All sales, even private ones, should be licensed, group says
The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a report Wednesday that calls for stronger gun laws and urges law enforcement agencies to better educate the public about gun violence and to form more partnerships with public health officials in preventing firearms-related deaths.
The organization, which includes police executives from around the country, made 39 recommendations in the report, intended as a guide in countering a rise nationwide in gun violence over the past two years.
The report also implores states to consider enacting legislation that would close the "gun show loophole," a term referring to transactions between private sellers, which allow buyers to avoid mandatory background screenings required by federally licensed gun dealers.
Mayor Greg Nickels and police Chief Gil Kerlikowske have campaigned heavily in favor of such legislation, which has repeatedly failed in the Legislature.
Many of the report's strongest recommendations to local jurisdictions already are in place in Seattle and King County, including policies requiring officers to seize firearms from domestic violence offenders and ensuring officers submit data from all guns recovered on the streets into a federal database.
The report spawned from a summit earlier this year in Chicago, where law enforcement officials, prosecutors and researchers, mostly from the Midwest, met to address gun violence in that region. The Joyce Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to reducing poverty and crime in the Great Lakes region, co-sponsored the event.
"The idea is that it really should be a multifaceted approach. It's not just a police issue. It's a public health issue, it's a youth issue and our schools are involved," said Bob Scales, a Seattle policy analyst who attended on behalf of the city.
"We've got to do a lot of things. It's not enough to say that if we close the gun-show loophole, that's going to solve an 'X' amount of gun incidents."
The wide-ranging report urges state and local governments to strengthen laws barring access to guns for domestic violence offenders, including those convicted of misdemeanors, and the mentally ill. It also suggests that local and state officials consider safety regulations on gun storage and require owners to file a police report if their weapons are stolen.
In Seattle and King County, police seize weapons on domestic-violence arrests and when court protection orders are served, Kerlikowske said. Police also have recorded trace data on all recovered firearms since 2001. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives opened a regional crime gun center in Seattle last year to analyze trends in regional weapons trafficking.
A representative from the Washington-based Concerned Citizens for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said Wednesday he'd not yet read the report. But the gun-control legislation proposed in the report has been intensely opposed by Second Amendment advocacy organizations.
Gun-rights supporters point to studies that show only 1 percent of firearms bought at gun shows are linked to crimes.
Kerlikowske said the most critical issue is that all private gun sales are licensed. Without records of such sales, it's impossible to say how many people illegally obtained firearms when a licensed dealer would have denied them, he said.
"I think there should be a lot of concern," he said. "I'm glad the IACP did this."
The report also advocates for more funding for thorough public health studies of gun violence and urges state and local officials to improve education about gun-related suicides and safe gun ownership.
It notes that 30,000 people die gun-related deaths each year, many from suicide or accidental shootings. The King County Medical Examiner's Office investigated 146 gun-related deaths in 2005, the most current data available. Of those, 32 percent were homicides. All but two of the remaining cases were ruled suicides.
"The IACP report lays out the need for us to adjust our way of thinking about gun violence," said Kristen Comer, executive director of Washington Ceasefire, a gun-control advocacy group. "We must do more to educate the public, especially our young people, about the dangers of gun violence."