The new police chief for a Georgia county that includes 10 percent of Atlanta, Cedric L. Alexander told Guns & Patriots Americans need to hit the reset button when they talk about gun rights and responsibilities.
“Today, we have a total disrespect for firearms,” said Dr. Cedric L. Alexander, recently appointed chief of the DeKalb County police department. DeKalb County is Georgia’s third largest county with more than 730,000 residents.
There is no easy solution to ending gun violence, he said. “Unfortunately we are talking about the wrong things.”
The Second Amendment grants us the right to carry firearms, he said. “Responsible gun owners respect their firearms, are trained in firearm use, and keep their firearms secure.”
The former security director at Fort Worth International Airport in Texas said that respect of weapons comes from proper training. “Anyone who has a gun must be held responsible for the care and security of their weapon.”
“With over 35 years in law enforcement, I have seen the tragedy that occurs when firearms are in the wrong hands,” Alexander said.
However, it does not mean that we suspend the Second Amendment, he said. “Ownership of a gun is a constitutional right.”
Taking away someone’s right to own a firearm is tantamount to treating everyone like a criminal, he said. “Good citizens respect weapons and use them responsibly.”
One of the issues that are not being properly addressed is the mental health component to gun violence, he said. “Mental health concerns are a difficult but must-have conversation.”
“It is important to realize that mental health cannot be painted with the same brush,” said Alexander, who worked as a psychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center before getting involved in law enforcement.
We cannot lump mental illness into the same group, he said. “There are a variety of different reasons why people may be at risk of harm.”
Mental illness can range from mild depression to schizophrenia, he said. “But no case is the same.”
“We can make a determination who is of sound mind and who is a danger to themselves and to others,” he said.
The chief said that there are no simple answers to these questions. “However, we can develop a process that identifies people who are a danger to themselves or others and hopefully prevent them from obtaining a firearm.”
Not everyone is a threat, he said. “It depends on the severity and history of an individual’s mental health.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that there are over 200 million privately-owned firearms in the United States. If we add those owned by the military, law enforcement agencies and museums there is approximately one gun per person in the country, or about 350 million in total.
“It is our responsibility to make sure that the 300-plus million guns in circulation are secured,” Alexander said.
Another issue that warrants discussion is the disparity between rich and poor and gun ownership, he said. “Law-abiding citizens in low-income communities with high incidences of crime do not have the same access to legal gun ownership as their affluent counterparts do.”
Each law-abiding citizen has the right to protect themselves and their families, he said. “When a rich guy in New York writes a check for $10,000 in order to obtain a pistol permit, and a poor man is rejected, there is something very wrong with this picture,” he said.
In New York, law enforcement has the discretion to issue a license or permit to possess handguns, or carry a concealed firearm. Whereas in Georgia, any person may legally own a firearm and may carry a firearm in their home, place of business, and vehicle without a permit.
We are never going to be 100 percent safe, said Alexander. “We can change the direction of the conversation by being more consistent with real-life issues.”
“The current discussion is not focused on solutions,” he said.
We can teach gun safety and common sense to our citizens and our children, he said. “Respect for weapons is lacking in America.”
“Whether the responsible gun owner uses their weapon for defense, hunting or sport, we cannot take away their Second Amendment rights,” he said.