Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Will Police Be the New Allies in Limiting Gun Possession?

Gun control advocates were certain that the slaughter of 20 young children in Newtown, CT would lead to some agreement on gun control.  They were wrong.

When gun control advocates speak, or when gun control legislation is introduced into congress, one constituency has been silent.  The police have been largely unwilling to support gun limiting legislation, either publicly or privately.  Following Newtown, President Obama met with chiefs of police as well as sheriffs, seeking their support for gun legislation reform. Support was not unanimous. Largely, the police chiefs supported President Obama's request for gun control, the sheriffs did not.  Without having access to more data, we cannot determine if there are regional or other geographic factors dividing the two law enforcement groups.  But even for those chiefs favoring gun limitations, public support is missing.

One sheriff wrote to Vice President Biden that he would not enforce any gun control legislation.  

The police are the ones who in the first instance see the bodies of the dead and wounded following a mass slaughter.  Now the vulnerability of the police as victims of mass killings was evidenced in Dallas.  But will this change police silence on gun issues?  

One police observer noted that talking about guns is like talking about race. "These are difficult conversations and people get very polarized on either side of it."  Beyond being uncomfortable, it is likely that the two conversations are linked.  One wonders if police resistance would be so widespread if President Reagan, who promoted gun control as governor, had been the one proposing gun control.  The country is so politically divided, it is difficult to think of any politician who would appeal to conservatives and liberals on this issue. 

But, the police could unite us.  Police need to get beyond fear of disagreeing with fellow officers as well as beyond any cynicism that gun control will not work.  Police lives are on the line as well as others.  Their voice would make a difference.  We won't know what works until we try. 






Guns, Margaret Drew, Police | Permalink


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