Gun Violence: What Cops Have to Say

May 17, 2021

Chief David Magnusson’s recent article, “How Do We Stop the Gun Violence” definitely struck a chord with our readers. We heard from officers from around the country who wanted to weigh in on the topic. Below are some of the responses we received.

For more on the topic:

Read a related article by Calibre Press’s Jim Glennon

Somebody’s Got to Pull the Trigger: Enforcing current gun law would reduce deaths, but massive new gun control probably won’t

Check out the more than 15,000 officer responses to this Gun Control Survey


Sgt. Allen F. Kintz with the City of Blue Springs (MO)’s Community and Youth Outreach Unit writes:

In my opinion, one of the major differences between now and 2003 is the attitude of the prosecutors offices across the country.  We arrest the armed individual and the prosecutors drop the charges. We have the current trend where they are released on their signature with no bond required.  We have many instances where the same perpetrator has been arrested multiple times within a few months and they continue to be released immediately on their signature.  I have heard our prosecutor state repeatedly that we cannot arrest our way out of this gun problem.  All of these combined give the perpetrator the feeling of invincibility from the police and they have no fear of any consequences for their actions.

As a 37-year officer I can tell you that felons have no fear of the police any longer.  They have told me they used to respect us but they do not any longer as they know we can’t do anything to them.  This causes officers to feel helpless and hopeless in protecting their community.  It is a sad time for the good people in our country.  

Sgt. Jody Stiger from the Los Angeles Police Dept. writes:

As a current LAPD sergeant, we have had similar issues during my 28 years.  I think the two concerns that come to mind are officer safety and community impact.

Officers need to be properly trained when you have a mission that has the highest potential to become deadly during each interaction.  

Secondly, when law enforcement takes such an aggressive action in the communities they are trying to protect, it has to be done with the understanding that there a plenty of innocent people that may be impacted by the number of stops and searches.   Unfortunately, we experienced a lot of frustration from the community when we have done this in the past.  Hopefully, we can get together with community and work as a team to deter this violence. 

A Missouri officer writes:

While it is easy to want to blame law enforcement for this problem, I think we must address the current political climate in which the police have been demonized by the left. The president himself says he supports us, but his actions say otherwise. 

I feel that if law enforcement takes the aggressive proactive approach and a suspect gets hurt or killed in the process, the police officers are immediately on trial. It does not seem to matter if the person has harmed people in the past, if the person is under the influence of a mind-altering substance or even has the weapon out but not pointing at the officers. The media and the left will condemn the officers, try them in court and ruin their career and family. Is that a risk worth taking? They say they want gun control, but only at the expense of the law-abiding gun owner, not the thug on the street with a wanton disregard for life. 

I believe that officers will go out on a limb and take the risks if they are going to be supported by those they serve.

Lt. Dennis Eberly (ret.) from East Hempfield Township in Lancaster Co., PA shares:

As I have always said, “It’s about criminal control, not gun control!”  

Criminals are not concerned with gun laws.  Most are not concerned with checks conducted during legal firearm purchases.  Many steal their guns or utilize “straw purchases.”  What makes a portion of our population believe that people that do not respect the existing laws, will suddenly sit up and take notice of new, more restrictive gun laws?  We need vigorous enforcement of the laws already on the books.    

The only people who will suffer are law-abiding citizens with a legitimate concern about protecting themselves and their families, especially in this current climate of “defunding” the police.  Over the past year, our nation has seen instances of police agencies not being able to respond to serious incidents (such as the Seattle “Chop Zone”).  I never thought I would see such circumstances in our country!  It is shameful!  

From Deputy Juanita Harris in Belton (Bell Co.), TX writes:

Personally, I believe there are too many guns in the hands of too many citizens.  You ask the question, “why a new comfort zone exists for the illegal gun-toting populace?”  I personally believe the reason why so many are in this comfort zone is the unwavering argument about infringement on their 2nd amendment rights, which has been twisted and turned inside out. The Second Amendment states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” What is a well-regulated militia?  My understanding of a well-regulated militia would consist of the military and law enforcement.  I don’t believe our founders meant for everyone to carry a weapon because of their fear of what might happen.  Law enforcement personnel enforces the laws within the United States and the military keep the peace abroad. Politicians who have helped twist the meaning of the Second Amendment and have somehow benefited from it. 

I personally believe it has become too easy for everyday citizens to obtain handguns.  Law enforcement officers must undergo a psych evaluation and attend classes before being authorized to carry a gun.  Everyday citizens have to go through a quick background check and a class to be authorized to carry a gun.  If individual citizens were forced to be put under the same microscope as law enforcement and military personnel before being offered the ability to obtain a gun, I believe there would be less unnecessary killings.   Psych evaluation will help determine who’s responsible enough to be offered the ability to purchase guns.  

