After the mass shooting in Roseburg, Ore., last week, the national media gave a lot of attention to the fact that the local sheriff, John Hanlin, is an ardent supporter of gun rights. He'd written a letter to Vice President Joe Biden shortly after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., saying gun control was not the answer. In the letter, Hanlin pledged not to enforce gun regulations he believed to be unconstitutional.

What wasn't widely reported was how common views like Hanlin's have become in law enforcement.

"Talking about firearms now is like talking about race," says Richard Beary, chief of police for the University of Central Florida and president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "These are difficult conversations, and people get very polarized on each side of it," reports.

It's not unusual to see law enforcement executives arguing with each other about guns in public.

Take the situation in Milwaukee. The county sheriff, David A. Clarke Jr., is a champion of gun rights; earlier this spring he released a statement attacking the city administration for being "anti-gun" and "anti-Second Amendment," and for "blaming the gun instead of the behavior."

Milwaukee's police chief, Edward Flynn, responded to Sheriff Clarke by saying that he wouldn't hold back from talking about guns and how they get into the hands of criminals.