CINCINNATI - Peggy Harris-Bush has felt the pain of gun violence over the past five years.
Her son, Johnny, was carjacked in Northside and shot three times in 2007. His murder remains unsolved.
"That's just something I have not been able to recover from," she said Thursday. "I'm a plumber and Johnny, like myself, was a plumber so even working is hard, to tell the truth."
Her son's case and the massacre of 26 adults and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last week prompted the Madisonville mother and Cincinnati Public Schools employee to speak out for tougher gun laws. She's also a member of the group Who Killed Our Kids?
"It's easier to get a gun than to get a meal sometimes for some people," Harris-Bush said. "I think something has to be done."
Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig agrees.
During his monthly media briefing Thursday, Chief Craig said he's on board with the idea of restricting some gun sales.
"I'm an advocate that good Americans should have the ability to legally carry weapons. I don't have a problem with that," he said. "I'm just saying that we need to do a better job in restriction."
There are 300 million weapons in the United States, which has a population of 330 million people.
Chief Craig didn't want to get into the politics of the issue, just the realities.
"I'm troubled there's no restriction on, in some places, the sale of assault weapons," he said. "What are assault weapons for? We're not talking about hunting."
He also pointed to weapon sales at flea markets and gun shows where he said anybody can walk in and buy a firearm.
"I struggle with that because who are we selling handguns to?," he asked. "What about the mentally ill?"
Someone can go out and buy a handgun with no identification in some places."
Chief Craig added he plans to continue joint investigations with federal agencies to curb the sale of illegal guns. He pointed to a recent seizure of 100 weapons in Blanchester that were destined to be sold on the streets of Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Police Property room is filled with dozens of boxes filled with weapons. Most of them are handguns, but there are 30 to 40 long-guns in storage as well.
Police seized more than 1,000 weapons each year from 2007 to 2011. That number was surpassed in 2012 as well.
* 2007 - 1,3534
* 2008 - 1,160
* 2009 - 1,079
* 2010 - 1,123
* 2011 - 1,217
* 2012 - 1,082 (to date)
"Guns are a problem," said Chief Craig. "I'm pleased that we've had a reduction in homicides, but one homicide, one shooting, is too many."
In other news:
- The Cincinnati Police Department is planning a program to train school administrators on how to respond to a crisis on campus. That could involve high schools, middle schools, elementary schools and even pre-schools. "We want to make sure we're responsive," Chief Craig said.
- Chief Craig said he doesn't think it's a good idea to arm teachers in classrooms because training involves more than just firing a weapon at a target range. Training includes teaching a person how to deal with the emotions of a crisis situation.
- Other school security ideas could involve a button in schools that when pressed would automatically alert the police communications area to an emergency. And, the ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Escape) plan would be stressed.
- Contrary to some published reports, Chief Craig said overtime expenses are down 4 percent for the year overall. That's due to the four-day, 10-hour-per-day work schedule now being used. Late radio runs are down and department morale is up, Chief Craig said.
- The department is gearing up for a 30-member recruit class. A total of 150 officers have retired or left the department this year and no new personnel have been hired for five years. Chief Craig said a lateral hiring program is possible to bring in officers already certified.
- A total of 10-officers and one sergeant will be the core team when the Cincinnati Police Department assumes policing duties next year at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
- Work is underway to rebrand the department, especially in the areas of social media like Twitter and Facebook to communicate more frequently and freely with the public.
- Chief Craig challenged the Louisville police chief to a race at Kentucky Speedway. No word on whether his Kentucky counterpart will accept. With winter weather in the forecast, Chief Craig also urged drivers to slow down on the highways.
- An inch of snow is possible in some areas but Chief Craig said that's nothing compared to Portland, Maine, where he previously served as police chief: "I've been trying to figure this out in the 16-months I've been here. Why is it that Cincinnatians speed up when the pavement is wet? Can somebody help me with that?" he asked. "One inch of snow is OK," he said. "Just slow down."
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