Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger offered his support Tuesday to gun control measures put forth by President Barack Obama earlier in the day.
“Much of what the president proposed today I think is a great step in the right direction,” Manger, who also serves as the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said.
The chief said any conversation about Second Amendment rights can often turn into a passionate and emotional debate, but he commended the president for taking an initial step toward tightening gun regulations despite opposition from a Republican-controlled Congress.
“There’s not one police chief, one sheriff in this nation who thinks these proposals are going to stop all the killings in our cites, who thinks there will be no shootings in our cities or towns as a result of these proposals,” Manger said. “But I will tell you the nation’s police chiefs do believe that some of these are long needed steps that put us in the right direction to reduce gun violence and in fact keep our communities safe.”
Earlier Tuesday, Obama outlined an executive order with 10 provisions to tighten gun controls. Among those measures would be a provision to require more gun sellers to be licensed and force them to conduct background checks on potential buyers. Another provision would guide $500 million in additional federal funding to treat mental illness, and a third key provision would require firearms lost while being transported between a manufacturer and seller to be reported to federal authorities.
Manger said his officers trace the history of each gun used in a violent crime in Montgomery County and in my cases find that the weapons were bought illegally—either from registered owners who often then say they lost the weapon or from unlicensed dealers in states with fewer regulations than Maryland.
Last month, Manger shared two stories at a rally to end gun violence in Rockville about guns purchased illegally that were later used in killings that took place in in the county. In one case, which Manger mentioned again Tuesday, a Montgomery County police officer was paralyzed after being shot in 2003 during a traffic stop by a man who purchased a gun from a seller who police later found out was trading guns for drugs in the Washington, D.C. area.
Manger said the measures put forth by Obama Tuesday may have been able to prevent that shooting. He also hailed additional federal spending for mental health treatment.
“It is a good investment to make,” Manger said. “My cops go out 10 to 15 times a day responding to a call dealing with a person who has mental illness.” He said currently the Montgomery County Jail is the largest mental health facility in Montgomery County. “We need more capability to deal with the mentally ill in our communities,” Manger said.
Manger also lent his support to the president’s plan to hire more FBI and ATF agents to enforce current gun regulations. Obama’s executive order calls for hiring 200 new ATF agents to enforce gun laws and 230 FBI staff members to help process background checks.