While most categories of crime continue to decline, the one notable exception is gun violence. For that reason, the Albuquerque Police Department is engaging in a multi-prong approach to work with communities to address this challenge. One tool that will help is the new state law that closes the loophole on background checks for gun sales.
Many of my law enforcement colleagues pointed out during the recent legislative debate that this new law will be difficult to enforce. The Journal raised similar concerns in an editorial April 13, “Background check on gun sales difficult to enforce.” But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make our state safer.
In fact, we have a responsibility to keep up with technology by trying to disrupt illegal gun sales that are taking place online. Just as consumers in general are turning to online sales and transactions, we see criminals using the same tools to sell and purchase stolen items of all types, including firearms. Our Organized Crime Unit is adept at monitoring common Web sites and social media used for these sales. We are recovering more guns at crime scenes that were purchased by convicted felons who use online avenues to hide their identities.
Now that we have closed the background check loophole, we can go after these illegal sales, even if takes more effort. And we have a powerful deterrent when offenders have to think twice about going online to find a gun, or even set up illegal, private purchases on the streets.
Other states have implemented background checks on all gun sales and have seen real results. On average, states that require background checks on all gun sales see a 10 percent reduction in homicide rates. Responsible gun owners will need to play their part by ensuring a background check accompanies the sale of a firearm, and those who disregard this new law must know that law enforcement will hold them accountable when the law breaking comes to light.
Only time will tell how much this new tool will help law enforcement. In Albuquerque, we aren’t waiting. We will enforce the law, while at the same time engaging with communities to end gun violence. We are addressing gun violence through data-driven and problem-oriented policing, new technology to track gun violence, addressing community concerns, researching the roots of gun crimes, and sharing information with other law enforcement agencies. We are also addressing crimes like domestic violence, illegal narcotics and gang activity that are compounded by the presence of firearms.
As police chief, I am proud of the hard work by every person in the department, from patrol officers and detectives to civilians who support us every day. They deserve the credit for every success we see as crime goes down; likewise, they need our support to effectively tackle challenges like gun violence.