SALT LAKE CITY –The latest attempt to loosen gun laws in US states has put police at odds with Republican lawmakers who generally trumpet their support for law enforcement.

In states like Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana, police have opposed pressure to drop requirements for people to get background checks and training before carrying handguns in public, plans that came as gun sales continued to break records during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We think this was just another opportunity to injure our officers,” said Fabian Blache Jr., executive director of the Louisiana Chiefs of Police Association. “It was a danger for the police.”

There, a public plea of ​​last resort by dozens of Louisiana law enforcement officers narrowly averted an attempt to override the Democratic governor’s veto on legislation removing the requirements for law enforcement. concealed transport permit. But he expects the proposal to come back next year, and in several other conservative-leaning states, police opposition hasn’t stopped laws removing permit requirements.

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Gun violence is on the rise across the country and law enforcement is struggling to deal with peaks, especially in cities. The federal government has intervened with strike forces and other measures are helping to stop the sale of illegal weapons. Cops are already at a disadvantage in many cities compared to the strengths gained by retirements and difficulty attracting new officers following massive police protests in 2020, and many see more lenient gun laws to fire as one more challenge.

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Not knowing who might be carrying a weapon increases the potential danger of any encounter, and less training required means more people who don’t know how to properly wield a weapon, Blanche said.

“Police officers are trained all over the country and they make mistakes,” he said. “So why are we going to make it possible for untrained people to be able to carry a gun and use it at will? “

In Tennessee this year, warnings from police chiefs and sheriffs did not prevent the removal of licensing requirements in the GOP-controlled state legislature. The law was passed months after another measure cracking down on protesters camped out for police reform, a vote that was touted as support for law enforcement.

Although several polls have found public support for firearms licenses, arguments that they undermine Second Amendment rights have won favor with conservative state governments in recent years.

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“There is a sort of disjunction between repeating the political slogan of ‘back the blue’ and supporting policies that the grassroots police and leaders of police organizations actually support,” said Robert Spitzer, professor at the State University of New York. -Cortland and author of “The Politics of Gun Control”.

Police opposition has not stopped efforts to drop permit requirements that have been passed in around 20 states, Spitzer said. While their positions are authoritative, they lack the advertising campaigns and lobbyists that overtly political interests often do.

“Their voices and opinions are known, but they have not been a real mouthpiece in public policy terms, because it puts them in a very bad position. They are civil servants and their job is to uphold the law, whatever the law, ”he said.

And unlicensed transportation has supporters in law enforcement, including sheriffs, many of whom hold elected positions and oversee more rural areas. In Utah and Iowa, more divided police groups have generally stayed out of the debate this year.

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Talks about police reform dominated the conversation in Iowa, as well as how to stem the rise in violent crime, said Sam Hargadine, executive director of the Iowa Association of Chiefs of Police. . He does not see the issue of permits as an important part of the discussion of violent crime, especially since chiefs already could not deny permits to people.

“I think there are extremes on both sides. But we have to compromise, because we have too many shootings, ”he said.

Not all police officers oppose the legislation, and gun rights advocates see no conflict between fighting crime and making it easier to carry guns. They argue that people generally don’t get a license for firearms used in violent crime, so the change will make it easier for those who abide by the law to get a gun and many measures also get them. tougher penalties for certain firearm crimes.

For Texas Republican James White, the differences between his party and the heads of the state’s largest cities over unlicensed transportation were part of the give and take of the legislative process.

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“There were some things this session… where we were consistent with where law enforcement wanted to be, and there were times that we just had to tell them we had to look in a different direction,” he said. said White, an incumbent state lawmaker. currently candidate for the post of Commissioner for Agriculture.

He also touted the harsher penalties in the law for criminals who carry firearms illegally. “It was a very firm deal against crime, tough against crime,” he said.

White argued that the new law did not represent a massive change in a state where firearms were allowed in unlicensed cars and licenses were not required for long guns. Texas became the largest state to drop handgun licensing requirements this year, a move applauded by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates.

Alan Gottlieb, of the Second Amendment Foundation, argued that policing is already inherently dangerous and that dropping permits will not make a big dent but strengthen gun rights. “I shouldn’t need a license to exercise my constitutional rights,” he said.

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Police opposition had helped prevent the idea from gaining traction even in gun-friendly Texas, but with a change in legislative leadership, support swelled within a matter of weeks this year. He ignored objections from survivors of the mass shooting that killed 23 people at an El Paso Walmart two years ago.

“One thing I have learned in my many years of working with the police is that you can count on them to tell you what will put the public at risk,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown For Gun Safety. “I think what the police know is that crime is on the rise across the country and now is the worst possible time to pass laws like this.”

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion