AS A FORMER law-enforcement officer, homeland security inspector and intelligence analyst for both federal and municipal jurisdictions (and a law-abiding registered voter), I have written to my elected officials to plead for their support in common-sense solutions to recent rising trends in violent crime, to include tragedies such as the mass-murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
As a citizen with a specific skill set in crime suppression, I believe in the inalienable right to self-defense, and am aware of the statistical disparities between crimes committed by legal, responsible gun owners and those who succumb to criminality or are afflicted with a mental-health disorder.
The undisputable facts are that an operable, maintained firearm will last well over 100 years, and there are currently more than 270 million firearms in private circulation throughout the United States. Therefore, I asked my political leaders, as educated men of public service: "How will newer, more-stringent gun laws prevent future attacks or violent crimes committed by those who have no intention to abide by even the current set of laws regulating firearms in our nation and states?"
I am keenly aware of the fact that in a city of 329 homicides (thus far) this year; a police officer may not always be here when I need one. Therefore, I believe in a responsible citizen's right to keep and bear arms, for self-defense, and believe (from experience) that the type of weapon possessed has little importance over the quality of the individual in possession of that weapon.
I urge my leaders to dismiss the popular, yet baseless concept that firearms themselves equate to violent crime. I believe that instead of spending their valuable time and our needed tax dollars on arguing new gun legislation, that time and money would be better invested in new strategies for security, law enforcement and mental-health treatment.
I offer my support and assistance in identifying the "low-hanging fruit" to protect our citizenry and enforce the law in an efficient, effective manner, to include:
* Professional recruitment, training, and equipment for school police (who, in places like Philadelphia and New York, are currently not certified/armed police officers, despite their name and funding, necessitating a redundant detail of city police at high-risk schools).
* Legislation for a HIPAA-compliant (or modifications to HIPAA) State Mental Health Treatment Database, to tie mandatory notifications from medical and mental-health professionals to law enforcement when someone is undergoing mental-health treatment (to include outpatient treatment when pharmacological intervention is required), who can cross-check files with firearms registration (and requests to buy new weapons).
* More law-enforcement officers specializing in critical infrastructure protection (like the Los Angeles General Services Police and D.C. Protective Services Division, for which Philadelphia currently has no equivalent).
* Zero-tolerance enforcement and heightened sentences for illegal weapons offenses or other crimes where a firearm was used or recovered, similar to "Face 5" in Georgia or "Project Exile" in Virginia.
* Increased funding, recruitment, and support for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and its task forces, so that more investigations and prosecutions can be conducted for interstate smuggling and straw-purchasing operations for illegal firearms.
* Legislation requiring safes or strongboxes for legal firearms owners when the weapon is not secured on their person.
* Legislation requiring training in the safe handling, retention and use of a firearm for any civilian owner.
* Training for workplaces and schools in recognizing and reporting abnormal behavior, and an early-intervention tipline.
I am making a desperate plea to my fellow citizens to force our political leaders at all levels to begin a meaningful and effective discussion that would have an immediate impact on violent crime in America. Let's see if they take me up on my offer - or opt for the politically popular "kicking of the can down the road."
A. Benjamin Mannes