Survey Finds Police Executives Support Gun Violence Prevention Efforts

U.S. law enforcement leaders strongly support gun violence prevention strategies such as universal background checks, a report from the Police Executive Research Forum finds.

Based on a survey of PERF members representing more than two hundred and fifty agencies as well as attendees at four regional gun violence summits, the report, Gun Violence: Regional Problems, Partnerships, and Solutions (72 pages, PDF), found that 95 percent of respondents supported universal background checks as a way to curb the easy availability of firearms through unregulated private sales. The survey also found strong support for a prohibition on the purchase of and restraining orders allowing for the removal of firearms from those in crisis due to mental illness or domestic violence (81 percent), as well as temporary bans on firearms ownership for those who have been convicted of a violent misdemeanor (92 percent), who are under a restraining order for domestic violence (94 percent), or who have been involuntarily hospitalized with a clinical finding of being a danger to themselves or others (92 percent).

Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the report also highlights the need for communities and government agencies to collaborate with the police in a coordinated, multifaceted approach to preventing gun violence. To that end, the report calls on police chiefs, elected officials, and community leaders to work with state and local officials and legislators to approve measures to create a civil process for gun violence restraining orders and to support joint initiatives involving local police and the federal government that take advantage of new technologies to more effectively reduce gun violence and apprehend offenders.

"One theme comes through loud and clear in our report: We must find a way to 'de-politicize' gun crime issues and talk about gun crime as a public health matter," said PERF executive director Chuck Wexler. "There are common-sense measures that can be taken to make it more difficult for felons and dangerously mentally ill persons to acquire firearms. Local police chiefs and mayors, working with federal ATF officials, also are developing innovative programs under existing laws, such as Crime Gun Intelligence Centers, which help police process ballistic and crime gun trace evidence quickly in order to identify suspects and build cases against violent offenders."