Disarming the bad guy

1/24/2013

U.S. attorney trying to get guns out of the hands of felons.

U.S. attorney trying to get guns out of the hands of felons.

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, Wichita, has been traveling the state this month hoping to assist law enforcement and dispel any misinformation on current or proposed laws.

On Wednesday, the U.S. attorney was in Garden City to speak at the Rotary Club luncheon and to sit down with Garden City Police Chief James Hawkins, Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue and County Attorney Susan Richmeier.

Grissom also spoke with The Telegram on Wednesday while in town, saying he hopes to help law enforcement officials tackle issues such as gun enforcement and undocumented persons.

Grissom also talked about the new federal proposed gun control laws that include enforcing background checks, limiting magazines to 10 rounds and a ban on assault weapons.

He said he hopes to dispel the rumors about the proposed laws.

"No one is going to come to your doorstep and take your guns away," he said.

Grissom said if gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens, they should have no problems with the proposals.

Grissom, who owns several firearms including a pistol, several shot guns and rifles, said the gun laws are fair.

"My 12-gauge shotgun holds five shots. I pheasant hunt. The state of Kansas says I can only have three shells when I hunt, to make it fair for the bird. Now, wouldn't we want to give humans the same right?" he said.

Grissom said that during his Garden City visit, he planned to ask local law enforcement officials what they need to get guns out of the hands of convicted felons.

The District of Kansas ranked first in the nation in gun prosecutions in 2011. In 2012, the state had more gun convictions but was third behind West Texas and Puerto Rico.

Grissom said it's important to disarm felons.

"When law enforcement officials are shot or killed in the line of duty, 70 percent of the time it's by a convicted felon," he said.

Grissom said that was the case with two police officers who were shot and killed before Christmas at a Dillons parking lot in Topeka.

"Most of the time, in local, smaller town law enforcement, you know who the bad guys are," he said.

Grissom said he wants to help law enforcement put felons behind bars, if those felons illegally possess a firearm.

"We want to cut that cancer out of the community and put them behind bars for 10, 15 or 25 years," he said.

In Garden City, arresting and removing 10 habitually law-breaking felons is the same as taking out 100 to 200 in Wichita, he said.

"It makes a huge impact," he said.

Grissom said one example of taking a large amount of criminals off the street happened in May 2012, when federal prosecutors indicted 23 suspected members of the Norteño gang in Dodge City.

The gang was charged under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which allows prosecutors to charge individual members as part of a larger criminal organization. In recent years, the act has been used to prosecute human trafficking and gang cases, including charges in 2007 against 28 members of the Crips gang in Wichita, which was the first time RICO was used against gangs in Kansas.

Prosecutors say the Norteños created a climate of fear through violence and threats of violence to defend the gang's reputation and territory and promote its drug trafficking activities.

What a lot of people don't realize, Grissom said, is that only one of the gang members was in his first year in the United States. All but one were second and third-generation American citizens.

It's not the undocumented persons who are committing the crimes. Oftentimes, they are preyed upon, he said.

"These people are often victims and live in fear because they don't want to tell the police for fear their status will be known. The criminals know that and prey upon them," Grissom said.

Grissom said local law enforcement in Dodge City have cultivated relationships with undocumented persons who may have been preyed upon, encouraging them to go to law enforcement with crimes.

"The crimes recorded are only the crimes reported," Grissom said.

Grissom said he wants to help dispel misinformation spread by social media and word of mouth on different kinds of laws and crimes.

"Instead of consulting your Facebook friends, consult your Google friends. Look it up yourself," he said.

Grissom also said information and resources on national crimes and federal laws are available on the Offices of the United States Attorneys Website, www.justice.gov/usao. To reach Grissom's office, call (316) 269-6481 or visit www.justice.gov/usao/kansas.

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