FOR THE UNBELIEVERS
(In April 1995, several law enforcement officers testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime. We don't have room to run the entire testimony, but these excerpts are particularily interesting. - ecr)
Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee thank you for giving me the chance to appear before you today.
My name is William J. Hinz. I am presently assigned to the Homicide Division of the Minneapolis Police Department. Prior to my moving to homicide, I spent eight years with my department's crime lab where I processed all major and minor crime scenes. Before that I was a member of the Street Crimes Decoy Unit. I spent my first dozen years on the force on uniform patrol. During my 24 years with the Minneapolis police, I've been in direct contact with every type of crime, dealt directly with every sort of criminal, and seen virtually every type of weapon used by Minneapolis criminals.
I can report that we did have one military-style semi-automatic rifle involved in a crime once. It was an SKS rifle and it killed a house. I say that deliberately because not one of the four individuals in the car with the weapon was convicted of firing it and only the house sustained bullet damage. So officially we declared the rifle responsible for killing the house.
What is the feeling among Minneapolis police about private, honest citizens having, carrying, or owning guns?
Let me answer that with another short story.
A few years ago an officer from Hutchinson was killed by a pretty hard-core crook. He came into Minneapolis and stole a car. During the chase, my department was hoping against hope that the cop-killer would break down in the country, kick in some farmer's door, and come face to face with a farmer who was armed and willing to use his or her firearms to protect himself and his family from this killer.
That is how much faith law enforcement has in our criminal justice system. Do we support bans on so-called semi-automatic assault weapons or pistols with high capacity magazines. No we do not.
Do we support private citizens who own firearms and are willing to use them? Absolutely.
Armed honest citizens pose no threat to their families, neighbors, or community. Disarmed citizens are little more than prey waiting for a criminal predator.
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittee, my name is Bryant Jennings, I am a patrolman with 15 and a half years experience with the Memphis Tennessee Police Department and I am president of the Memphis Police Association, the independent collective bargaining agency representing 1400 members of the Memphis police department.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak about this very important issue. First I would like to establish my credentials for what I am about to say.
My primary duties involve uniform patrol of Memphis' streets. I also have extensive training and experience as a member of my department's Crisis Intervention Team and as a hostage negotiator. Those special details bring me into contact with a variety of violent incidents. I've equally extensive training and experience with the range of illegal drug use, how they affect human behavior, and the variety of techniques to restrain those under their influence. In short, during my law enforcement career, I've seen most everything.
I've confiscated weapons from felons. I've dodged bullets and I've fired my service weapon under hostile circumstances. After all is said and done, I can say this with all my professional and personal sincerity: Firearms owned and used by responsible citizens present no danger to law enforcement officers or to the community. In fact, I sincerely believe armed and trained responsible citizens are an important asset to any community. Congressman Bryant, you may remember the incident I am about to discuss. It occured in Memphis.
It is a story of one very old, very gentle, very tough silver-haired Memphis resident who happens to be armed and dangerous to the criminals who inhabit her neighborhood. The gentle lady in question is pushing seventy. She's lived in her home most of her life and refuses to yield her home, her possessions, or to alter her life-style for fear of criminals. No matter how bad her neighborhood became. No matter how rampant the drug trade grew or how brazen the stick-up artists became. She refused to move. She was resolved to take her stand in defense of what she believed at her little home on Reese Street. I might mention that she also owns a pistol. When armed thugs attempted to rob her on her front porch at knife-point, she drew her pistol and fired. To date, this lady helped two felons meet their maker.
I can tell you without a doubt. Without her pistol, that 70-ish grandmother would not be alive today.
Good morning members of the committee and thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Dennis Tueller and I'm a Lieutenant from the Salt Lake City, Utah, Police Department, and I have over twenty years of law enforcement experience. I am also a firearms instructor and have trained police officers, security agents, SWAT teams, firearms instructors, and responsible civilians from throughout the free world.
Today you are hearing testimony that dispels the myth that law enforcement is strongly in support of gun control as a method of controlling crime. This committee, and the public are learning the truth from a representative sampling of officers from across America. These law enforcement professionals assembled before you today run the entire gamut from the officer on the street, to the detective that investigates the homicide, to the front line supervisors all the way up to the Chief of a department. The one common theme known to all these officers is that guns are not the problem when it comes to America's run away crime epidemic. We have never seen a gun commit a crime.
We know... I know... that gun ownership by honest citizens is totally unrelated to the violent crime problem we are experiencing.
Street officers and crime victims across the country share the belief that the number one way to reduce crime in our nation is to punish criminal behavior. Make criminals serve the time to which they are sentenced. The clock needs to be turned back to the days when prison was a deterrent to crime - when prisoners served real time for their crimes, not just short vacations away from the street.
Gun hating groups and politicians, like HCI and President Clinton, used police based groups like the National Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), and the Police Foundation in their push for the Brady Act. Then they used these same groups to support President Clinton's Crime Bill.
Contrary to what was portrayed in the national media, working Law Enforcement did not support the Crime Bill and especially did not support its gun ban.
The Clinton/Reno Justice Department bought and paid for its law enforcement allies with perfectly legitimate federal money. They dipped deep into the federal pork barrel - and used OUR tax dollars.
According to the June 1, 1994, edition of the Criminal Justice Newsletter, $4.4 million dollars was given to these same anti-gun police organizations. The taxpayer dollars came to these groups through the Bureau of Justice Assistance and went to the Police Executive Research Forum, IACP, National Sheriff's Association, and the Police Foundation. The money was ostensibly to provide community policing training and technical assistance. This type of taxpayer funding of police groups that profess their unwavering support of more gun-control has been ongoing for years. Investor's Business Daily and Law and Order magazine both claim that IACP received almost 650,000 dollars in 1993.
... Those who have surveyed our police have found that they do not support more gun control.
From the Police Marksman Association survey from September-October and
November-December 1994, comes:
95% of officers do not like the ban on large capacity magazines 92% do not support the so-called "Assault Weapon" Ban
93% disagree with the "Brady Bill"
From the July/August 1991 edition of Law Enforcement Technology magazine after surveying its 25,000 subscribers determined that:
78.7% were against a ban on "Assault Weapons"
84.6% feel that gun control does not lessen crime 78.2% believe that criminals will always be able to obtain guns irrespective of gun control legislation
From the 1993 Southern States Police Benevolent Association survey of over 10,000 members comes:
96.4% support firearms ownership for self-protection
86.5% felt that waiting periods would only affect law-abiding citizens
1.1% choose guns as the most pressing cause of crime (given 20 choices)
The April 1993, informal survey of a sampling of the readers of Police magazine showed:
85% did not support an "Assault Weapons" ban 90% feel gun ownership by civilians has not negatively affected their jobs
85% believe citizen's gun ownership increases public safety
77% did not support the "Brady Bill"
These surveys back up what I know from more than twenty years of police experience. Street cops overwhelmingly do NOT support gun control. We are not interested in more laws which criminals will flaunt and ignore. The political and dishonest "behind the scenes" actions of the anti-gun leaders of the national organizations that purport to speak America's law enforcement professionals must be exposed and stopped.
Gun control laws are historically abject failures... guns are banned, honest citizens' rights are destroyed and the criminals continue to avoid punishment.
Those who pushed the "Assault Weapon" and magazine ban have shown that they are against all guns. Senator Dianne Feinstien summed it up best with her remarks during her interview on CBS's 60 Minutes. She said she wanted to come into everyone's home and make them turn in all their guns. She wasn't talking about criminals.She was talking about you and me, and the only thing that stopped her was that she didn't have enough votes or enough "stormtroopers" to do it.
As many of you may know, Kennesaw, Georgia gained international attention 13 years ago this past March when the city passed a law allowing the head of each household to keep and bear firearms for the defense of themselves, their families, and their homes.
I've been in law enforcement for the past 25 years. I've supervised patrol units, been in charge of criminal investigations, created Kennesaw's detective division, and been chief of the department for the past 10 years. As all chiefs know, and Congressman Heineman, being a former chief of police, can attest to, we have a unique responsibility to the community, safeguarding the rights of all, without putting one above the other. Kennesaw, itself, provides probably the best example of how law enforcement and armed honest citizens co-exist. Since virtually every home has at least one gun in it.
I am here to tell you, you would be hard pressed to find a more peaceful community anywhere in this or any nation on earth. Since our "armed citizen" law passed in 1982, crime, particularly armed crime, in Kennesaw has dropped off dramatically. In fact, Kennesaw has twice been nominated as the safest city in Cobb County.
In spite of predictions by the press and anti-gun politicians, we haven't had any incidents where citizens have accidentally shot family members, or domestic disturbances being resolved with gunfire.
Kennesaw is an armed community but a very peaceful community.
Do we as law enforcement feel secure knowing a significant number of citizens in our community are armed? The answer is an emphatic yes indeed. In fact we are currently instituting community policing and neighborhood watch programs in Kennesaw. The police department will be working directly with armed citizens - and we are very comfortable knowing they are armed.
Chairman McCollum, members of the Subcommittee, I am Officer Steve Rodriguez of the Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Department. I am here today to discuss with you the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights, and how I, as a law enforcement officer, relate to those rights. This is one of the universal things that I have in common with all other police officers nationwide. Just like the 535 members of the United States Congress, we as law enforcement officers took a solemn oath of office to defend the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights; this is one of the most profound of our duties, yet it is often one of the most neglected of our responsibilities. This oath that we swore unites us with all of the law enforcement officers of the past, and with all of those in the future who have yet to swear the oath; it is testimony to the enduring nature of law enforcement's commitment to upholding and protecting the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which includes all 10 of the amendments. Most police officers are staunch opponents of any and all efforts to erode Second Amendment rights. To take a position to the contrary would be to grossly neglect and ignore our sworn oath of office. I myself swore this oath fourteen years ago. After three years in the United States Marine Corps, I joined the Albuquerque Police Department. ...I am neither a political cop nor a desk jockey taking fingerprints and pushing paperwork.
As a cop with plenty of "street time," I can attest to the fact that the myth of gun control is just that-it has absolutely no bearing on reducing violent crime; in fact I would argue the reverse. An attacker is much more likely to approach someone that he perceives as unarmed and helpless. Equally useless is the ridiculous approach of disarming honest people. As a police officer I know that I cannot assume personal responsibility for all of the men, women, and children of Albuquerque. Usually, the only persons at the scene of the crime are the attacker and the victim. Police officers respond as quickly as time, distance, and logistics allow. But most crimes occur in less than a minute and without law enforcement presence. The victim must protect his or herself during the crime and until law enforcement assistance can arrive. I've seen it a thousand times. That is life on the street, and law enforcement is forced into a reactive role. The crimes still occur; gun control isn't crime control, it doesn't control crime in any way. Gun control only effects crime in one way - it helps to insure that the victim will be unarmed.
It all comes back to the fact that our criminal justice system has failed. I see this perhaps more than most. ...I see the same criminals again and again. I sighted a woman I had previously arrested walking the streets one day and immediately stopped her. I recognized her as someone who had been arrested and charged 97 previous times. 97 times! But out of 97 arrests, she had only 16 convictions. Through plea bargaining and standard court backlog, she had only served time for 16 convictions, and never served out a full sentence for those.
Which brings us to the Second Amendment. Our crime problem is with the system, not the weapon. The weapons that I see are small caliber, easily concealable. Mostly Jennings and Ravens brands. They only hold five or six rounds. And the average gun that we take off the streets has had only two or three rounds fired. I've spoken to our ballistics experts and they've told me that between 1993 and 1995, we only brought in two semiautomatic rifles-22s-used in a crime. The weapons aren't the problems.
And so I ask you today, please don't limit our Second Amendment rights. Don't place a law enforcement officer in the position of enforcing a law in violation of his sworn oath. Instead, give us tougher sentencing. Make the criminal justice system intimidating. Right now, Metropolitan judges are giving longer sentences for misdemeanors that district judges are giving for felonies. THAT is a crime. And that is why my partners and I get the pleasure of arresting the same persons again and again, time after time after they have created more victims. It's disheartening and demoralizing. We are facing a new trend in law enforcement - lower morale on the force. Guys come in with the blue knight mentality and a commitment to hard work. But after seeing their cases thrown out or bargained down, after seeing repeat offenders committing crimes on the streets time after time, they develop a production line mentality. Their heart is not in it because they know the routine, they know what to expect, and they know that they will probably arrest this same individual again, at a later date.
Gentleman, I am Master Police Officer Craig Roberts of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Police Department. I am not an Oklahoma native; I am originally from Southern California, from a community that borders what recently has reached media infamy known as South Central L.A.
However, for the past quarter of a century I have worn the badge of the police department of the City of Tulsa, a city of 220 square miles and almost 400,000 people. Our department is almost 700 strong in sworn personnel, and we work in eight divisions and three divisional patrol areas. During all of my time on the job I have not once faced or even seen a so-called assault weapon used in a confrontation in the hands of criminals. Indeed, I know of only two circumstances wherein such a firearm was even mentioned-and one of those times concerned one simply being turned in as recovered stolen property.
Police officers do not fear semi-automatic weapons, no matter how many rounds the magazine holds. What we fear are the criminals that use any weapon they can get, regardless of the laws on the books, that we encounter over and over on the streets, after they have been processed through the criminal justice system, served a minimum sentence (if any sentence at all), and have been released to prey on citizens again. It's not the gun laws that need to be fixed, it's the judicial system.
Regarding the conflict over the wording of the Second Amendment, I would like to take the constitutional issue into an area that has not been mentioned. In January of 1969 I took an oath of office. This oath, in part, stated that I "...do solemnly swear, that I will defend, enforce, and obey, the Constitution and laws of the United States, the State of Oklahoma and the Charter and Ordinances of the City of Tulsa. That I will obey the lawful orders of my superior officers and regulations of the Tulsa Police Department. That I will protect the Rights, Lives and Property of all citizens and uphold the honor of the Police Profession, with my life, if need be."
Since that date I have had to make sure that every arrest I made, every law
I enforced, met the tests of Constitutionality. If it didn't, I would be
held personally liable-much as were the officers in the Rodney King affair.
Indeed, we are all subject to 42 USC S 1983, and I quote:
"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress."
The majority of police officers across the nation take a similar oath of office as mine. Because of our oath to the Constitution-the supreme legal document of our land-and the penalties of violating that oath or enforcing laws that might violate the test of Constitutionality, attempting to enforce the so-called ban on "assault weapons" and "high capacity" magazines-due to the word "infringed"-make the effort confusing, hazardous and legally dangerous for law enforcement officers. We have all been trained, either in the military or in law enforcement, that we have a duty to refuse to obey an unlawful or illegal order, law or regulation. In fact, a Supreme Court decision (Marbury vs. Madison) states: "An Act of Congress repugnant to the Constitution is not law. When the Constitution and an act of Congress are in conflict, the Constitution must govern the case to which both apply. Congress cannot confer on this court any original jurisdiction. The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten is the reason the Constitution was written."
Add to this, Section 256 from the Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, Second Edition: "The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. An unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed. Such a statute leaves the question it purports to settle just as it would be had the statute not been enacted. Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority to anyone, affords no protection, and justifies no acts performed under it." Further, "No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it."
Because of our training and education, we know that if we enforce a law upon a citizen that later fails a test of constitutionality, we are personally liable. And when that occasion occurs, neither the members of Congress that pass the laws, nor the Department of Justice comes to our defense. To the contrary, the DoJ becomes the prosecutor and we become the defendants.
...(W)e do not need more laws to confuse us and place us in harm's way in civil actions, we need fewer.