Local law enforcement groups call for a crackdown on illegal gun owners

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nearly 200 people a year are killed by law enforcement officers in California. A recent shooting by Sacramento Police of a suspect armed only with a cell phone has prompted legislation to make officers more accountable.

But law enforcement agencies are suggesting other solutions - like taking guns away from those who shouldn't have them and better police training.

Law enforcement across the nation is under increasing scrutiny for use of deadly force against suspects. But a group called Protect California which represents law enforcement agencies in California believes the use of force by officers and deputies could be reduced if the state took the guns away from potentially dangerous people.

Lolita Harper, a former deputy sheriff, represents Protect California.

"One of the things we have identified is getting firearms off the streets - it makes our communities safer, it makes our jobs safer. It helps to reduce the uses of force," said Harper on Thursday.

She was joined by Todd Frazier of the Fresno Police officers Association and Isaac Torres of the Fresno Deputy Sheriffs Association in calling for funding to remove weapons from Californians who have been identified as being violent or mentally unstable.

"One of the major levers we as a state can pull to reduce the use of force and officer-involved shootings is to remove the accessibility of guns from high-risk individuals," Frazier said.

Added Torres: "These high-risk individuals live in our communities - that's why our association will be seeking additional resources getting these weapons away from high-risk individuals."

According to Protect California, the state has only 50 Department of Justice agents attempting to crack down on registered firearms users who the state has already identified.

"Yes there is a list and the backlog is growing, and it's about 23,000 people on that list now," Harper said.

In addition, the group is hoping to head off a bill in the legislature that could make it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers who use deadly force.

"They are trying to elevate it to the level it will actually be punitive and criminal. We don't think that's an actual solution to the problem, what we want to focus on is prevention."

Protect California is pushing another bill that would set statewide standards for the use of force and would provide additional training for officers and deputies in dealing with mentally ill suspects.

The legislation to make officers subject to criminal prosecution if they did something illegal during the use of deadly force will be considered by the State Senate.

The measure to increase training is in the state assembly.

The proposal to provide more funding to get guns away from the dangerous is part of a broad effort to gain public support from the public and the legislature.
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