As the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Auxiliary gathered in Washington, DC on Monday morning to commemorate a group of law enforcement officers who had been killed in the line of duty, events in Kansas City served as a reminder of the danger that guns pose to police officers.
Detective Brad Lancaster of the Kansas City Police Department became the latest victim of a string of fatal shootings of police officers so far in 2016. While investigating a report of a suspicious person, Lancaster was killed by someone who never should have possessed a gun in the first place. The 28-year-old shooter was a recently paroled felon who was legally prohibited from buying or possessing a gun.
Seventeen police officers have been murdered with guns while on the job so far this year -- a 70 percent increase over the same period from last year. Gunfire has been the leading cause of line-of-duty law enforcement deaths for at least the past decade.
This Sunday, May 15, marks National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Day and National Police Week, both of which were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. In President Kennedy’s proclamation, the annual commemorations of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, he honored them for their “faithful and loyal devotion to their responsibilities” and “dedicated service to their communities.” According to the FOP, about 40,000 law enforcement officers, families and supporters attend the events of Police Week in Washington, DC each year.
The Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence are deeply committed to establishing policies that protect law enforcement officers, as well as the people they are sworn to protect, from undue danger from gun injury and death. About 33,000 people are shot and killed each year. About two thirds of those deaths are suicides, while most of the remainder are homicides.
Many of these shootings could be prevented simply by keeping guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have guns -- convicted felons, domestic abusers, terrorists, and people who are dangerous to themselves or others as a result of mental illness. Brady supports expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales to keep firearms from falling into the hands of people like the man who shot and killed Detective Lancaster - a man who could never have passed a background check and should never had access to a gun in the first place. Brady also takes on gun dealers that act irresponsibly -- so-called “bad apple” gun dealers -- who look the other way and sell guns to straw purchasers or traffickers, fail to maintain adequate records, or engage in other sometimes illegal practices that put guns in the wrong hands. For example, the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project has successfully represented police officers shot with guns from gun dealers that irresponsibly or illegally supplied them.
Some of the law enforcement officers and families the Brady Center has aided include the late Officer Thomas Wortham, IV, who was shot and killed in Chicago; the late Officer Rodney Johnson, a Houston police officer who was fatally shot; and Officers Kenneth McGuire and David Lemongello, who were shot and injured while on duty in New Jersey.
Brady is grateful to join law enforcement and public safety organizations like the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and Concerns Of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) in commemorating the lives and work of law enforcement officers and their families this National Police Week. We are committed to building a safer future by partnering with law enforcement and public safety to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and hold the gun industry accountable.