By Ronald C. Ruecker
un violence is not a new issue—it is a continuing tragedy that destroys innocent lives, families, and communities; it challenges law enforcement agencies throughout the world each and every day.
For example, in the United States alone, 30,000 people died as a result of gun violence over the past year, and far too many of those who died were police officers trying to protect the citizens and communities they serve.
Yet despite the horror of this ongoing tragedy, we are confronted by complacency—a belief of leaders, legislators, citizens, and even law enforcement and justice officials that these levels of violence have to be “accepted” and that there is no way to stop the bleeding.
The IACP does not accept this ludicrous proposition for one minute. For this reason, last spring the IACP, working with our partners at the Joyce Foundation, sponsored a remarkable two-day summit focused on combating gun violence and the illegal use of firearms. (The summit and the report are discussed in detail on pages 26–34.)
The results of this summit were released last fall in the IACP report titled Taking a Stand: Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communities. By taking a stand, the IACP is declaring that we are no longer willing to accept the levels of gun violence in our communities; we are challenging ourselves and all others to take that same stand. Every citizen in this country must stop accepting outrageous levels of gun violence in our streets, our schools, and our homes, and we must work with our fellow citizens as well as law enforcement and elected officials to put an end to this continuing tragedy.
This report was not written by the IACP, nor was it written by the Joyce Foundation. It was written directly from the experiences of almost 200 community, police, justice, academic, and other professionals who participated in our gun violence summit held in Chicago last year. These leaders have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. The IACP and the Joyce Foundation had the honor of putting their voices into print so they can be heard.
Our report documents the recommendations emerging from that summit and is designed to help everyone understand his or her role in reducing gun violence. And we mean everyone. To address the issue fully and drive down the numbers of our fellow citizens killed by guns, no one can excuse themselves from this effort. We in the law enforcement community need strong partners to achieve this goal. We need the committed and passionate involvement of all of the following people:
- Every citizen
- Every police officer who deals with gun violence
- Every legislator elected to serve these citizens
- Every doctor who treats the wounded
- Every teacher who sees violence in the classroom
- Every researcher who studies violence in the United States
- Every gun manufacturer who produces firearms
- Every gun dealer who sells firearms to our citizens
- Every judge who tries gun violence cases
Our report includes 39 principal recommendations that everyone can clearly understand and on which everyone can act. And those recommendations focus on doing better at three overarching principles:
- Keeping our communities safe
- Preventing and solving gun crime
- Keeping police officers safe
And let me be clear—we are talking about reducing all kinds of gun violence. Certainly, a core focus is illegal guns in the hands of criminals in our communities. But we cannot and must not forget to address all other kinds of gun violence—guns used to kill partners in domestic violence cases, guns used by mentally ill individuals to kill innocent students, and guns used by suicidal individuals to kill themselves. Each and every type of gun violence rips the fabric of our society, and we cannot, and must not, “accept” this violence.
We realize that this will not be easy. Gun violence is a complex, emotional issue that arouses passions within communities and throughout the United States, but I truly believe that we can reduce the level of gun violence and reduce the suffering in our communities by enacting these commonsense steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who pose a danger to themselves or the community.
It is the IACP’s hope that all law enforcement officials, all citizens, and all those who hold leadership positions take the opportunity to read this report, embrace their personal role in the fight against gun violence, and then take action.
The IACP has taken a stand—a stand strongly supported by law enforcement executives around the country: we will no longer accept the devastating level of gun violence in our country.
I hope that you will stand with us. ■