Watch CBS News

Detroit Police Chief, Gracing Cover Of NRA Magazine, Defends Stance On Right To Bear Arms

Interview: Detroit Police Chief James Craig

DETROIT (WWJ) - Detroit's police chief is interviewed in the most recent issue of "America's First Freedom" — an NRA magazine —  voicing his support for the right to bear arms.

The article titled, "A Show of Courage In Detroit," comes following at least five fatal shootings in two months involving homeowners protecting themselves from intruders.  The sub-headline reads, "Motor City Police Chief James Craig Encourages Citizens to Arm Themselves."

Craig, whose photo appears on the cover, says being featured in the magazine does not mean he advocates violence; he just strongly believes in the right to protect one's self.

"We're talking about people who are faced with an imminent threat or great bodily injury. That's what we're talking about here. So I stand by that, I support it," " Craig told WWJ Newsradio 950's Jackie Paige in a live interview on Monday.

"Certainly there are a lot of Detroiters, not just in Detroit, but certainly our suburban neighbors, who approach me daily and express their support because folks are sick and tired of being victims," he said.

Craig said he's been approached by "droves of people" who have praised him for speaking out on this issue.

"I know that some of my colleagues in the some of the other major cities probably feel the same way, but certainly may not wanna come out front with it," Craig said.

"I mean, this is not a position of advocating violence, as I said in the article," Craig said. "When you look at the city of Detroit and historic violence, I've publicly said that Detroiters, in my respects, have been desensitized to the type of violence...It's almost like the way life is. It's almost accepted."

"And having lived in other places, and knowing that there's another way — a better way, that's just not acceptable," Craig said. "It's not acceptable for the elderly, the seniors to be attacked, to become victims because a violence predator, an opportunist, decide to attack."

Craig said he could cite countless such incidents.

"The 74-year-old man who walks daily gets attacked by a couple of street violent predators who decide to rob him, but that's not enough. They decide to shoot him," Craig said. "Or the person who makes entry into a 92 or 94-year-old woman's home, beats her with an object — a two-by-four — robs her, and then beats her again. That's not acceptable, and that's not the way life should be."

In a statement out last month, the he Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality spoke out against what they're calling the Detroit Police Department's irresponsible rhetoric defending vigilantism.

On Monday, the group said Craig's NRA cover story sends the wrong message at the wrong time.

"In a time when the citizens of Detroit are trying to find their way out of the current cycle of violence, this is not the time for the Department to use the Chief's public persona to unify with the political posture of the National Rifle Association. This is a public safety and community issue, not simply a Second Amendment issue," said DCAPB spokesperson Ron Scott.

"This media promotion raises questions about the oath of office; after all, the NRA arguably has a wider political agenda which in many ways is antithetical to the cessation of violence."

What does Craig say to his critics?

"I didn't write the law. I mean (it's a) 200-year-old law, the Second Amendment: the right to protect, self-defense," Craig said.

"'When I talk about good Americans, good Detroiters...they don't go out looking for a gun fight. That's the last thing they're looking for," Craig said. "Just like our police officers, highly trained professionals — they don't come to work looking to use deadly force."

"Optimal is that, you know, there is no violence. I mean, in a perfect world we would like to be in a place where we wouldn't have to resort to violence," Craig added. "But we cannot and will not allow the minority of violent individuals, violent criminals take over our cities and do what they will."

When a citizen does resort to deadly force, Craig said, whether or not it's justified is not his call. He'll leave that up to the prosecutor to decide.

One WWJ listener says she believes Chief Craig is right when it comes to citizens protecting themselves. She said her mother was robbed and killed outside her home.

The woman, who didn't give her name, moved out of Detroit to Redford, and won't consider going back until something changes.

"That chief of police is absolutely right. They need to do something to the criminals that's going around killing people and victimizing them," she said. "...And that means get the death penalty, so that if you kill somebody, you will die."

The listener, who left a message on our comment line and remained anonymous, said she believes bringing the death penalty back in Michigan will curb violence.

"The world is going to hell, straight to hell until somebody do something about it," she said. "Jesus and God is not going to take too much of this."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.