Friday, July 8, 2016

The "Blue Lives Matter" bill is a start, but let's re-examine the state's gun laws also

The “Blue Lives Matter” bill should pass -- but so should other measures to protect law enforcement and the public

In the wake of the Dallas shootings that targeted police officers, leaving several dead and more wounded, the response and outpouring from prominent politicians and community leaders has, for the most part, been positive (except for a few voices that have represented misguided viewpoints).

Actions speak louder than words, of course, and in Wisconsin one legislator has suggested passing a “Blue Lives Matter” bill, which would classify violent attacks specifically targeting police, fire, or other EMS personnel as a hate crime.

“I strongly believe that anyone who targets these brave men and women, solely because of their profession, should face serious penalties,” the bill’s author, state Rep. David Steffen (R-Howard), said. “This legislation sends a clear message that the despicable attacks we’ve seen against officers throughout the country will not be tolerated in Wisconsin.”

You won’t find any opposition from me on this proposal. Police officers in our state deserve our utmost respect. Just as in any profession, there can be occasions when an officer acts out of line, but for the most part those who pledge to protect us deserve our respect, and this bill aims to provide harsh penalties that are justifiable.

And that’s the important point to keep in mind -- you can support the Black Lives Matter movement while also supporting law enforcement. The two are not mutually exclusive, and responses from both the law enforcement community and BLM leaders on the events of this week certainly demonstrate that.

We can honor our police officers by insisting that this “Blue Lives Matter” bill passes. We can also honor them -- and honor the livelihoods of other citizens -- by demanding more restrictions on the weapons that were used in this week’s deadly rampage. Assault weapons that weren’t meant to be used on city streets should be restricted, if not outright banned, for they play very little role in self-defence, and far too often they are the supporting actors in these mass shooting tragedies. In the wrong hands they wreak havoc, and it’s long-past time that we limit their use in civilian hands (many in the law enforcement community agree with these sentiments).

We should also reinstitute the 48-hour waiting period to purchase a weapon. And we should consider creating greater regulations -- more training required, for example -- when it comes to whom we decide to grant a concealed carry permit to.

And Republicans in the legislature should finally recognize that loosening gun laws in our state cannot be considered a way in which to make people safer. Despite claims by the governor and the state’s attorney general, Wisconsin isn’t safer since it began to drastically loosen gun laws in 2011. And plans to loosen gun laws even more by members of the state legislature should be scrapped completely in recognition of this evidence.

These are common sense measures that can honor our men and women in blue. And they shouldn’t be readily dismissed -- studies consistently demonstrate that states with tighter regulations see less crimes overall.

Let’s aim to become one of them. Wisconsin’s police force will thank us for the “Blue Lives Matter” bill. But they’ll also likely be thankful for reforms on gun ownership as well.

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