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Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013

MPD Chief Flynn: Stop the Slow-Motion Mass Murder in the City

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Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn doesn’t mince words about the current debate on gun violence, whether it relates to the high-profile mass shootings or “the daily violence in our streets,” which he terms “a slow-motion mass murder.”

He said the American political establishment must engage in a rational discussion about the balance between gun rights and gun owners’ responsibilities.

“Guns should not be the only exception to rational discourse and reasonable regulation,” Flynn said.

High on Flynn’s list of priorities is making the illegal possession of a concealed firearm a felony. Currently, in Wisconsin, it’s a misdemeanor. He’d like to see straw purchases of a firearm—purchases made for someone who cannot pass a background check—made a felony as well.

Flynn supports President Obama’s call for universal background checks, but he said he’d also like to see more red-flag disqualifiers for gun ownership. For example, habitual offenders—those with three serious misdemeanor convictions who Flynn calls “career criminals”— as well as felons should be barred from possessing a gun. Those with serious mental health issues or drunken driving convictions should also be (at least temporarilly) disqualified, Flynn said.

“If you can’t control your drinking, you shouldn’t have a gun,” Flynn said. “Because when you look at deadly violence in Milwaukee, alcohol is involved an enormous amount of the time.”

Flynn, along with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, had proposed a comprehensive gun law reform package to state lawmakers when Democrats controlled both houses of the state Legislature and when fellow Democrat Jim Doyle was governor. The package included the implementation of a limited concealed carry permitting system, something Democrats had opposed for years. But the proposed reforms also tightened up loopholes in state law by implementing background checks for all gun purchases and making illegal concealed possession and straw purchases felonies.

Flynn and Chisholm’s reform proposal went nowhere and in 2011, the Republican-led Legislature enacted a loosely regulated concealed carry system. The permitting system is lax and the training requirement is minimal. Law enforcement agencies are not even allowed to keep records of permit owners who break the law, which is something Flynn railed against in an interview with the Shepherd last week. He said Milwaukee officers have encountered serious criminals who have legal permits to carry concealed weapons, yet he’s not able to compile any data on them.

“Congress and many state legislatures, including our own, have gone out of their way to pass laws protecting from public disclosure the knowledge of criminal activity of [concealed carry] permit holders,” Flynn said. “What it does is it allows them to be inoculated from research that would show if their law was a good law or a bad law.”

But Flynn said nothing will change if the gun debate centers on the individual’s absolute right to own a deadly weapon, as advocated by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

“All rights in this country are not only individual rights,” Flynn said. “Communities have rights too. Groups of people have rights. In this case, the interest of society being protected from the criminal, the insane or the alcoholic, when they’re armed, is profound and should be honored.”