Uniformed police, widows of police officers and other law enforcement officials from around the country showed up in impressive numbers on Capitol Hill yesterday -- and today about 200 of them intend to march there en masse to make what they deeply believe is a life-or- death statement about a vote coming up. They speak for some 500,000 officers, and they are bitterly opposed to the cop-killer proposals being pushed by the National Rifle Association.
In the eyes of law enforcement officials everywhere, the NRA and its chief arsenal-toter in the House, Rep. Harold L. Volkmer, are deadly enemies in the battle to control handgun violence. The decision before House members is, in the words of the police, sheriffs, state troopers, public safety protectors and their families, a "vote for or against law enforcment."
The NRA-Volkmer objective is to legalize the interstate sale and transport of concealable handguns, described by police as the "weapons of choice of the nation's criminals." The law enforcement officers are not -- repeat not -- opposing interstate sales or transport of long guns; the issue here is handguns. They also oppose NRA-Volkmer efforts to "carve out massive loopholes in federal gun licensing provisions," including allowing unrecorded sales of handguns by licensed as well as unlicensed sellers.
Those House members who do support their local police should support the work of their Judiciary Committee: legislation approved by a 35-to-0 vote. This package not only meets the interests of law enforcement organizations and public safety in general, but also the legitimate interests of American hunters and sportsmen.
Many longtime NRA members can remember the days when their organization focused its time and money on these interests -- and not on fronting for the makers of concealable weapons. Today, House members should summon the political courage to say no to the NRA's warped campaign and yes to the law enforcement officials and the Judiciary Committee's responsible recommendations on behalf of public safety.