NEWTOWN, Conn. (CNN) – Monday marks exactly three years since a heavily armed man entered an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and opened fire on children and teachers.
20 children and six adults were killed. Since the shooting, Newtown’s Police Chief has pushed for changes to gun manufacturing in the United States.
They are on the battlefields, in the cities, and in the hands of law enforcement across America.
Firearms, millions of them. Guns in the United States are a $13.5-billion a year industry with 26% of all guns bought by America’s military and 38% bought by federal, state & local law enforcement and civilians. That’s 64% of total sales.
Using that kind of buying power as leverage could be key to forcing gun makers to make safer guns, says Newtown, Connecticut Police Chief Michael Kehoe.
“I think if we can have that message sent to those who have a voice, like police chiefs, I think that we could start that conversation and shift that needle in a positive direction,” said Kehoe.
If Kehoe looks familiar, it’s because he was Police Chief when the sandy hook shootings happened in 2012. 20 children, and six beloved educators- gunned down inside their elementary school: a tragedy that turned into a powerful soul-searching debate on gun control.
“Everybody said it. If you couldn’t make changes after Sandy Hook, when could you make changes? So we said, listen, you’ve got to take another approach. And this seemed to be a common sense approach,” said Kehoe.
The approach he’s talking about was created by the campaign “do not stand idly by,” leveraging tax dollars used for law enforcement & military purchases to force gun makers to make safer guns, through things like smart technology.
“We cannot be satisfied with the status quo on the amount of deaths we have with guns each year,” said Kehoe.
In October, Kehoe tried to persuade others to join him, traveling to IACP, the largest Police Chief’s conference in the nation, where gun makers like Smith & Wesson and Sig Sauer show-off their latest products.
Of thousands attending, Kehoe says, only a handful of chiefs seemed interested in the idea of leveraging their gun buying power.
CNN asked, “Why do you think there is push back?”
“Because there is a fear. Maybe it is unfounded. That we are going to take away guns as opposed to just, listen, being smarter about what we are doing and how we manufacture guns,” said Kehoe.
We contacted several Police Chiefs who said the idea was unlikely to make a dent because police need the latest firearms when going up against criminals.
Still, Kehoe, who is retiring after 37 years in policing, is not giving up. And says America has to start somewhere.
“I think we have to come together. I think that’s going to be the significant changes, rather than just trying to separate the haves and the have nots,” said Kehoe.
Changes, he hopes, that could unify all sides and ultimately make a dent in ending gun violence.
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