Last week the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments reversed its actions to endorse the position of the International Association of Chiefs of Police on gun violence. In its place, it approved further study of the issue.
Here is the history of the matter, and why I voted for the original action and against its reversal.
The gun issue was considered transparently and according to all established COG procedures. The council first considered the issue at its open January meeting, shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings.
COG’s position on regional gun control was next discussed in February when members requested that the council staff develop alternatives, including COG’s possible endorsement of the position of the police chiefs association, experts and frontline responders, on how best to reduce gun violence.
In its March meeting, COG voted 15-5 in favor of the proposal that the council back the IACP position and study the mental health system in the region as it relates to gun violence.
Those actions were taken after full and fair opportunity to debate and with recorded votes, so those who disagreed are on record. Representatives from several jurisdictions [including Frederick County], however, threatened to withhold their funding for COG if the council did not reverse its position supporting the police chiefs.
On April 10, the COG board yielded to those threats. The council’s retraction of its endorsement of the IACP position and its 26-2 vote for more study is no compromise, but rather the reversal sought and a deflection from the issue of gun violence to the role and scope of the council.
I opposed that action on two grounds: first that it ignored the safety of our employees, and second that to give in to the threats undermines COG in a fundamental way.
In initially endorsing the position of our police chiefs, COG members supported the employees for whom we, as local government officials, are directly responsible — the police officers, firefighters, and now teachers, librarians and others who are the first responders and all too often the victims of gun violence.
Gun violence is also adding huge costs to local budgets, including the need for battlefield-type equipment, more school officers, and higher costs to train more employees to respond to gun violence.
This is a local issue of top management and budgetary priority, far more directly related to our roles as local government officials than a host of other issues taken up by COG.
It is also a regional issue of highest priority as the snipers who terrorized the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in 2002 proved.
The fact of the matter is that gun violence is fundamentally a local government issue.
As a local government official, I stand by our employees and especially our first responders. I listen to them when they tell me, as the chiefs of police did on guns, what they need to reduce their unreasonable risk of death and serious injury, and act accordingly.
To me, that is the beginning and end of the issue.
David Synder is a member of the MWCOG board and the vice mayor of Falls Church, Va., where he also served 19 years on the city council and as former mayor. He describes himself as a gun owner and registered Republican, who also has treated gunshot wounds while working as an emergency medical technician.