Police Chiefs at Odds on Gun Law Change Domestic Violence Conviction Would Bar Officers from Carrying Weapons
Warmbir, Steve, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Steve Warmbir Daily Herald Staff Writer
Police officers who suddenly lose the right to carry their guns won't have their jobs for long.
But that's the effect of a controversial change in federal law that suburban police chiefs have drastically different opinions on.
The change makes it illegal for anyone, including a police or military officer, to keep a gun if he has even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.
"Obviously, you lose your job" if an officer can't carry a gun, said Bloomingdale police Chief Gary Schira, the president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. "You are not going to get a desk job."
The association has decided to be neutral on the issue, after its members couldn't agree on a stand.
"This is controversial," Naperville police Chief David Dial said.
Dial said he has "no big problem" with the law, nor does he have any officers with domestic violence convictions.
"I think you have some departments grappling with how to handle the issue," Dial said.
Supporters of the law, which went into effect Sept. 30, 1996, say police officers with such convictions shouldn't be on the street dealing with residents, much less have a gun.
But critics call the law bad public policy.
Elmhurst police Chief John Millner, who has worked extensively on domestic violence issues, said the change in federal law is not fair.
Millner and other police chiefs argue an officer could have a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from two decades ago, have paid his debt to society and now have an excellent record as an officer.
"And now you're punishing them by firing them from their jobs," Millner said. He added he would have no problem with a requirement that an officer with such a conviction turn in his gun at the end of the day.
Police chiefs who criticize the law worry that the spouses of police officers will be more reluctant to tell police they are being abused if they know the result will be the loss of a job and income.
Mundelein police Chief Ray Rose said it could mark a reversal of the progress made in having abuse victims report the crimes against them. …