Why Do The BART Police Have Guns?

On Jan 1, an unarmed man was shot and killed while lying on his stomach on a BART train platform in Oakland. I don’t think I have anything substantial to add to what has already been said, except to ask this: why do the BART police carry guns?

It may surprise Americans to learn that even bona-fide police officers do not routinely carry guns in many countries, e.g. Britain. While I can certainly imagine public-transit situations that would require deadly force, other countries seem to have sorted out unarmed policing, even on the city streets.

47 thoughts on “Why Do The BART Police Have Guns?”

  1. I don’t know a huge amount about it, but my guess is that in Britain at least, strict gun control means that your average criminal probably doesn’t have a gun. Here in the states everyone has guns, so it makes sense for cops to be at least as armed as those they’re up against. As for why BART cops need guns — I have no clue.

  2. You know that old saying about “Guns don’t kill people”? Bollocks.

    What Heather said: stricter gun control means the chance of the adversary having a gun is greatly diminished. In England or Germany, cops may be facing a knife, but gun crime is virtually non-existent.

    Here in Norway, one policeman was killed in the last ten or more years, and that was in 2004 during an extremely violent bank robbery.

    Personally, with the exception of trips to the States, I have never seen a gun in my life that wasn’t in the hands of the military or the police.

  3. I live in the Monterey Bay area, about 80 miles south of SF. I go there a few times a year, but I, too, wonder why BART police have guns.

    I have no idea. I’m sure they would spout the typical reasons, but has there ever been a time where a shooting like this did not cause public outcry?

  4. Why do Bay Area Rapid Transit Police officers have guns? Are you kidding me? I often wonder why people have this idea that the BART PD is something less than any other bonafide law enforcement agency. BART PD officers are trained officers from the same academy with other officers in other agencies. Qualifications and training for BART police officers exceed the guidelines of the California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which certifies all California peace officers. If anyone questions the need for firearms with our local transit police depts., then perhaps other agencies should surrender their weapons as well. Try telling the Port Authority to give up their guns. As far as the shooting of the individual at the BART station is concerned, this is truly a tragedy. I certainly have no idea why the officer pulled out his weapon and fired as he did. But there is no way that we could expect any law enforcement agency, no matter how small or insignificant anyone may find it, to not be armed when they deal with the kind of people they do on a daily basis. I commuted on BART for many years and know first hand of the kind of people that they deal with. Everyone just remember that the next time there is a violent crime occurs or is in progress on any transit property, as they do frequently, we will expect that officer to assist and defend a victim with deadly force if necessary.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Dan, and for clarifying the training that BART police receive. I certaintly don’t mean to impugn the training or dedication of the BART police.

    However — yes, I am asking the question of why cops carry guns. They don’t in many countries, you know (or at least do not always carry guns).

  6. Why do police in this country carry weapons? Because the US is one of the most violent nations in the world. Thanks to American TV, movies, games and news media, violence has become glorified to the point that much of our children have become numb to the sight of a gun and to death that people have used it for. Guns will be a part of American life as we know it for as long as we have a 2nd Amendment right to own them. The only problem is those individuals that mean to do harm with them, do so. Along with many of our freedoms here in the US, we will always have to live with the fact that guns are here, people will use them in violent crime and our Police forces will need guns to fight against guns. Gun bans, gun control and other forms of firearm laws will never rid our country of violent gun crime. The reasons are endless for violent crime and unless everyone has a gun to protect themselves from others with guns, our police will continue to have them. I’m sure by now, from what I have written, you can probably guess that I am a gun owner as well, but my guns are locked up and used to shoot cans and foul. I just wish people didn’t shoot other people.

  7. I have lived in India for the most of my life, and over there home invasion robberies involving firearms are lot more common than in US, even though gun control is lot more pervasive.

    Point being, that bad guys will ALWAYS find a way to own a gun as they don’t have to work within the framework of the law. It is the honest law abiding people who suffer.

    Also, I don’t know why guns are always blamed when a death occurs using firearm. When was the last time someone blamed a car, when a guy driving drunk ran over someone.

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