Contributed by local law enforcement leaders
According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 500,000 shootings per year. As law enforcement executives in Santa Cruz County, each of us individually may have different views of how best to reduce gun violence, but we all committed to providing leadership to prevent and reduce gun violence and to keep our children and teachers safe in our schools. Here are just some of the practices we agree will make a difference.
First, police and prosecutors must proactively investigate and prosecute existing gun laws. The local police should faithfully examine tips from community members concerning violent or unstable people who possess guns and make threats.
Second, local courts must view gun crimes as serious crimes worthy of meaningful sentences and high control post-incarceration supervision. Emphasis should be placed on guns possessed by violent mentally ill offenders, domestic abusers, animal abusers and violent gang members.
Third, California has some of the most stringent laws on firearms; we applaud our legislature for their foresight. California should continue to place reasonable restrictions and limits on future sales or transfers of assault rifles and other firearms that have high capacity magazines and fire high-velocity bullets. Gun lobbyists must be reasonable, working in good faith with government, to find real solutions.
We need laws that make sense. In our state, possession of a club is listed as a felony but possession of an unpermitted and concealed firearm in a crowded movie theater is a misdemeanor. The legislature should also carve out exceptions to privacy laws to allow mental health care workers to provide information to law enforcement when lives may be saved.
Fourth, firearms dealers must be required to harden their facilities or store all firearms in a safe when closed. Gun stores have been the target of thieves searching for firearms in this county many times in the recent past.
Finally, each and every gun owner must do their part. When not using a firearm, lock it up! Leaving unattended firearms in a building or vehicle is reckless. And all of us have a responsibility to prevent a family member with a history of violent outbursts to have access to a firearm. We are here to help with those situations if you need us. Santa Cruz County, we can begin with meaningful and civil discourse that leads to action.
Every reasonable person, regardless of one’s position on the Second Amendment, grieves for the lives lost in senseless acts of gun violence. The question becomes, are we willing to make a personal sacrifice to save lives? Every law enforcement executive in this county is willing, ready and able. Are you?
This column was written by:
• Santa Cruz Chief of Police Andrew Mills
•Capitola Chief of Police Terry McManus
•Watsonville Chief of Police David Honda
•UC Santa Cruz Chief of Police Nader Oweis
•Scotts Valley Chief of Police Stephen Walpole
• Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart
• Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell