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L.A. Chief: 'Responsible Limit' On Assault Weapons Will Cut Crime

"The vast majority of our officers recognize that these weapons of war ... we can't safely have in our communities because of the constant instances of mental health, the crises we see in our neighborhoods, that these--the ready access to these type of weapons.

"In confronting them, we see huge body counts. We see the loss of life, and officers' very safety are jeopardized,, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told a webinar sponsored by the Washington Post.

Moore said police officers are seeking "a responsible limit on these high-capacity magazines, on these weapons that are only designed to kill people. They're not hunting weapons. They're not used in as sport enthusiasts."

California, which does have a ban on assault weapons has 38 percent fewer gun homicides than the national average, Moore said.

Moore was joined in the discussion by Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, who complained of "a vacuum of leadership on the gun issue. I think this is one issue where police executives can step up, step up (and) call it as they see it."

Wexler favors a "comprehensive approach" to gun violence, not a focus on one issue.

He said officials in Washington, D.C., "like to ... pick one issue, assault weapons, and then people line up on either side ... I think the way to get police executives involved is to talk about the totality of gun violence.

"You talk about assault weapons, and then you talk about red flag laws, and then you talk about what every homeowner who has a gun can do. If every homeowner in this country who had a gun secured it, that could probably cut suicides in half, and it could prevent something like Sandy Hook.... the Sandy Hook killer took the gun from his mother."

Moore said there are thousands of assault weapons on the streets in the Los Angeles area. He said, "Last year we recovered more than 8,000 firearms, and hundreds of those were assault weapons. So we know the proliferation of weapons, including these weapons of war, is widespread."

During the pandemic, Americans bought firearms in record numbers and police have seen the resulting "increase in violence on our street, homicide rates, family violence, but we've also seen the number of weapons stolen, including assault weapons from homes because they're not properly secured, and those end up being pointed at officers."

The Post, citing the video of the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, asked, "Are we ever going to get to a time where we don't see these videos anymore? What can change?"

Wexler said, "training has to change dramatically, but I think every time we have a situation like Tyre Nichols, the best thing we can do is not avoid it, but show it and talk about it ...police have been under enormous pressure to change. I see a lot of change, but that's a real issue for police chiefs today and mayors, who are going to be the police chiefs of the--police officers of the future."

Moore said that in Los Angeles, "We've worked in the last decade to lower the instances of officer-involved shootings. Last year we had 31 officer-involved shootings in a city of 4 million. When we look at the rate of violence here in regards to the use of firearms, officer-involved shootings here in Los Angeles, just 10, 15, 20 years ago, those numbers were more than double or triple those numbers.

"So the instances of officers facing individuals armed with firearms has increased. The violence against police officers has increased, but I believe that de-escalation, the preservation of life, the reverence for life, the tactics, the tools that we have today in a modern law enforcement agency provides us every opportunity to demonstrate the use of deadly force as a last resort."


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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