Captain Frederick L. Thomas, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). (Courtesy Photo)

By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO D.C. Editor

President Joseph R. Biden kicked off a campaign to ban assault weapons on America’s streets in an address to Black law enforcement officers this week. 

“We send you out to do your jobs on the streets flooded with weapons of war,” Biden said. “If you can’t support banning weapons of war on America’s streets, you are not on the side of the police,” he said, referring to public officials who campaign on supporting the police, yet oppose restrictive gun legislation.

“I believe in the Second Amendment,” said Biden, mentioning his ownership of two shotguns. “But it’s not absolute,” Biden continued.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated there are currently close to 20 million AR-15 style rifles in the U.S.  This represents an increase from 8.5 million rifles since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act) expired in 2004. The law originally passed in 1994 after several high profile shootings in American cities left scores of people dead or injured. 

Law enforcement leaders also went to Capitol Hill this week to join the charge, persuading Congress to pass additional gun restrictions. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison told lawmakers about the growing danger police face on the job due to the wide availability of assault weapons and guns in civilian hands on the streets. 

“In addition to the proliferation and availability of guns, we are severely challenged by today’s offender’s mindset and willingness to use a firearm to enact violence on others.

Sometimes shooting indiscriminately in a crown to shoot one person. Sometimes shooting directly at police officers,” Harrison said. 

“This is an environment in which our police officers work every day,” he said.

Harrison recounted the recent shooting death of Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Holley died on Dec. 23, 2021, just days after she was ambushed while in her patrol vehicle. 

“On the night she was shot she was picking up a voluntary overtime shift in patrol. She was where she was supposed to be providing visibility in a community that had seen a significant uptick in gun violence,” emphasized Harrison.    

Holley’s murder rocked Baltimore, a city that has been gripped by violent gun crime for years. 

Aside from Holley’s death, the committee heard from residents of Uvalde, Texas who were affected by the horrific massacre at Robb Elementary. Survivors and loved ones of victims killed in the mass shooting at the Topps Supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. were also heard. The hearings were led by Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D–NY–12). 

“With more than 300 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, and gun violence now the leading cause of death of children in America, it is clear that we are in a public health epidemic,” said Chairwoman Maloney.  “It is long past time for the gun industry to be held accountable for the carnage they enable and profit from.”

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