Before President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions on gun control last week, he consulted with experts across the country. One of them was Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, a hunter and a gun owner who says the president’s efforts will make America safer.
As chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership To Prevent Gun Violence (the Partnership), Johnson represents 10 of the largest police organizations across America. He sat down with America Tonight to talk about the new guidance on guns — and what impact they will have for gun owners and Americans at large.
Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Adam May: Prior to President Obama's announcement earlier this week, what involvement did you … and other law enforcement officials [have]?
Chief Jim Johnson: For years, we've been meeting with federal administration, looking at reasonable legislation that could be passed to help address this issue … Adam, I'm a hunter. I'm a target shooter. I own several weapons and I certainly am a champion and believe stronger in the Second Amendment. But I do think, as many do, that we can create reasonable legislation to accomplish both objectives here: Reduce crimes of violence while still not eroding the Second Amendment.
Does [the Partnership] have a position on gun safety laws in this country?
We have stayed the course through many, many years, demanding a national background check for all gun sales.
How does that affect public safety?
Well, certainly we believe that these guns we're finding on the street — the gun that was used to kill one of my police officers within the last two years — was acquired without going through a background check. And I believe that this will certainly impact the violence that's occurring in America today.
What do you hear from the President when you talk to him and advise him on this?
I think the passion is real. He’s the one that goes to these communities after [a] tragedy and listens carefully day after day, ponders and considers and debates the different opinions on this topic.
What's your reaction to how people have expressed their outrage over the President's actions?
I've heard it at the dinner table Sunday. I've lost some friends over this topic. My own son … has a different opinion on some of these topics than I do, so it creates a very energetic debate.
Sure seems like it's going to be really tough for a national consensus on this any time soon.
I think so. Many folks think this is the gun grab … And again, you try to assure them that there's no intent to go out and seize all the handguns from lawful owners of these weapons. I think many think that this is just a first step. I certainly haven't been a party to any discussion on such [an] action.
You believe the momentum is swinging [in favor of stronger gun laws]?
I do. In fact, no matter who acquires the President's role as we go into the future, I think they'll come to realize that this was the rule of the American public, and this will, in fact, help save lives in the United States. And I believe that the action taken will certainly survive any attacks of change.