have “an attitude” here. And that there is everything that anyone could want including top-notch hospitals and “world-class universities.”

Weigand lives in Marcus Hook with his wife, Janette. They have four children: Katelynn 25, Brandon 22, Madison 20, and Aidan 13.