Our police officers need protection from gun violence too
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On Saturday night, thousands of police officers gathered in Washington, D.C., for a candlelight vigil to kick off “Police Week,” the annual observance of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

For many, this event is a somber, visual reminder of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting our communities. For me personally, this week hits home in a way I never wanted to imagine.

It’s been almost a year since we lost five police officers in my hometown of Dallas. It was just last summer that one man, intent on killing cops, ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers. He killed five, injured nine others, and wounded two civilians. As the anniversary of the shooting approaches, I can’t begin to imagine the pain these families are going through.

I wish what happened in Dallas that night was a rare tragedy, experienced only once in a while. But the reality is the officers we lost that night represent only a small fraction of law enforcement officers who are killed by gun violence every year.

In 2016, more police were assassinated in ambush killings than any time during the past two decades. In the past decade, over 500 police officers have been killed in the line of duty by guns. The loss of a single officer is a tragedy; the loss of 500 officers is a national crisis — one that demands a national solution.

Solving gun violence is a complex problem. But one reason why so many officers are killed with guns is because our laws too easily let dangerous people get their hands on firearms. Instead of looking at ways to protect law enforcement, special interests are now pushing for legislation that would make it easier for dangerous individuals to cause us harm.

One of Congress’s top priorities is to allow the national unrestricted concealed carry of firearms, which would undermine one state’s strong laws with another state’s weaker laws for carrying loaded, hidden guns in public. This bill would make it easier for dangerous people, like stalkers and domestic abusers, to carry hidden guns in all 50 states.

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Under this bill, a victim could never feel safe or escape their accuser by going to another state. This bill also directly undermines the ability of law enforcement officers to effectively do their jobs and ensure public safety. If this law were to pass, there would be no way for police officers to verify that individuals are carrying lawfully, which creates confusing — and dangerous — situations for the public and police alike.

 

Congress is also considering a bill that rolls back an 80-year-old federal law that prevents gun silencers from landing in the hands of criminals who seek to commit violent crimes. Let’s be clear about what silencers do: silencers reduce the sound and mask the flash of gunfire. They make it difficult for people who are nearby — including law enforcement officers — to identify the location of an active shooter.

In 2013, a disgruntled former Los Angeles Police Department officer, Christopher Dorner, used a gun with a silencer to murder four people and wound several others. Dorner targeted law enforcement officers in what the Police Foundation described as a bizarre act of vengeance — a “gang-style hit” on innocent people sitting in a car. Police were initially puzzled as to why no neighbors heard the 14 shots: it was because Dorner used a silencer.

Putting more silencers on the street would also diminish the effectiveness of gunshot detection technology, making it harder for police officers to safely respond to and investigate gun crimes, whether they have been called or not.

Earlier this year, I joined the Advisory Committee of the Law Enforcement Coalition for Common Sense, a national nonpartisan initiative of distinguished law enforcement officials from across the country who are committed to pushing responsible policies that respect the Second Amendment and save lives. We are fighting to strengthen existing laws by cracking down on gun trafficking and closing the loopholes in our background check system. And we are committed to opposing new irresponsible laws that would federally mandate concealed carry and make it easier for dangerous people to obtain silencers.

I took an oath to serve and protect, not hate or discriminate. I also took an oath to keep our communities safe. And as a proud law enforcement officer, I have an obligation to fight for the policies I know will make my city and country safer.

When my fellow law enforcement officers report for duty, we have no idea what the day might bring. When my officers respond to a domestic violence call, they don’t know whether an abuser with a gun or a small child will meet them at the door. When they approach an individual who is openly carrying, they don’t know if that individual is a friend or foe. But each and every day, thousands of brave men and women put on their uniform and answer the call to serve and protect.

It’s time for Congress to answer the call and help protect law enforcement and communities from the threats of gun violence.

 

Lupe Valdez is the Dallas County Sheriff and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Law Enforcement Coalition for Common Sense.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.