By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
he Senate Committee on the Judiciary recently held a hearing about violent crime titled “New Strategies for Combating Violent Crime: Drawing Lessons from Recent Experience.” As the IACP recently noted, in the years since 2001, more than 99,000 U.S. residents have been murdered, and more than eight million have been victims of violent crime. The hearing focused on efforts to reduce violent crime in U.S. communities.
Testifying at the hearing were criminal justice researchers and Chief Dean Esserman of the Providence, Rhode Island, Police Department. In his comments, Chief Esserman said, “With the right support from the federal government, today’s police departments can make a difference in the quality of life of our citizens. . . . Good policing that is well designed and well managed should be embraced and supported. It will save lives and strengthen communities.”1
The IACP continues to work closely with Congress to reduce the level of violent crime in the United States. The IACP recently released To Protect and Defend: The Public Safety and Homeland Security Challenges Facing the Next President. This document calls on the next president of the United States to establish immediately—during his first 100 days in office—a national commission on criminal justice and homeland security.
The commission, the first of its kind since 1965, would be charged with conducting a comprehensive review of law enforcement and homeland security efforts and would be tasked with providing the nation with a strategic plan to guide public safety and homeland security efforts in the years ahead. This commission, along with other recommendations, is outlined in To Protect and Defend. (For the entire text of this document, please click here.)
IACP Opposes Lowering Drinking Age
The IACP, in response to calls by some college and university presidents to lower the drinking age to 18, recently expressed its strong opposition to such a proposal. Raising the drinking age to 21 reversed a dangerous increase in alcohol-related highway fatalities involving teen drivers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded that raising the drinking age to 21 has saved more than 25,000 lives since 1984.
“Lowering the minimum drinking age to 18 is both misguided and dangerous,” said IACP president Ronald Ruecker, director of public safety in Sherwood, Oregon. “The worst thing any police officer has to do is knock on a door in the dead of night to tell parents that their child will not be coming home because he or she is a victim of impaired driving. Lowering the national drinking age would inevitably lead to more tragedies for more families.”2
Research has consistently shown that whereas underage drivers—those between the ages of 16 and 21—account for just 7 percent of all drivers in the United States, they are involved in 15 percent of all alcohol-related fatalities. The IACP believes that if these underage drivers were permitted to purchase alcohol legally, this already unacceptable figure would grow dramatically. To modify or repeal the minimum drinking age would be gambling with the lives of U.S. children.
For more information on the IACP’s position on lowering the legal drinking age, please visit www.theiacp.org.
House Passes Legislation to Overturn D.C. Gun Ban
H.R. 6691, a bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia, was recently passed by the House of Representatives, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller.3 The Heller decision asserted that the Washington, D.C., ban on the possession of handguns violated the Second Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional.H.R. 6691 would take the following actions:
- Repeal the D.C. ban on semiautomatic weapons and assault weapons, as well as the city’s requirement that guns be kept locked and unloaded
- Prohibit D.C. from enacting laws discouraging gun use or possession
- Allow D.C. residents to cross state lines to buy handguns
- Repeal gun registration requirements
After the Heller ruling, the D.C. City Council passed laws lifting most of the city’s regulations, including the ban on assault weapons, to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. Finding these new regulations still too restrictive, the sponsors of H.R. 6691 brought the bill to the House floor for a vote.
Before the vote on H.R. 6691, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the bill, and several law enforcement executives testified, including Chief Cathy Lanier of the Washington, D.C., Police Department; Chief Phillip Morse of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Assistant Chief Salvatore Lauro of the U.S. Park Police.
During the hearing, Chief Lanier raised concerns about H.R. 6691, saying, “Imagine how difficult it will be for law enforcement to safeguard the public, not to mention the new President at the Inaugural Parade, if carrying semi-automatic rifles were to suddenly become legal in Washington.”4
H.R. 6691 now heads to the Senate for consideration. ■
1Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Hearing on New Strategies for Combating Violent Crime: Lessons Learned from Recent Experience, 110th Cong., 2d sess., September 10, 2008, testimony of Colonel Dean Esserman, http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=3541&wit_id=7394 (accessed September 15, 2008).
2International Association of Chiefs of Police, “The IACP Strongly Opposes Lowering National Drinking Age to 18,” press release, August 21, 2008, http://www.theiacp.org/documents/index.cfm?fuseaction=document&document_id=1087 (accessed September 15, 2008).
3District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (U.S. 2008).
4House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Hearing on the Impact of Proposed Legislation on the District of Columbia’s Gun Laws, 110th Cong., 2d sess., September 9, 2008, testimony of Cathy L. Lanier, http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20080909103703.pdf (accessed September 15, 2008).