Chief James Craig calls on Congress to pass tougher gun laws

Parents of shooting victims speak out at event

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati's top cop is calling for stronger gun laws.

Police Chief James Craig spoke Thursday morning as part of a nationwide effort called "States United to Prevent Gun Violence."

Several others joined Craig during the event, including Councilman Cecil Thomas and other community leaders.

The chief said those measures should include a ban on assault weapons, regulation of high capacity magazines, controlling Internet ammunition sales, a ban on sales to known terrorists and sellers at gun shows should be required to run background checks.

"One homicide, one shooting, (is) one too many -- one too many. I'll say this again, all life counts," Craig said.

Those suggestions are similar to those that have been pushed by mayors and police chiefs across the nation.

"We don't know how many murders and crimes are committed by illegal weapons. One shooting is too many," Chief Craig said. "We don't talk about gun violence in our cities -- the individuals that are shot -- sometimes daily in our cities. We don't talk about it. We don't even get excited about it. It's almost like as a people we've come to accept it."

The chief spoke specifically on the topic of assault weapons, saying those types of weapons were used to do only one thing -- injure other people.

"High capacity magazines and assault weapons are used for one thing. I know in Los Angeles, gang members that acquired these types of weapons, (and) they had one mission. They were either out to fight over drug territory, shoot other young men -- mostly men of color, black or brown. All too often for 28 years I saw too many young 14- to 25-year-old men shot down in the streets of Los Angeles. In some instances by these assault weapons," Craig said.

The chief said he takes the violence personally and that it must end.

Craig said that while the country needs to enact stronger gun laws, he is not against legal gun ownership.

"I am not against the Second Amendment. I respect the Constitution of the United States that we've been sworn to uphold and defend, but we believe the right to lawful gun ownership goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, violent abusers and the serious mental ill," Craig said.

Two parents were there to speak at the event, as well.

Marvin Dillard lost his son, Marvin Gates, to gun violence in May. That shooting is still unsolved.

"We need more teeth in gun control. The killing of my son has been painful and hurtful. People are out there killing others just like they would a roach," Dillard said. "It's been devastating for me and my family. I don't think people realize how much pain and hurt it caused throughout our family and friends and loved ones."

The distraught father said one of the issues facing police and communities is the so-called "no snitch" culture. He said the community has to work with teenagers to teach them they need to stand up and work with police to stop crime.

"I don't understand how our youth today can sit around and allow something like that to take place in our community, and be there and see it and be unwilling to help the law," Dillard said.

Vanessa Pugh's son, 16-year-old Terrence Womack, was gunned down in January in Evanston.

"People can get guns like they're going to buy candy. Too many young people are killed," Pugh said. "We have to do something about it. There are too many young men being killed. It needs to stop because it's painful. … It's really fresh for me because it was just in January. So, we have to do something."

During the event, Craig listed some new statistics on the state of crime in Cincinnati. He said there has been a 22% drop in homicide and 11 percent reduction in shootings.

"We've got to stop the violence. It's not going to take just the police department. It's not just going to take our elected officials. It's going to take us all. This is not a partisan issue. This is a sickness and we have got to apply the right kind of medication. It's overdue," Craig said.

One of the other central focuses of the event was on mental health.

The chief said there is a lot of room to do a better job making sure people get the treatment they need.

"That's something we should not overlook. We have got to do a better job. We have got to make sure people are being treated. I lost my friend to violence by a person that was mentally ill -- the first LA SWAT officer killed in the line of duty. So that's a real issue," Craig said.

The chief was adamant that background checks be performed at gun shows and that gun sales should require in-person transactions.

"How difficult is that? That's where we're having a problem," Craig said. "Criminals are going out to these gun shows and purchasing weapons from unlicensed private dealers and these are the same guns that we're finding out on the streets -- the guns that are used against our young men. … Those are the same guns used (against) police officers. So why is it so difficult for us to do background checks?"

He also opposes legislation that would require states to

recognize any and all concealed carry permits.

The event comes on a day a U.S. Senate committee passed a bill on mandatory background checks.

The stand comes at the same time a new report is being released drawing a connection between gun legislation and gun-related deaths. The study used information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that generally, states with more gun legislation had fewer gun-related deaths.

However researchers say they cannot find a direct "cause and effect" link between the two. The lack of a direct correlation has critics arguing the research doesn't prove anything useful.

To see the data, go to archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1661390 .

Stay with WCPO.com and 9 On Your Side for updates as they become available.

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