Tom Barrett reacts to sheriff’s gun comments

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Tom Barrett reacts to sheriff’s gun comments

Premiere Date: 
January 31, 2013

Tom Barrett addresses controversial gun comments made by the Milwaukee County sheriff.

 

Episode Transcript: 

David Clarke:

I'm sheriff David Clarke and I want to talk to you about something personal, your safety. It's no longer a spectator sort. I need you in the game. But are you ready?  With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You could beg mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed or you can fight back. But are you prepared? Considering taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We're partners now. Can I count on you?

Frederica Freyberg:

The mayor of Milwaukee calls the sheriff's message irresponsible. Tom Barrett is a cofounder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and favors President Barack Obama’s proposals that call for universal background checks, renewal of an assault weapons ban , and restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines. Sheriff Clarke was not able to schedule an appearance with us today, but in recent comments has stated he opposes gun control like a ban on assault weapons, and says the purpose of his PSA was, “To engage the public to better protect themselves in exigent situations where responders cannot immediately respond.” Further, he said of Mayor Barrett's comments, “The only thing that is irresponsible is for the mayor to have furloughed police officers and for the county executive to have laid-off deputies when  911 calls continue to come in and crime continues to occur.” The Milwaukee county sheriff's comments are drawing a strong response from Mayor Tom Barrett who joins us now from Milwaukee. Mayor, thanks very much for doing so.

Tom Barrett:

I'm happy to join you.

Frederica Freyberg:

What is irresponsible, in your mind,  about encouraging safety-trained citizens to defend themselves? 

Tom Barrett:

Well, what concerns me is, first of all I don't get this a game. He says get in the game. When you're talking about law enforcement, you're talking about people that are putting their lives on the line every single day, the police officers here in Milwaukee and throughout the state who put their lives on the line every single day. And to somehow suggest that the first option should not be calling 911, I think is going to put a lot of people in harm's way. If there is an emergency, I want people to call 911. But I think there's something else going on here. When did he come out with this PSA? He came out really at the time when people are focusing on whether or not there should be changes in our federal gun laws. He want to change the conversation, and he wants to change the conversation from what I consider to be some common sense proposals. And I just want to take a second and talk about an incident that occurred here in southeastern Wisconsin, and tell you why I think that his timing of this is irresponsible as well. Last Fall we had a situation here in southeastern Wisconsin, not in the city of Milwaukee, but in Brookfield, where three women were murdered on a Sunday morning. Now, what happened in that situation was there was a woman who feared for her life, and she went to our court system, and she got a restraining order against her husband. The court system worked. She got the restraining order. And what the man did in response to that is he went out and privately purchased a gun, made the connection online, and then went and killed her and two others in a spa on a Sunday morning. I don't think responsible people in our state would want to sell a gun to someone they knew had a domestic violence restraining order, or had a criminal case, had a criminal judgment against them, or had an involuntary mental commitment order against them. And so, right now, with the national debate being how do we stop people with criminal records, with involuntary mental health commitments and those with domestic violence orders, how do we stop them from getting guns? He wants to come through with this commercial that sounds like he's auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, you're talking about people buying guns at guns shows, for example. Is that what you mean when you say privately purchased?

Tom Barrett:

That certainly is one, and on the internet. Again, ask yourself, if you knew an individual had a criminal record, would you sell that person a gun? I think the answer for most people is no, of course you wouldn't. But we've got a system right now with a gigantic loophole that he and others are defending that allows exactly that to happen.

Frederica Freyberg:

Sheriff Clarke, in fact his office, sent me a statement that he had made concerning what you regard as this giant loophole; in other words, people being able to buy weapons at private gun shows without the background check. He suggests that you have overstated that, and says that the number of people who do that is closer to between 10% and 26%, not the 40% that you had offered, apparently in your CNN interview with him. And he describes this as kind of gun control propaganda and furthermore a myth.

Tom Barrett:

Well, let's use his figures then. I'll stand behind my numbers, but let's use his figures, 10% to 26%. If 10% of the people are buying their guns illegally, if 26% of the people should not be buying their guns, or if 26% of the people are buying their guns in private sales, that does not negate my argument. My argument is people know that they should not be selling guns to people with criminal records. People know they should not be selling guns to people who have domestic violence orders. We have to have in place in our law a mechanism to prevent those individuals from getting those guns. He doesn't want to support that. He doesn't want to support a change in the law that would prohibit this from happening. Again, in the case I talked about, which is a real world case in his jurisdiction where the gentleman lived, the actual murder took place in Brookfield, but this was a man who had a domestic restraining order against him. If you would have done a background check on him, you would have found that out and you could, perhaps, have saved the lives of three women.

Frederica Freyberg:

Let's get back to what apparently prompted the sheriff's PSA about, you know, arming yourself and being trained while you wait for police response. He says clearly that a reduction in the police force through these city furloughs and county layoffs prompted that message. How can a major city, such as Milwaukee, justify those kinds of reductions in the police force?

Tom Barrett:

Well, let's be very clear what's going on here. First of all, the city of Milwaukee, since I've been mayor has not laid off a single police officer, not one police officer. No layoffs in the city of Milwaukee. It is the city of Milwaukee that responds to the 911 calls in the city of Milwaukee. In his statement, or in his commercial, he says until we get there. If you're going to wait for David Clarke to get there, you're going to wait forever, because the Milwaukee county sheriff's office does not respond to 911 residential calls. So the whole underlying notion that we're on our way, that we're riding our horses in to save you, it's just not true. It's not true when it comes to residential 911calls. He talks about furloughs. Yes, we’ve had three furloughs. And I've talked to the police chief and command staff, and they have assured me that they have the mechanism in place, that they will not in any way diminish coverage whatsoever. It becomes a scheduling issue.   Because we've got so many people in the police department, we simply schedule these days off. So there is absolutely no reduction in street coverage whatsoever.

Frederica Freyberg:

Very briefly, Mayor, final word on this?

Tom Barrett:

Again, I think what he's trying to do-- and you've seen this now. Those who oppose common sense changes in our laws to try to make gun laws more effective want to change the subject, because they cannot defend the loophole that allows individuals with criminal records to buy guns. And you would not sell someone a gun if you knew they had a criminal record. I would not sell someone a gun if I knew they had a criminal record. We have to make sure that the law is helping us find out if someone has that criminal record. He and other apologists for the status quo want that giant loophole to continue. I disagree.

Frederica Freyberg:

Mayor Tom Barrett, thank you very much for joining us.

Tom Barrett:

Thank you very much.


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