We have all seen the horrible incidents where many have been injured or life has been lost at schools, work places, and in society from shootings. Obviously all life especially the lives of our children and grandchildren is extremely precious!
Since the recent school shooting in Florida I have heard many comments on both sides of the push to ban assault rifles. I respect everyone’s opinion on this but I feel it is important for me to share information that as a sheriff and law enforcement officer I am aware of and I believe should be weighed into the thought process by everyone on all sides.
Many have called this horrible loss of life a “Mental Health” issue with the accused in Florida. Law Enforcement frequently deals with people having mental health issues. Society along with State and Federal government has caused county jails and prisons to be modern day mental health institutions. Why? My opinion is simply the costs and availability. It is currently cheaper and easier to warehouse a person in jail or prison as compared to holding someone in a mental health facility.
Law enforcement often takes custody of and even obtains 96-hour order from the Court for people who are a threat to themselves or others. Law Enforcement causes that person be delivered to a mental health facility and once there, that 96-hour order is good for anywhere from 15 minutes to the full 96 hours of that Court order. A mental health professional can petition the Court to compel the person to remain hospitalized for an additional period of time beyond the 96 hours if needed.
Federal Government and/or many States have laws which prohibit mentally incompetent people from possessing and purchasing firearms. Any of us who purchase a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer is mandated to be cleared though the Federal NICS (pronounced NIX) check prior to the transaction.
Interestingly NICS checks uses criminal history information to approve or deny a buyer. Criminal history information is entered into data bases via fingerprint records with criminal history reporting by law enforcement. However, people sent to mental health facilities on 96-hour Court orders, individuals voluntarily checking into a mental health facility, and even those people who are kept longer are never reported to the Feds for the NICS check system and there is NO established way of reporting this, per A.T.F. when I asked this last weekend. Part of the problem is mental health laws, HIPPA, civil liability issues, and no established method to report this. Plus for law enforcement the 96-hour order is civil matter and does not quality for generating fingerprints.
Another issue to consider is if government changes the law and immediately stops the sale of all assault style rifles, this will not in and of itself solve the problem. There are so many firearms in society today that these same firearms will only be stolen from the remaining law abiding citizens when not available on the public market.
Furthermore, where do we stop with the firearms laws? Consider this, an average person can put more lethal projectiles in the air with a pump shotgun and buck shot ammunition in a faster time frame as compared to a semi-auto rifle. So eliminating just assault rifles or even semi-auto rifles will not fix the problem.
In a perfect world if all firearms were confiscated today, what would the criminals use next? How about vehicles, creating explosives, knives, or fire? Some of these items could harm even more people, be just as deadly and even more gruesome.
As a law enforcement officer since June 1985, I have worked way to many horrible and violent vehicle crashes. Several people have died, some became disabled for life, and others may still have the physical and emotional scars. Vehicle crashes can be extremely violent and horrible. Should we make it illegal to use the most common car or truck in injury or fatality vehicle crashes? Ask yourself where do we start and where do we stop?
During my law enforcement career I have seen society change. Years ago in speaking with my grandparents and even with other sheriffs earlier in my career they also noted the overall downward changes in society. History shows us even in the great depression the majority of citizens took pride in themselves and their family, they dressed nice, and gave every effort to work and lawfully earn money and care for their family. Family and religion was a top priority. Today many people still share those values but there seemingly are more people who have little desire to achieve goals in life and are expecting from the government and others instead of vice-versa. Many people only have ability to reflect on how they were raised when they are now making family decisions, therefore they do what mom or dad did.
During my childhood I do not recall any violence at schools, such outright hatred towards people of any color, or the extreme hatred and disrespect for law enforcement. Why do we see that today? Colonel David Grossman hosts training for law enforcement on this very issue and is an expert in the psychology of killing and school killings. I have attended some of Col. Grossman’s training and learned if we look at the violence in schools and colleges around the entire world (yes it happens in other countries too) we will see this has frequently trended with the same ages of people. This extreme violence is also timely with the violent video games available worldwide. Look at many of these games and how the game rewards the players who kill more people and when a certain level is reached the player earns a bigger weapon to kill yet even more people and get a higher score. Compound this with the violence seen daily on television, media, and even the music industry. How much music of today glorifies violence, murder, rape, and destruction? We as a society and the world are desensitizing our young people into ignoring the rights and life of others and reinforcing that violence is ok and normal. This type of information is thrown at them hundreds of times daily and from all angles.
Drugs are another issue. Look at the many people who are in drug culture. I have lost count on how many times an arrested person has told me they learned to do serious drugs such as methamphetamine or shoot up prescription medications from their parent, uncle, or step parent. It is sickening. We also see what drugs do to the unborn children and then through their life after birth.
Let’s be honest, if a child comes from a home where mom or dad is in jail/prison the child is more likely to end up in the same life style. So in the home of a person who hates people of another color, or hates the police, is mom or dad going to raise their children to be open minded and respect others? If a person is a drug user are they going to raise their child to stay away from drugs? If someone is a violent person are they going to raise their child to be non-violent and friendly? Very doubtful.
We must reflect on history and how one reason Japan and other countries have not grossly invaded the continental United States was due to the amount of firearms owned by our citizens. A foreign power would in sense be instantly attacking an army of millions of citizens armed with all types of weapons. Don’t you think other countries and even criminals wish we would disarm our lawful citizens?
My office is taking a big step forward and sending Chief Deputy Michael Claypole to “Crisis Intervention Team Training” in the near future along with Deputy/School Resource Officer Mike Lewis. Chief Deputy Claypole, SRO Lewis, and I want to establish a Crisis Intervention Team in Livingston County. I am working on meeting with Chief Maples in attempt work as yet a larger team in our desire to provide additional services, help people, and reduce crime/violence. We will have much more on this in the near future.
Finally I must say that not one thing will immediately eliminate firearms violence. There needs to be many issues addressed and confronted to change the mindset of many. So again, where do we want government to start and stop with potential changes to laws and loss of rights or freedoms? Should we pay higher taxes so our schools have armed resource officers, added security, metal detectors, or just add laws to the books which are not always prosecuted? These alone will not change society and the continued violence.
I believe the respect for life starts at home. The schools, police, and courts cannot raise our children. Respect includes self-pride and the belief of putting others before yourself while making sacrifices and learning to help instead of hurt. The separation of Church and State may be a partial cause in the downward trend in society. Unfortunately it is so much easier to hate someone instead of love them.
In closing, I have told my wife that should I die at the hands of a criminal with a firearm to never blame the gun but instead blame the person making the choice to wrongly use that gun. I still pray each day for the safety of my family, co-workers, community, and law enforcement/first responders in this country. Again, I respect and value your opinion.