Prince George’s County, Md., Police Chief Hank Stawinski, shown here at a 2016 press conference, is leading a coalition of law enforcement leaders lobbying for gun control as a way to keep police safe. (The Washington Post)

A group of law enforcement leaders and gun control activists led by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly are launching a lobbying effort Tuesday to oppose Congressional bills which would decrease federal regulation of silencers and nationalize concealed carry permitting. The coalition argues that the bills would make law enforcement less safe.

In a memo expected to be sent to the White House, Capitol Hill and activists during National Police Week, the Law Enforcement Coalition for Common Sense details its opposition to two Congressional bills and renews a call to close loopholes in the background check system.

“[Congress] needs to reject irresponsible calls to mandate the unrestricted concealed carry of firearms and allow free access to dangerous silencers, which present a new menacing threat to our communities and law enforcement professionals,” the memo says. “It is clear that guns in dangerous hands make law enforcement officers more vulnerable.”

The coalition of active and retired police chiefs, sheriffs and federal agents was put together by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization founded by Giffords, a victim of gun violence, and Kelly. Prince George’s County Chief Hank Stawinski and former D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey serve on the 20-person advisory committee which leads the coalition. Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez are also on the committee.

The memo notes that 21 of 64 officers killed in 2016 gunfire were victims of “ambush style” attacks, sentiments that President Donald Trump echoed in a speech delivered Monday to the National Peace Officers Memorial Service.

“More officers were slain last year in ambushes than in any year in more than two decades,” Trump said. “The attacks on our police is a stain on our society.”

Still, gun control proponents are concerned about a bill that would allow states to recognize concealed carry permits from all states nationwide. The coalition memo says the “Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act” would effectively undermine or make ineffective state laws with different or stricter guidelines for permits.

David Chipman, a retired 25-year ATF agent and senior policy advisor for the Giffords group, said Trump’s comments supporting law enforcement on Monday were interesting but didn’t address longstanding concerns by the law enforcement community.

“We want more than words. We want action. These are things law enforcement are concerned about and have been for some years,” Chipman said in an interview Monday. “This is really putting law enforcement in danger.” Chipman said that most law enforcement officers are private gun owners, but seek a balance between Second Amendment rights and laws that make their jobs more difficult or dangerous.

Specifically, Chipman said the lobbying push is designed to defeat an effort to roll back federal regulation of silencers, which muzzle the sounds of gunfire. The bill is entitled the “Hearing Protection Act of 2017” and would amend the federal criminal code to preempt state or local laws that tax or regulate firearm silencers.

Silencers have been regulated since 1934 under the National Firearms Act, during an era when police officers were killed at much higher rates, the law enforcement coalition said. In the past few years, the numbers of registered silencers has reached more than 300,000, the memo said.

Chief Stawinski said he is particularly focused on this bill as his department was the target of a coordinated attack on a county police station, which left Det. Jacai Colson killed by friendly fire. “Silencers only exacerbate the danger because it makes it difficult for officers to figure out where gunfire is coming from,” Stawinski said in an interview. “That by itself in the era of the active shooter is a concern.

“This is not the moment to change,” Stawinski said.

Chipman and the memo echoed the sentiments and said that gun laws that have worked since the 1930s don’t need to be eliminated, but perhaps modernized to handle the increased demand.  

“The president talked about ambush shootings, the best way to do that is to put a silencer on a gun and mask where shooting is coming from,” Chipman said. “That is really scary for cops.”