COLUMBUS police have taken some important preventive steps in addressing concerns about a surge of gun-related tragedies across the nation and local statistics reflecting dramatic increases in reports of shots being fired and confiscation of weapons.
It is important that this local situation not become ensnared in the ongoing debate about the Second Amendment and individual rights to own guns. This is a real concern for the people of Columbus and their public safety officers.
Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix issued an alert to his officers to be vigilant and careful in the discharge of their duties, in part because of a recent spate of gun-related incidents in Indiana and other states.
The mass murders committed at a movie theater in Colorado and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin have put the entire country on edge. Law enforcement officers have even more cause for concern, owing to what appears to be a growing number of gun attacks on police. It hit home for Hoosiers in an incident last month when a suspect jumped out of his car and fired a gun at a Fortville police officer in what started out to be a routine traffic stop.
While some might portray these situations as isolated incidents, statistics gathered by Columbus police would indicate something much deeper and of greater concern. So far this year, Columbus police have received 62 reports of guns fired in the city. There were 74 reports of gunfire in all of 2011.
Even more troubling is the number of guns confiscated by officers. In 2011, CPD officers seized 84 firearms. That’s a jump of 127 percent over the number taken the previous year. By the very nature of the term “confiscated,” those numbers can be interpreted as an indication that these guns were most likely in the possession of people who shouldn’t have had them.
Local law enforcement officers have taken the incidents and the statistics seriously.
For instance, the Columbus Police Department has stepped up its training procedures for dealing with situations involving guns. One effort has been to put officers through “active shooter” scenarios in which they are trained to deal with traumatic situations such as those in Colorado and Wisconsin.
But the proactive measures have gone beyond the alerts to officers and further training. The Columbus department is developing a program to better educate the community on such basic issues as gun safety and storage. Local police envision distributing trigger locks to those who request them.
This increased attitude of awareness should not be limited to police. A common reaction of residents in communities like those in Colorado and Wisconsin has often been that “this sort of thing just doesn’t happen here.”
Difficult as it is to imagine such a tragedy locally, the potential does exist. Maddix is only fulfilling his obligations as a public safety officer in urging people to increase their awareness of surroundings in public places and to think about steps that could be taken in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
That kind of attention to detail is not an over-reaction. It’s common sense in the world we live in today.
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