Category Archives: Gun Control

The Hill: States are gambling with law enforcement safety

My Sunday, February 12, 2017 piece in The Hill discusses the discrepancies in state laws that classify a peace officer in one state, but that same position is just a guard in another state; and how this failure to standardize roles is putting police and corrections officers at risk.  This is drawn contextually with the hostage siege in a Delaware prison that resulted in the killing of a hero Corrections Sergeant, and the signing of several pro-law enforcement executive orders by President Trump just one week later.

Please click here to read the full story.

How ’60 Minutes’ got it wrong about Chicago

This piece in The Hill looks at last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” segment entitled “Crisis in Chicago” and discuses how their analysis fails to truly explore the cause and effect of a violent crime epidemic in Chicago that left 764 people dead within the last year.

To read the full article, please click here.

Arizona Republic: 5 ways to address mass shootings (without the politics)

AZ Republic Masthead 7-13-16

Published on July 13, 2016 in the [Phoenix] Arizona Republic following the mass shootings in Orlando and Dallas.

My Turn: Too often, lawmakers turn their attention to solutions that won’t work. Here are a few that will.

In December 2012, my op-ed was published in the Philadelphia Daily News offering effective responses that can be taken by lawmakers and leaders to address the Sandy Hook massacre, in conjunction with writing my elected officials to plead for common-sense solutions to violent crime.

Now, three-and-a-half years later, I find myself writing again in response to the incidents at San Bernardino, Orlando and Dallas in addition to the thousands who are victimized senselessly on the streets of America’s cities every year.

As an expert in law enforcement and security, I am wrought with disappointment and disbelief at how quickly a massacre like the Orlando attack can be politicized by the media and lawmakers.

Why simply ‘banning’ firearms won’t work

The argument predictably shifted from the search for answers in the attack to the tools used in the attack. Why? It’s politically a lot easier to blame the weapons used in the attack than to delve into the murky waters of the current psyche of our nation, why these incidents are on the rise, and what we can do to prevent future incidents.

An astute observation to make is: Despite all the talking heads, why has the majority of our nation’s law enforcement stayed off the issue of the weapon used, and on the issue of the assailants in question?

One reason is because law-enforcement professionals know that an operable, maintained firearm could work for over 100 years, and there are approximately more than 300 million firearms owned in the United States. Regardless, our legislators hurried to draft a bill to regulate a few specific types of weapons, which would have little effect on the underlying issue of the few dangerous people seeking to use these weapons unlawfully.

Therefore, one should ask political leaders if there are more effective ways to address this vital issue to our security.

5 solutions that’ll actually work

I want to offer some ways our legislators can address  mass violence and invest in effective strategies for security, law enforcement and mental-health treatment, including:

  • Refine legislation that actually improves the myriad existing, effective laws, which include a requirement for background checks for personal transfers (which could be as easy as the parties of a personal sale going to a gun store or police station to show identification when privately selling a firearm) and immediate legislation for public-safety modifications to health-privacy laws (HIPAA). The HIPAA revision should fund the creation of a state mental-health treatment database, to tie mandatory notifications from mental-health professionals to law enforcement when someone is undergoing treatment for potentially dangerous conditions (to include outpatient treatment when pharmacological intervention is required), who can cross-check files with firearms registration (and requests to buy new weapons).
  • Immediately increase funding for the enforcement of existing laws, which includes recruitment and support for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and its task forces, to better target interstate smuggling and straw-purchasing of illegal firearms; and providing timely enforcement when a prohibited person is seeking a firearm. This can also accompany federal support for state firearms enforcement and heightened sentences for other crimes where a firearm was used or recovered, similar to “Face 5” in Georgia or “Project Exile” in Virginia.
  • Legislate professional standards for security and law-enforcement officers specializing in critical infrastructure protection, as America needs to accept the need for professionally trained and equipped staff on-site to intervene if an incident occurs.
  • Require training in the safe handling, retention and use of a firearm for any civilian owner, similar to qualifications that security officers must complete, as well as laws addressing the securing of firearms at home, to prevent theft or access by prohibited persons.
  • Fund training for workplaces and schools in recognizing and reporting abnormal behavior, and fund an early-intervention tip line coordinated with local law enforcement.

Although these solutions are less “popular” in addressing the threat of mass-violence, I hope that my elected officials can begin a meaningful, non-partisan discussion with an impact on violent crime. Offering popular legislation that does not pass is the equivalent of “kicking of the can down the road,” but if we are to work together to address the causes versus the tools used, we may be able to save lives.

A. Benjamin Mannes serves as governor on the executive board of InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection, and is a member of the Peirce College criminal justice studies advisory board. Email him at bmannes@philadelphiainfragard.org; Twitter, @PublicSafetySME.

Buffalo News: What the terrorism watch list is … and isn’t

Buffalo NEws 7-6-16 Masthead
Published July 6, 2016 following the Congressional “sit-in” that followed the terrorist attack on an Orlando Nightclub, demanding that all persons on the “Terrorism Watch List” be restricted from obtaining a firearm.

 By A. Benjamin MannesAs a former municipal and federal law enforcement officer and intelligence analyst, I’ve actually accessed the “terrorism watch list” that is currently garnering so much media attention of late. Like many Americans, I witnessed a contingent of the House Democratic caucus stage a sit-in to push through legislation restricting members of the watch list from getting a firearm. As someone who not only knows how terrorism watch lists work, as well as with firsthand experience relating to how changing gun laws can make law-abiding citizens into criminals, I felt the need to briefly explain the process.

