Congratulations on being appointed to the President's Firearms Commission.
As a law enforcement officer you are probably aware that "assault weapons" is a term that describes cosmetic attributes of common semi-automatic firearms. As a law enforcement officer you are also probably aware that "assault weapons" account for a fraction of firearms used in crimes that is so low as to be statistically insignificant. Yes, several mentally unstable (verified or highly suspected but dead by their own hand before a formal diagnosis could be made) individuals have used or carried "assault weapons" in the commission of horrific mass murders. But the number of mass murders is not increasing. The number of victims of mass murders is in fact decreasing.
As a law enforcement officer you are probably aware of the five (5) US Supreme Court decisions which clearly lay out that the police have no duty or obligation to protect any single individual. As a police officer you are probably aware that the police are almost powerless to deal with the subject to a protective/restraining order until that person makes an overt act in violation of the protective/restraining order. As a law enforcement officer you are probably aware that the police are most often called to respond to a violent crime in progress or one that has already been committed, as opposed to stopping a violent crime in progress or preventing a specific violent crime from occurring.
I have heard nothing that suggests the Firearms Commission will be focusing on ways for citizens to exercise that most fundamental of rights - the right to self defense. What I have heard, from Members of Congress, from various federal agency officials, and from NGO lobbying groups is that the Firearms Commission will be looking for ways to further control or curtail the sale and possession of not only "assault weapons" but most semi-automatic firearms. As a law enforcement officer you are probably aware of the extremely small number of violent crimes committed by the use of "assault weapons" and other semi-automatic rifles or shotguns. As a law enforcement officer you are probably aware that the numbers of criminals who use semi-automatic pistols in the commission of violent crimes is magnitudes of order less than the number of law-abiding citizens who possess, carry, and use semi-automatic pistols in full compliance with the myriad laws already in existence.
All of the mass murders of the 20th century, and those so far who committed their crimes in the 21st, have been classified as mentally deranged persons. Some of them were formally diagnosed as mentally deranged and known to both the police and the mental health care system. Some in this group were either active in, or had in the past received mental health treatment services. Some were not formally diagnosed as mentally deranged until after they committed their mass murder.
A mass murder by a mentally deranged individual is a horrible thing not only for the relatives and friends of the victims, but for the community and the country at large. If nothing else a mass murder by a mentally deranged individual points out that we, the citizens, are almost helpless against such an attack. But there are a small number of citizens who have decided that they do not wish to be totally helpless and have looked at various ways of providing for their self defense until the police can be summoned to, as the English say, "attend" the scene. Some citizens carry sticks. Some citizens carry any of a number of forms of mace/OC spray. The smallest minority of citizens who desire to provide for their self defense carry firearms - after complying with all of the laws and regulations already in existence controlling not only who may be granted the privilege of carrying a concealed handgun, but how, where, and when they may do so. Additionally, those citizens comply with the laws and regulations controlling where they may not carry their concealed handgun.
Criminals, on the other hand, do not concern themselves with complying with any laws regarding firearms possession, carry, or use. The mentally deranged do not concern themselves with complying with any laws regarding firearms possession, carry, or use.
There are literally tens of thousands of laws already on the books controlling every aspect of firearm possession, carry and use. The notion that all of those laws are somehow flawed and the solution is to create a new law that will finally "solve" the problem of criminal use of firearms is, to be kind, misguided at best. The more appropriate solution would be to enforce the laws already on the books, and to improve the capability of providing both treatment and control of the mentally deranged. Criminals, by definition, do not obey the laws. By nature and inclination criminals do not see any laws as a deterrent to their criminal behavior, and few, if any, are deterred by the possibility of punishment if they are caught.
I ask you to not only share these comments with the full Firearms Commission, but to give them the benefit of your expertise and experience as a law enforcement officer in verifying these comments. Further, I ask that you relay to the Firearms Commission my express desire that they not look to the notion of further controlling firearm possession, carry and use, but to addressing ways the law enforcement and mental health communities can improve on enforcing the laws already on the books, identifying the mentally deranged and providing adequate treatment/care for them. The focus of the Firearms Commission should not be on ways to further control law-abiding citizens, or to further restrict their right to possess, carry and use firearms. Instead, the focus of the Firearms Commission should be on ways to use the laws already on the books to deal with mentally deranged persons and violent criminals.
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