An officer in the Midwest comments:

Police aren’t going to stop gun violence or any violence for that matter. This is a multi-variable problem. The police are still arresting and investigating the offenders with the resources they have. With that being said, just fill out a chart of all the issues with society and then throw a dart at it, and it’s still only a small part of the problem: the courts and justice system are not properly prosecuting the offenders, a degradation of societal values and morals through various pillars of influence (such as media, politics, etc.), tone deaf politics/government policies from both sides of the aisle adversely affecting law enforcement, the continuing and escalating fatherless rate/break down of the nuclear family in our communities, negative influence from celebrity/professional athletes, the growing welfare state, and other variables…

These are hard and unpopular reasons that are now too controversial to even discuss, but it’s the truth and reality.  Not to sound like a pessimist, but it will continue to get worse. The point of knowing that is to remind those of us still actively working in law enforcement to stay vigilant and prepared and do our best to serve our communities.

Master Trooper (ret.) J. Nystrom from Peru, IN who left the agency to advise on police training and forensic advising in Iraq and Afghanistan responds:

Magnusson asks about addressing gun violence.  I suspect he already knows the answer.  The current party in power is focused on “gun control” measures that will target legitimate gun owners but do nothing to counter actual violent persons and will create a larger market for illegal guns.  This is a failure in the making that will make the failures of “The War on Drugs” look like relative success.  Like Prohibition of old, it will turn a significant portion of the population against law enforcement and alienate the very citizens we need for a stable and peaceful society.  Targeting illegal gun possession works as long as it is seen in the community as fairly and justly enforced.

From Chief Frank G. Fernandez (ret.), former Director of Public Safety/Assistant City Manager and current President of Blueprints 4 Safety (B4S) Strategies Group LLC

I think that Chief Magnusson’s comments are on point and supported by academic research as well as best practices. His experience qualifies his opinion and his point of view is evidence-based.  The issue that we are experiencing today with gun violence is not novel, but in fact has been an ongoing issue for many years. We don’t need new laws or enhanced penalties. The practice that works is enforcing the standing firearm laws in each state, prosecuting violators, and ensuring accountability to those that are found guilty in a court of law. To achieve this, what must happen is for law enforcement to continue to enforce the gun laws within their respective states.

As Chief Magnusson pointed out, unless law enforcement continues to strategically identify the violators, those who possess a firearm to commit a crime will not think twice about the consequences they will face if apprehended. The process of accountability , which is the goal, does not start unless we have law enforcement.  The prosecutors and judges must hold violators of gun crimes to a higher level of accountability. The recidivism of gun crime violators is at the root cause of our gun violence. When you hold one accountable (punish) you teach 100 others of the consequences.  We experience gun violence at a higher level than any other country and for that reason we must not only continue to enforce gun laws, but moreover hold violators accountable.

Darryl Mansfield, a former Deputy Attorney General with the DOJ in Sacramento, CA keeps it simple:

Arrest and prosecute the criminals instead of taking away gun rights from law abiding citizens.

Lt. William M. Hughes Lt. (ret) Southampton Town Police, NY says:

What I have to say on the subject of the guns and crime is pretty simple and it is not what we do or have done on the street.  For the most part the police do a great job, but it is a revolving door in the criminal justice system.  It is too often a catch-and-release program.  If politics, which has too much influence on our courts, would let the system work we would see an immediate and drastic reduction in gun violence.  Simple:  You carry illegally/commit a crime with a firearm/ etc. etc.  you actually do the time. Real time, not a program or parole.  REAL Time.  The problem for the politicians is they would claim a disparate impact on criminals. 

Keep up the good work.

Mike DiPietro, a retired Environmental Peace Officer with the Dept. of Environmental Management in RI writes:

Maybe a “anonymous tip hotline” where neighbors or people that know others are carrying guns that shouldn’t be e.g., no permit or convicted felon, a substance abuser or alcoholic. Perhaps this could also include a reward of some sort if the caller chooses to give their information.

We need to have better accountability on certified crazies out there not getting guns in their hands. Better ways to report or tell who is or who maybe. Maybe a psychological test could be administered first as part of the process.

Former Lt. David Buckley who served with the U.A. Park Police in NYC and Washington, DC writes:

My suggestion would be to push for firearms safety training in schools, along with age restrictions on violent video games that glorify senseless murder for fun.

Teach kids that guns need to be used responsibly and should NEVER be pointed at another person.

As a former firearms instructor, I have seen the hardest thing to train out of a person is lifelong training that you never point a gun at another person.

Finally, Capt. Dan Grasso (ret.) formerly with the U.S. Capitol Police in Washington, DC writes:

To deal with shootings we need to look beyond one city, county or state and look at the research overall.  Oh, but the federal government prevents the Centers for Disease and Control from performing research on gun violence.  Somehow this might “infringe” on gun owner’s rights. 

Until our elected officials can get out from under the control of the NRA we’ll always be putting out fires like in Miami, operation after operation that provides some immediate relief but no long-term solution.

For example, for a time, Virginia for a time limited the number of handguns a single purchaser could buy in a month.  Many of those mass purchases were going to New York City.  After Virginia implemented the limit, gun confiscations from Virginia dropped.

Virginia later rescinded the limit (I believe it was 10 per month).  Somehow a limit of ten handguns “infringed” on those wanting to purchase more than ten a month.

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