First, the “terrorism watch list” is officially called the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), which the FBI consolidates from multiple agencies, and includes the TSA’s “no-fly list.”

The “no-fly list” is actually one specifying heightened “selectee” screening by the TSA, and normally nobody is actually restricted from flying after passing heightened screening. The TSDB list is estimated to contain over 2,484,442 records, consisting of 1,877,133 individual identities, with approximately 1,600 names submitted to it. About 600 names are removed and 4,800 records are modified by the intelligence community each day. Approximately one out of 20 of the people on the list are citizens or legal U.S. residents.

The Justice Department inspector general officially noted frequent errors on the list and slow response to complaints, finding 38 percent of a 105-record sample contained gross inaccuracies. Ten years ago, a review of the no-fly list reduced its size by half, from 71,872 records to 34,230 records.

One of the most obvious reasons for the inaccuracies is that names are submitted to the list in the process of investigations or intelligence gathering, often for subjects who have been unseen. Therefore, given common naming conventions in many cultures outside the United States, it’s possible that there are thousands of innocent people in the nation with the same name as a subject on the TSDB.

While there are multiple reasons for these inaccuracies, it is important to understand that the TSDB is a watch list, not a criminal record, and is used in security screenings and investigations that could lead to a trial. The vast majority of records in the TSDB use Muslim naming conventions, meaning that potentially thousands of innocent American Muslims will have their right to purchase a firearm to defend themselves stripped with little to no adjudication process, simply because someone on the TSDB had the same name and gender.

Therefore, I plead for our elected representatives to seek out more effective, common-sense legislation to address the issue of mass violence.

A. Benjamin Mannes is a governor on InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection

Armed Teachers in Schools: Mannes on “It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle”

Aired on the Comcast Network (Philadelphia, Boston, etc.) on Aug 25, 2013

With students returning to school, their security and safety remain a number one priority, especially in light of the Newtown, CT massacre and recent college campus shootings. Many proposals have been suggested, including allowing teachers to carry firearms as a means of protecting themselves and their students. Some even suggest allowing college students to carry guns. Is that one way to keep kids safe? Or could it lead to even more dangerous situations? IYC debates allowing weapons on campus.

An expert panel featuring A. Benjamin Mannes debated this issue on live TV:

Philadelphia Daily News: “Guns, Common Sense and Low Hanging Fruit”

Guns, common sense, 'low-hanging fruit' - philly-archives

Published on December 31, 2012 following the mass-shooting incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

AS A FORMER law-enforcement officer, homeland security inspector and intelligence analyst for both federal and municipal jurisdictions (and a law-abiding registered voter), I have written to my elected officials to plead for their support in common-sense solutions to recent rising trends in violent crime, to include tragedies such as the mass-murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

As a citizen with a specific skill set in crime suppression, I believe in the inalienable right to self-defense, and am aware of the statistical disparities between crimes committed by legal, responsible gun owners and those who succumb to criminality or are afflicted with a mental-health disorder.

The undisputable facts are that an operable, maintained firearm will last well over 100 years, and there are currently more than 270 million firearms in private circulation throughout the United States. Therefore, I asked my political leaders, as educated men of public service: “How will newer, more-stringent gun laws prevent future attacks or violent crimes committed by those who have no intention to abide by even the current set of laws regulating firearms in our nation and states?”

I am keenly aware of the fact that in a city of 329 homicides (thus far) this year; a police officer may not always be here when I need one. Therefore, I believe in a responsible citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, for self-defense, and believe (from experience) that the type of weapon possessed has little importance over the quality of the individual in possession of that weapon.

I urge my leaders to dismiss the popular, yet baseless concept that firearms themselves equate to violent crime. I believe that instead of spending their valuable time and our needed tax dollars on arguing new gun legislation, that time and money would be better invested in new strategies for security, law enforcement and mental-health treatment.

I offer my support and assistance in identifying the “low-hanging fruit” to protect our citizenry and enforce the law in an efficient, effective manner, to include:

* Professional recruitment, training, and equipment for school police (who, in places like Philadelphia and New York, are currently not certified/armed police officers, despite their name and funding, necessitating a redundant detail of city police at high-risk schools).

* Legislation for a HIPAA-compliant (or modifications to HIPAA) State Mental Health Treatment Database, to tie mandatory notifications from medical and mental-health professionals to law enforcement when someone is undergoing mental-health treatment (to include outpatient treatment when pharmacological intervention is required), who can cross-check files with firearms registration (and requests to buy new weapons).

* More law-enforcement officers specializing in critical infrastructure protection (like the Los Angeles General Services Police and D.C. Protective Services Division, for which Philadelphia currently has no equivalent).

* Zero-tolerance enforcement and heightened sentences for illegal weapons offenses or other crimes where a firearm was used or recovered, similar to “Face 5” in Georgia or “Project Exile” in Virginia.

* Increased funding, recruitment, and support for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and its task forces, so that more investigations and prosecutions can be conducted for interstate smuggling and straw-purchasing operations for illegal firearms.

* Legislation requiring safes or strongboxes for legal firearms owners when the weapon is not secured on their person.

* Legislation requiring training in the safe handling, retention and use of a firearm for any civilian owner.

* Training for workplaces and schools in recognizing and reporting abnormal behavior, and an early-intervention tipline.

I am making a desperate plea to my fellow citizens to force our political leaders at all levels to begin a meaningful and effective discussion that would have an immediate impact on violent crime in America. Let’s see if they take me up on my offer – or opt for the politically popular “kicking of the can down the road.”

A. Benjamin Mannes, CPP

Philadelphia, PA