Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bill would harm federal partnerships that reduce violent crime

Yesterday, I joined Mayor Sly James, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Richard Callahan, U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, in Jefferson City to speak out against a bill pending in the Missouri Legislature that seeks to nullify federal gun laws. I posted the mayors’ piece on this blog Monday.

I want to make clear that I support the Second Amendment, and I support the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. But parts of this legislation, dubbed “The Second Amendment Preservation Act,” do little to support the rights of lawful gun owners. Instead, it hinders some of the best tools we in municipal law enforecement have – federal partnerships – to reduce violent crime.

This bill would make it against the law for our officers to work with federal agents to enforce gun laws. Below are just some of the federal partnerships and programs in which we engage to fight violent crime, and they all would be in jeopardy if the Missouri General Assembly passes this legislation.

Last year, Kansas City Police worked with our federal partners to get 132 violent criminals off the street with federal felon in possession of firearms cases as part of Project Ceasefire. We also recovered 204 illegal weapons. In the first quarter of this year, we’ve arrested 34 felons in possession of firearms and recovered 66 illegal firearms. The primary elements of Operation Ceasefire are stopping illicit firearms traffickers and harsh federal prison sentences that give gang members and other criminals a strong deterrent to gun violence. House Bill 1439 puts this incredibly successful program and the safety of our residents in jeopardy.

Twenty KCPD detectives are deputized by federal agencies to enforce federal gun laws.

Our Career Criminal Squad alone has two FBI agents, two ATF agents, five U.S. Deputy Marshals, and one Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent. This Squad is one of the best in the nation at tracking down violent criminals, having arrested more than 200 federal fugitives in the last eight years. The majority of those fugitives have committed violent crimes with firearms. Again, House Bill 1439 would likely dismantle this Squad.

Last year, our Gang Squads arrested 21 violent gang members with the assistance of federal partners. They were charged on hundreds of federal counts – many of them weapons charges. So far this year, nine gang members have been arrested and charged with 66 federal counts. If HB 1439 were to pass, we could not continue this kind of enforcement, and gang activity would undoubtedly increase in Kansas City.

A total of 20 federal agents from the ATF, DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals and ICE are directly assigned to KCPD squads and regional task forces that investigate violent crimes and drug trafficking organizations. These cases involve large amounts of weapons offenses.

Our Kansas City No Violence Alliance, KC NoVA, has been a remarkably successful partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, and social services. It’s a focused deterrence program that targets our city’s most violent offenders while offering services to those on the fringes of criminal networks. It has taken murderers off the streets and given assistance ranging from literacy courses to substance abuse treatment to nearly 100 people. But it is built on partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors who enforce gun laws.

Working with federal partners to enforce gun laws is one of the most effective tools in our toolbox for preventing violent crime and homicides. I hope we can continue to do so.

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