Dennis Janson: Former Cincinnati police chief James Craig talks gun ownership in NRA magazine

'We're advocates of self protection'

CINCINNATI -- At first I wondered why Cincinnati needed an outsider to lead its police division. We had done quite well over the years with native sons like Jake Schott and Michael Snowden who hailed from Western Hills High School. Interspersed with a couple of Elder High School grads, Larry Whalen and Tom Streicher. Hometown guys who knew the neighborhoods and issues facing the city.

In their estimation city fathers, most notably Manager Milton Dohoney and Mayor Mark Mallory, thought it would be helpful to break with the past and cast a wider net for Streicher’s successor.

Enter James Craig. Exit old thinking.

For a guy who wasn’t from here, James Craig quickly grasped what was important to Cincinnatians: accountability, honesty and peace in the streets. Leavened with a get-out-among-the-people attitude burnished by his affable personality.  Good for us.

But the lure of his hometown, Detroit, proved too much for us to lay long-term claim to Chief Craig. Motown was where his family resided —along with his heart. And so it was that just over a year ago, he took on one of the biggest challenges a law enforcement professional could embrace: Presiding over the crime ridden streets of his hometown. Population 700,000. A city in free fall, on the verge of declaring bankruptcy with an average police response time of over 50 minutes for its 3,000 uniformed officers.

Chief Craig is making headway along with headlines. Case in point, a cover story in this month’s “America’s 1st Freedom”, a publication of the National Rifle Association.

Seemingly out-manned and out-gunned by competing drug gangs and faced with a $75 million budget slash, Detroit’s chief has become an advocate for citizens not taking the law into their own hands mind you, but taking a proactive role in their self-protection. James Craig is unapologetically in favor of responsible gun ownership, more specifically what is known in Wayne County, Mich. as a CPL (Concealed Pistol License) .

“We’re not advocating violence. We’re advocates of not being victims. We’re advocates of self-protection. We want people to be safe,” Craig said in the article. 

And apparently his advocacy is gaining traction. According to the magazine:

A dramatic increase in licenses granted, coinciding with an equally impressive number of citizen thwarted crimes. Along with 53 fewer homicides in 2013. Down 23 in the first quarter of 2014 alone. Double digit declines in robbery sexual assault and burglaries. Cincinnati by contrast has seen a 26 percent increase in homicides since January 1, despite a 16 percent decrease in overall crimes of violence, through May 10, according to the Cincinnati police department.

Craig said in the magazine article: “The message is out there now. The people of Detroit have come to me in droves to thank me for taking this stand. But you know, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that.  I don’t support vigilantism, but I do support good Americans and self-protection and self-defense. I promote that. I support that. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t and it’s a constitutionally protected right. This is not a James Craig law. It’s the law of the land.”

Which is certainly music to the ears of Second Amendment adherents nationwide but particularly resonant with those who seek to re-brand Detroit as something other than a lawless urban wasteland.

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