LE leaders not sold on new gun laws E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

The problem with calls for tougher gun control laws in the wake of incidents like Ft. Hood, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora, Colorado and the Gabby Giffords shooting is that proponents of these proposals somehow think we can legislate our way to safety. But would tougher gun laws or the ability of law enforcement agencies to share trace and ballistic data prevent more tragedies? Many law enforcement professionals think not.

"I don't think tighter regulations on law-abiding citizens will have much impact on those who choose to commit acts of violence with firearms," Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers told reporters with Lewiston Morning Tribune. “There are a lot of influences that are leading our culture to become more violent. I'm certainly concerned about that, but I don't know that the answer is more regulations on guns. We have ample laws on the books today."

Pullman, Washington Police Chief Gary Jenkins agrees.

“I'm not optimistic that new or additional regulations will have much effect on these types of events," he said. "Many of the gun control proposals we hear about wouldn't have impacted the recent shootings."

"Whenever something like this occurs, we take the opportunity to look at the plans we have, the training we have, and make changes or improvements as necessary," Jenkins said. "We do have regular training to address active shooter situations, and we'll be meeting with Pullman school officials in January to go over our plans and make sure there are no gaps."

Chief Jenkins, like many others, thinks improved mental health services and other up-front preventative measures may be more effective than gun control.

"My guess is we could eliminate all guns in the United States and we would still have horrific crimes," Sheriff Myers said.

"As law enforcement officers, we deal with bad guys who have guns. I don't think any amount of laws is going to change that. I couldn't tell you how many people I've arrested the last 10 years who legally shouldn't have had guns, but who did? Regulations impact law-abiding folks more than they do the criminals."

In addition, there’s a state versus federal problem.

Latah County Prosecutor William Thompson Jr. said he has limited ability to address illegal gun possession cases because most of those laws are federal not state.

"We can't handle it locally because it isn't a state law being violated," he said. "We're not having much success getting prosecution referrals accepted (for illegal guns or gun possession). The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) is significantly short on manpower in our area."

The ATF also has no acting director and is still reeling from Operation Fast and Furious.

In addition, unlike funding that would increase access to mental health services, more gun laws would likely be used to charge shooters after the fact as opposed to effectively keeping weapons out of the wrong hands.

"We're seeing more and more people with mental health issues, but the resources to deal with them aren't in place," Thompson said.

"People are looking to the criminal justice system to take care of them, but it's a reactive system - we react after something bad happens. That doesn't solve the problem. We need something at the front end to help individuals deal with their mental health needs."

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