Law enforcement skeptical of new gun measures

Jan. 16, 2013 @ 07:44 PM

Local law enforcement officials said they’re skeptical that President Barack Obama’s proposals for reducing gun violence will have much impact in their respective jurisdictions.

Obama on Wednesday outlined a series of steps he said would limit access to guns and certain types of ammunition, make mental health care more attainable, and increase federal funds for both research and law enforcement.
Among the initiatives being touted are a reinstated assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun sales, as well as capping ammunition magazines to a 10-round limit and ensuring that health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
Some measures would require congressional approval and others could be accomplished through executive order.
“I don’t think it would have any impact at all. I think a lot of this may be feel-good type stuff where they’re attempting to make some kind of effort at doing something,” said Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes.
He said he would like to see more emphasis placed on intervention on behalf of mentally ill individuals rather than a political battle over gun control.
“In all these shooting that have taken place, it’s been a mental health issue. And the bad part about it is, these issues could have been identified. As a society, we’ve got to make it OK to be my brother’s keeper,” Barnes said. “I have no problem with anyone reporting to police if they have an idea of someone making threats or may be going to do anything that might cause others harm. That’s what we’re here for — to enforce the laws and make sure the citizenry is safe, and we can do that with that kind of information.”
High Point police Chief Marty Sumner said his department already does a lot of what is being proposed by the president, such as requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
“Every gun is traced, and most departments don’t do that,” said Sumner. “Most crime guns here come from burglaries; they’re stolen from homes.
We have effectively lowered gun violence in High Point, and I think there’s a lot about the strategy we use that could be a national model — specifically because it focuses on identifying the people who have demonstrated that type of behavior in the past and intervening with them early.”
Sumner said studying past mass shootings the way police examine local crime problems could yield information to help prevent the next one from occurring. For example, developing a profile of the offenders and studying what the cases had in common with each other as a way to guide future interdiction efforts could be an effective strategy, he said.
“We had three homicides last year with guns, where we used to average 15 or 20,” he said. “I think we have a very successful strategy here for reducing gun violence.”

pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531