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Back to Archives | Back to July 2007 Contents 

President's Message

Finding Answers to the Gun Violence Epidemic

Chief Joseph C. Carter, Transit Police Department, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston, Massachusetts



Chief Joseph C. Carter, Transit Police Department, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston, Massachusetts

ince 1893, the IACP has been serving the needs of the law enforcement community by launching acclaimed programs, conducting groundbreaking research, and providing exemplary programs and services to our members across the globe. We are fortunate to have a diverse membership that shapes our perspective on critical issues facing the law enforcement community, and each member brings a unique perspective and valuable experience to the table.

Sometimes, the broad-based nature of our membership can make achieving a consensus position challenging. However, this is not the case when it comes to combating the illegal use of firearms. Our members understand that firearm violence is a plague on all communities—it is not just a problem in large and urban areas. This is why the IACP has always been a strong advocate for measures that help reduce the level of gun violence both here in the United States and around the world. Throughout our history, the IACP has worked diligently to develop innovative strategies and initiatives to combat gun violence, interdict illegal firearms trafficking, and reduce the number of firearms in the hands of criminals.

In recent years, we have seen some successes in these efforts, but we are far from where we need to be. Each year, we witness the deaths of far too many innocent civilians and law enforcement officers as a result of firearm violence. In the United States alone, firearm violence kills approximately 30,000 people each year. All too often, we review these numbers and use them simply as a means to gauge our progress, or lack thereof, in our efforts to combat violent crime. However, we cannot forget that every number on that list represents a tragic loss. Each person on the list has a family devastated by the loss of a loved one: a parent deprived of a son or daughter, a spouse deprived of a partner, or a child deprived of a parent.

The growing epidemic of gun violence has eroded the quality of life in our communities and, in many areas of this nation, has transformed once-peaceful neighborhoods into combat zones, where people are afraid to leave their homes. This is why the IACP launched its Gun Violence Reduction Initiative. This initiative includes partnerships with the Department of Justice and the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation.

As part of this effort, the IACP conducts training sessions for law enforcement officials that cover crucial topics related to illegal firearms trafficking and police officer safety. Thanks to Project Safe Neighborhoods funding, the IACP has trained more than 10,000 law enforcement officers. The IACP also produces timely newsletters and publications that promote intelligence-led policing and sound departmental policies regarding firearms investigations, including the comprehensive tracing of all crime guns through the national tracing center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

In April, the Joyce Foundation and the IACP joined forces to promote programmatic and policy developments to combat gun violence in the Great Lakes states and around the United States. At this summit, our organizations partnered to help law enforcement agencies develop strategies and recommend stronger public policies to make communities safe from gun violence in all its forms: to protect officers from being outgunned; to prevent criminals from trafficking in illegal guns; and to protect youth and families from the devastation of intentional and unintentional gun injury and death. The recommendations from this summit will be available to all IACP members at the annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, in October.

It is because of our commitment to combating gun violence that the IACP has been so dismayed in recent years by efforts designed to hamper law enforcement’s ability to investigate, interdict, and prevent firearm-related crimes. It is simply baffling to the IACP that at a time when we are confronted with so many challenges that Congress, rather than seeking ways to strengthen our enforcement efforts, has instead actively considered legislative proposals that could hinder our efforts. One such example is the Tiahrt Amendment, H.R. 5005, which would actually limit or even reduce the ability of U.S. law enforcement agencies to enforce existing laws and protect our citizens from harm. The IACP strongly believes that these provisions, and others like them, put our citizens and our officers at risk.

Our duty to our communities and our police agencies demands that we do all that we can to guarantee that we have the tools we need to combat crime and violence. We firmly believe that it is our collective responsibility, as local leaders and local public safety professionals, to advocate for the enactment of sensible laws. Federal measures aimed at curbing gun violence are one important way to help strengthen our agencies and enhance our ability to protect the citizens we serve. ■


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From The Police Chief, vol. 74, no. 7, July 2007. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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