Why don’t cops fight for gun legislation?

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…”. It is “…not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” –Justice Antonin Scalia, 2008, District of Columbia v. Heller

Today I want to ask a question that has been bothering me for quite some time, and I really hope my fellow law enforcement friends can help.

Why isn’t law enforcement the loudest voice for common sense gun legislation?

Before we get all fired up and defensive in our 2nd Amendment rights bunkers, everyone relax. There is room for all respectful debate here.

I’m a gun owner, military vet, and retired cop, so let’s dispense with the notion that I advocate any confiscation of firearms from law abiding citizens. But here’s what I cannot understand:

What is wrong with these two proposals?

  1. People who are on terrorist watch lists should not be able to buy guns.
  2. Mandatory background checks for every firearm purchase.

I honestly do not see how these requirements would infringe upon my 2nd Amendment rights. Seriously, I don’t.

I get frustrated because as a former cop, I don’t want criminals or mentally ill people to get their hands on guns. Right now, Internet sales have NO RESTRICTION. Any criminal, terrorist, or nut job can log on and buy any weapon they want. As much ammunition as they want. Are you kidding me?

I’m concerned about my friends and former colleagues’ safety. I don’t want a bad guy armed with pistols and a military-style weapon firing at cops. Because we know that’s what happens when the police respond. Why aren’t cops at the front line of this fight? Why aren’t we trying to keep bad guys from buying and trading guns with impunity and no background checks online and at gun shows?

Many say that criminals will always find a way to get guns. I’m sorry, that argument makes me want to scream. By that logic, we should just rip up all the statute books, because we can’t prevent 100% of any crime. Do we really believe that means we shouldn’t try to prevent some crime? I mean, we’ll never stop all burglary, rape, robbery, etc. We still work really hard to prevent as many as possible. Shouldn’t we want to at least make it harder for these people to get guns? Do we seriously believe that it’s a good idea that someone on a terrorist watch list can walk into a gun shop and buy a pistol, or unbelievably, an assault rifle?

And really, isn’t this about the fact that we all want our guns? Or we don’t want to be inconvenienced in the slightest by basic requirements that might delay our Craigs List purchase. Somehow, the lie has been sold that any mention of responsible restrictions equals banning guns. While some probably do want that, the vast majority of law abiding citizens don’t. We just want rational restrictions that keep the wrong people from getting them. I’ve heard repeatedly that the 2nd Amendment specifically guarantees the rights of ALL American’s to bear arms. I’m sorry, I don’t believe that. Even Antonin Scalia, the supposed champion of 2nd Amendment rights, didn’t believe that. Re-read the opening quote.

Reasonable restrictions are permitted. I’d argue reasonable restrictions are necessary. Cops deal with the heartbreaking realities of senseless gun violence and are put in ever increasing danger because of the proliferation of guns everywhere. If we truly believe that every citizen has the right to be armed, then somebody please explain to me why the 911 call comes in about a person with a gun, the police response is lights and sirens blaring, ready to do battle. Why is this a high priority call? We should do some soul-searching about this double standard we seem to have.

So, back to my question, from a purely officer safety standpoint, why aren’t cops pissed off that we can’t seem to take even the most basic steps to try to fix this?

The Pulse Massacre is a Hatecrime

All across our country and the world huge crowds have gathered in solidarity and grief remembering the victims of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. When I see those crowds, I am humbled and moved to tears. Rainbow flags and messages of love flow freely without fear, purposely defiant, asserting that love will win. But I also hear others say we shouldn’t focus on the fact that the Pulse nightclub was targeted by an Islamic extremist because it is an iconic & popular gay bar in Orlando. We hear that we can’t possibly know that the location was targeted because it was an LGBT club, and it shouldn’t matter. We’re all Americans they insist.

On the surface this sounds great. I would love nothing more than to believe that LGBT Americans like me would be completely accepted into the fold of my country. But, that’s not what’s happening here. To dismiss the fact that this is a hate crime is plain wrong. To try to smooth over the fact that LGBT hate is one common thread between extremists in both Muslim and Christian Faiths is disingenuous, to say the least. This terrorist has been quoted as making statements of anger about seeing two men kiss, and in his Muslim associations, there is a focus on anti-gay teachings and bias. The LGBT community has been the target of nearly universal hate throughout history. That hate has been justified by religions all over the world. Just the past few months have seen scores of anti-gay legislation introduced throughout this country. In The United States of America, we are supposed to be different, our religious tolerance is supposed to guarantee the right of every citizen the freedom to worship, live, and love.

