Former sheriff favors tighter firearms restrictions

January 26, 2013 

During my 28-year career in law enforcement, I had the good fortune to serve in a wide array of assignments, everything from reserve (volunteer) deputy up to the office of elected sheriff.

During this time frame, I spent many years assigned to the detective division, both as a case investigator and as a supervisor. In this capacity I was involved with literally dozens of death investigations and many of those turned out to be homicides.

Though man has the flexibility to brutalize his fellow man in a myriad of fashions with a variety of weapons, many of these horrific deaths were perpetrated through the use of firearms.

There are more firearms in this wonderful country of ours than there are people. I suspect that a fair amount of homes have more firearms than they do books.

That said, the Second Amendment gives law-abiding citizens the right to possess and to bear firearms in most situations.

I support the Second Amendment, but I do not support the claim that it allows citizens to possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.

Furthermore, no one should be able to purchase any firearm without submitting to a thorough background check, no matter where or how they purchase that weapon.

Now, I know that many people opposed to bans will continue to spout the age-old refrain that “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Though it is true that people often make a conscious choice to take the life of another, the method available to carry this out impacts the final outcome.

If one wishes to speak the truth, we would say “Guns and people kill people.”

Clearly it takes a person to carry out the act, but the available tool can make all the difference in the world. It is much more difficult to bludgeon one to death than it is to shoot one to death.

Obviously if there were no firearms in our country starting tomorrow morning, the rate of homicides committed via firearm would drop drastically. That is not what is going to happen and that is not what I am advocating. I only use this as way to stimulate thought about the connection between availability (and lethality) and human intent to do harm to others.

Our country suffers from a culture of violence. I am not naive enough to suggest that we will radically move away from this syndrome anytime soon. But it is important to look at the long record of history and how change does occur.

The implementation of appropriate laws often leads to changing attitudes, whether it is in the area of civil rights, hate crimes or sexual harassment. The same can happen with gun violence if we have the courage to carry it out.

There will be naysayers and critics, to be sure. Firearm violence is just one component that makes up this culture of violence and we need to be willing to confront other contributing factors as well, such as violent video games and gratuitous violence in movies, to say nothing of our mental health system.

I can still recall quite clearly many of the violent homicides that I was a part of investigating throughout my law enforcement career. But I most vividly recall the faces and voices of loved ones grieving for someone who will never come back.

We have the capacity to limit those tragedies if we have the courage to face our history and to act.

My grandchildren deserve it and so do yours.

Dan Kimball is the former Thurston County Sheriff, and an Olympia resident.

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