“WE DON’T elect people to pray for us. We elect people to lead us.” The day after four of his officers were shot while on duty, that is what Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo had to say to politicians who offer up “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of tragic shootings. His scolding of elected officials who do absolutely nothing about the public-health epidemic of gun violence was well earned. It ought to shame Congress into finally enacting some sensible gun safety policies.
Mr. Acevedo made his comments last week as his officers recovered from injuries they received while executing a search warrant on a suspected drug house. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, both prominent Republican opponents of gun control, issued the usual statements offering the usual thoughts and prayers. “I appreciate your prayers . . . but the question is, what are policymakers willing to do, besides prayers, to address a public-health epidemic?” said Mr. Acevedo.
It’s not the first time the chief, who leads a police department in the fourth-largest city in the United States, has spoken out about the need for gun reform. After 10 people were killed in a school shooting last year in nearby Santa Fe, Tex., he posted a statement on Facebook that said he had “hit rock bottom” with gun rights arguments. His frustration about government inaction was palpable. One of the officers who was shot Monday as he tried to rescue injured colleagues had been shot twice before. But, as Mr. Acevedo painfully pointed out, gun violence doesn’t impact law enforcement only. “It crushes communities, tears apart families, cuts lives short every single day,” he said. “For every that one you in the national media cover, there are dozens a day that don’t even get a mention.”
Anticipating criticism likely to come his way from gun rights purists, the chief said he was not talking about undermining the Second Amendment but instead dealing with the insane proliferation of guns that allows them to fall into the wrong hands. For years the Major Cities Chiefs Association has backed a policy of sensible gun safety, including reinstatement of the assault weapons ban as well as a ban on high-capacity magazines. It also has advocated that unlicensed private dealers do background checks at gun shows, something that is now before Congress as it considers the push by Democrats to require universal background checks. It is long past time for those who have been elected to start listening to common sense on this issue.