Several law enforcement groups and leaders of mostly urban agencies have endorsed U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, and have claimed that regulation of these firearms will enhance public and officer safety.
The bill has created a rift in American law enforcement with many urban chiefs supporting it and many more rural sheriffs opposing it. POLICE Magazine readers have been mostly opposed to such a measure.
Nearly 80% of respondents to a fall survey opposed restrictions on assault weapon ownership, and 21% agreed that tighter controls would enhance public safety.
On her website, Sen. Feinstein lists 13 public safety groups and individuals as endorsers of her bill that seeks to ban 157 specific semi-automatic firearms and magazines accepting more than 10 rounds. The bill takes aim at "military-style assault weapons" such as AR-15s.
Not surprisingly, the International Association of Chiefs of Police supports the bill. The group has historically backed gun control measures, according to a statement on the IACP website.
"Our membership was, and remains, a leading proponent of universal background checks for gun purchases, the ban on military style assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and ensuring that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has both a permanent director and sufficient resources to enforce our nation's gun laws," according to the statement.
The assault weapons ban has also been endorsed by the Women in Federal Law Enforcement as an officer-safety measure, Catherine Sanz, the group's president, told POLICE Magazine.
"When you compare the assault weapon and its ammunition to the law enforcement officer's standard issue weapon and body armor, the law enforcement officer is at a severe disadvantage," said Sanz.
Patrol officers asked to engage a school shooter, for example, may be outgunned, Sanz said.
"While officers now train for some of these scenarios, they don't train to the same level as special response groups," Sanz added. "If the shooter is wearing body armor it becomes even more lethal as the shooter not only has the more lethal firepower, the law enforcement officer's weapon may not be able to stop the shooter."
On her website, Sen. Feinstein lists nine law enforcement groups that support the assault weapons ban, including the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, Police Executive Research Forum, and Police Foundation. Additionally, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, and San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne have endorsed it. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the ban is "a move in the right direction" during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.
"The sheriff supports it because he doesn't think that recreational hunters need a 50-round clip and AK-47 to shoot pheasant," Sheriff Baca's spokesman, Steve Whitmore, told POLICE Magazine. "He supports the assault weapons ban because he doesn't think those kind of weapons have any place in our modern society."
More than 90 sheriffs mostly in rural and urban counties sent a letter to President Obama opposing the ban and other gun-control measures and said they would not enforce unconstitutional gun control.
When Sen. Feinstein announced she had introduced the bill at a Jan. 24 press conference, several officers stood on risers behind her showing their support for the legislation.
The senator's office declined to identify the officers at the press conference, but Press Secretary Tom Mentzer said they represented six agencies including the Baltimore Police Department, Baltimore County Police Department, California State University Police Department, Metropolitan (D.C.) Police Department, Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department, and Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department.
By Paul Clinton