By Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard
Do you remember, as I do, when those caught in corruption used to face consequences for it? News reporters would resign in shame, or be fired, if they were caught reporting fake news. Elected officials would resign from office, or be removed, if caught in unethical, illegal, or immoral conduct, especially if they lied about it.
As a society, we don’t see much of that anymore. We live in an age where dishonesty seems to be more beneficial than honesty for those who make the “swamp” their home. Instead of taking ownership and responsibility for mistakes, excuses and blaming others is now the norm. What we see now in “big government” is taking advantage of tragedy, caused many times by their own action, to further an agenda.
Let’s take a hard look at the 4th of July mass shooting at Highland Park, Illinois last year. This horrible event was just what gun control advocates, including our Governor, was looking for to push a ban on certain types of rifles into law. Governor Pritzker touted his Protect Illinois Communities Act as just what Illinois needed after the Independence Day attack. Banning and forced registration of 170 different types of firearms was his, and his supporters’, answer to public safety to prevent these crimes from happening.
While the litigation and public debate continues about whether the PICA gun ban is constitutional or not, there is another important factor to consider. What is that? The truth about what happened.
How did the offender acquire the high-capacity rifle he used to kill 7 and wound 48? He purchased it legally, hence the Governor’s push for PICA to be passed. However, this is not the full truth. Had the state handled this offender correctly, prior to the shooting, he would not have been able to obtain a FOID card, or legally acquire any firearms.
In 2019, due to more than one call for service involving suspicious conduct and statements, Highland Park Police authorities had encounters with the future gunman and murderer. There was not enough evidence at that time to support any arrests, but evidence did exist for their agency to submit a clear and present danger report to the Illinois State Police. Since the man, at the time, did not have a FOID card, the clear and present danger report was not acted on. Had it been investigated, the state police could have determined he was in mental health treatment, not eligible for a FOID card, and generated an electronic record of such, which would have shown up in a background check. Instead, after four background checks by the state police, the future gunman was granted a FOID card, which he used to buy the weapon that he intended for sinister purpose. You can find this story at: https://abcnews.go.com/US/police-determined-highland-park-shooting-suspect-posed-clear/story?id=86421734
So, what should have been the Governor and state police’s response? They should have taken ownership for their mistake, held themselves accountable, and told the public what they were going to do to fix their system, to make sure it never happened again. Did they? Not that I ever heard. Instead, the Governor thought the best answer for the Highland Park shooting was to stop law-abiding citizens, who had nothing to do with that crime, from obtaining 170 different types of firearms, and force those who already have them, to register them. Does anyone see the lack of logic and misleading conduct from the state as I do?
In different classes I have taught over the years, I tell my students about great work by peace officers I have known and worked with over the years. I have also shared stories about the mistakes we have made. One example is when a stolen vehicle is recovered, returned to the owner, but is not taken out of the state computer system. More than once, officers have conducted a felony stop on a vehicle only to learn at the conclusion it was the owner in the vehicle and there was a mistake on behalf of the criminal justice agency that failed to take it out of the system.
How did we handle our mistakes? Did we lobby for a new law that forced every vehicle owner to buy steering wheel locks to make sure there were no more stolen vehicles? Of course not, that would be stupid. What we did, each time, was apologize to the owner(s) of the vehicle, told them it was our mistake, took responsibility for it, found the source of the issue, and corrected it. The state could learn a big lesson from the leaders I worked with.
The offender of the Highland Park massacre could have obtained a similar weapon through illegal means, like most criminals do. He didn’t have to, though, because the state failed to do their job. The state, including ISP Director Kelly, continue to insist the FOID card is needed for public safety, but when attacks like Highland Park are dug into, we see the truth is being avoided. The reality is that current and future criminals can obtain firearms either through illegal means, when mistakes are made by those that try to regulate them, or when a lawful gun owner chooses to become a criminal (which is the rarest circumstance of them all). The best way to combat violent crime is using the truth to aggressively police, prosecute, and incarcerate those who would commit it.
My faith in state government is almost non-existent. Unelected bureaucrats are setting policy and administrative rules on a regular basis that violate the people’s rights, and they try to act like they have the power of law. What do we do about it? Stop making excuses to not get out and vote! Vote in every election and vote for a much smaller state and federal government. We need to return as much authority and resources as we can back to local government who directly serves the people and must answer to them. This needs to happen soon.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and stay safe everyone.