Although gay Americans finally won the right to marry a couple of years ago, most of us would still be hesitant to do something as simple as holding hands in public. For my friends and family who still don’t understand why there is a need for laws to protect gay people, that is how simple it is. I can’t even hold my wife’s hand in public for fear that someone might be offended and want to physically harm us. That is what makes this attack so insidious. For many LGBT people, a place like Pulse is one of the few havens from an otherwise homophobic and violent world. Saturday night’s attack changed that perception of safety. That’s what terrorists seek to do. They want to kill in places where we feel the most vulnerable. Pulse was perfect for this hellish objective. No different than attacking a church or synagogue or mosque. And just like the congregations of those places of worship, I hope that LGBT people will not let fear drive them from the places that offer affirmation, acceptance, and love.

When I see huge crowds forming in support for the victims of the Pulse massacre, I am hopeful. I’m hopeful that born out of this horrific tragedy will be a transformation, a realization that LGBT people are fully Americans, deserving of every right that most Americans take for granted. I’m hopeful that being Americans will the most important thing that binds us all together, and that we can forget about who I love and be glad we love just like you. Most importantly, we love our country every bit as much as you. Our LGBT DNA is another unique thread in the fabric of this great country, the diversity we have always celebrated as the strength that sets us apart from the rest of the world. That is what I hope to see—a recognition that we are equally American.

So, America, if we really want to make a statement of solidarity in the name of the victims in Orlando, let’s start by acknowledging the truth of the brazen hate crime against LGBT citizens. To be sure, if this had been an attack on a police station, we would of course say it was a terrorist targeting police officers. Let’s call the Pulse attack what it is: A hate crime and simultaneously the worst domestic terrorist attack in our history. To ignore the significance of the LGBT target is another way of minimizing the lives of LGBT people. Let’s all stand up to hate by being unafraid to say openly that 39 of our citizens were murdered and 40+ more were wounded because they were in a gay club. The victims were murdered not just because they were Americans, they were targeted because they were LGBT Americans. And all of America should say so.

Leading from the bottom


“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

The forced resignation of the police chief in San Francisco caused a bit of a stir in law enforcement circles recently. Chief Suhr follows a string of such actions, including the high-profile Superintendent in Chicago, and Chiefs in Baltimore and Ferguson. Chief Suhr and the others had long and distinguished careers by many accounts, and it is not my intention to disparage or throw stones at these men personally. However, it seems painfully obvious that doing business according to the status quo that has existed for decades is no longer working—for cops or the community.

In these contentious times, we need communication and leadership above all else. Policing in a democracy means change will always come as the public’s attitudes change over time. That’s reality. Law enforcement must always be flexible to adapt to those shifts, and leadership is supposed to drive change in a positive way. For instance, the 1966 Miranda ruling radically changed the rules for questioning suspects. No doubt, the chorus of doomsday predictors back then asserted that cops would never get another confession or make another case. Wrong. We worked smarter, adapted and got better at our jobs. We were fast and loose with stop and frisk, touting ever-increasing arrest and ticket numbers, but now we have to refocus on quality not quantity. Changes in pursuit policies and a host of other issues hasn’t ended law enforcement as we know it.

Our current reality is the proliferation of videos in our technology age that can celebrate outstanding police work, but also unfortunately exposes bad police behavior for the entire world to see. It’s not that those minorities of officers weren’t always there in our ranks, it’s just now harder to hide or ignore. That’s where we are today. So, law enforcement leaders have two choices: Rise to the occasion and drive positive change or lash out at anyone remotely questioning procedures and reinforce the status quo. Sadly, too many in leadership positions have chosen the latter.

The law enforcement leaders railing against any suggestion of change are not helping to bridge this divide with the community. I’ve seen these public servants say things like, “cops are afraid to do their jobs”, “cops are in a fetal position”, “cops are going to start sitting under trees”, or really incendiary things like “the mayor has blood on his hands”. Even the FBI Director has inferred that crime is rising because cops feel under attack. I have to shake my head. Some of these same leaders are the ones who sold the myth of statistical utopia, which pitted street officers against the communities they serve to begin with. Yes, these are difficult and stressful times, but fanning the flames and giving excuses to reactionaries who resist any change is not the answer. Lashing out against anyone who questions policing is not the answer. That’s not leadership.

Leadership requires honest self-examination and assessment for growth. Leadership requires that we reach across divides and listen to the communities we serve. Leadership urges the best officers to continue to do their best in spite of the noise around them, by reaffirming support for good work. We can’t partner with citizens if we continue to only look for blame externally rejecting any suggestion of self-critique or improvement. Criminals do kill more black citizens than police ever will. Yes. But that doesn’t excuse any cop from crossing the line. Law enforcement leaders need to re-evaluate and address our own shortcomings, not just whine about exposure of what we’d rather not have the public know. It is a shame that some in high-profile positions take such small-minded and defeatist attitudes. Their public statements pander to the worst behaviors, rather than the highest ideals of our profession. It’s lazy and wrong.

Forget leading from behind, that’s leading from the bottom.