The East Baton Rouge sheriff said Sunday that gun control didn’t factor into that day’s shooting of six officers, though activists pointed to the fatal incident as the exact type of tragedy that stronger gun laws could prevent.
In a press conference held after at least one gunman shot and killed three officers and injured three others in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said the deaths indicated a problem not with gun laws, but with humanity.
“To me, this is not so much about gun control as it is about what’s in men’s hearts,” he said. “And until we come together as a nation, as a people, to heal as a people if we don’t do that and this madness continues, we will surely perish as a people.”
But gun violence prevention activists disagreed and pointed to other recent gun tragedies.
“Barely a week after one of the worst shootings of law enforcement officers in U.S. history, officers once again have been gunned down in the line of duty, this time on the streets of Baton Rouge,” Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt told The Huffington Post in a statement. He was referring to the five Dallas police officers killed by a lone gunman less than two weeks ago.
“Every single day, men and women are being killed by guns including those who serve to protect us and those who are simply on our city streets,” Feinblatt continued. “The most effective way to put an end to the 91 lives that are taken each day by gun violence, along with the hundreds of others who are injured, is to enact stronger, common-sense laws on the state and federal level.”
According to a report the organization released last year, 52 percent of shootings that killed police officers in the line of duty in 2013 were carried out by people likely prohibited from buying or possessing firearms. The report also noted that police are 48 percent less likely to be killed with handguns in states that require background checks for unlicensed handgun sales. (Unlicensed, or private, gun sales refer to sales by a person who does not make their living from selling firearms.)
While details are still emerging about the alleged shooter, Gavin Eugene Long, it’s worth noting that Louisiana has some of the country’s most lenient gun laws. The state does not require a permit to purchase or carry rifles, shotguns or handguns. It also does not require owners of those weapons to have a license or register them. The same is true of Missouri, where Long reportedly lived, and Alabama, where he reportedly attended school.
“As a country, we must come together to engage in meaningful conversations about both how to address the hate that fuels tragedy and rips apart communities, and how to disarm that hate, including addressing the lax gun laws in our country that make it all too easy for hate to turn deadly,” Dan Gross, president of the anti-gun violence organization the Brady Campaign, told HuffPost. “And we must do so without violence.”