Wednesday, December 19, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Give COPS more funds

Their names are as beautiful as their faces: Ana, Avielle, Benjamin, Charlotte, Caroline, Catherine, Chase, Daniel, Dylan, Grace, Emilie, James, Jack, Jane, Jessica, Josephine, Madeleine, Noah, Olivia, Robie.

These are the young victims of last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 first-graders were gunned down by a madman, along with their principal and five other staff members.

Gun-control advocates are once again demanding legislation to ban assault weapons like those used in the massacre. There is a chance that pro-gun Democrats and moderate Republicans might join forces to enact sensible legislation to restrict access by these psychopaths whose victims number several dozen a year. Even the National Rifle Association might go along this time. An announcement will be made later this week

But there will be more mass murders, even with strict gun controls. Sociopaths will get their hands on guns even if they are restricted through background checks and waiting periods. The weapons used in the most recent mass shootings — those in Connecticut and Oregon — were stolen. Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who murdered the children and their teachers in Newtown, Conn., stole the weapons from his mother before he killed her and drove to the school and butchered the first graders and the staff and then killed himself.

President Obama and Congress might not agree on gun-control legislation anytime soon, but there’s a good chance a $1 billion community-policing program first passed during the Clinton administration will be revived next year as parents demand assurances that their children will be safe in school.

President Clinton’s Community Oriented Policing Services program — or COPS for short — was popular with law-enforcement agencies when it was introduced in the 1990s, providing local police departments extra money to beef up patrols. But funding has dwindled to almost nothing over the years: Congress did approve $1 billion in 2009 as part of President Obama’s stimulus program, but funding fell to $316 million last year and $200 million this year, far less than what the President wanted. Nothing’s been appropriated for next year, although Obama has asked for $300 million.

Requests for more federal funds are coming in from police departments across the country, especially in areas that had mass shootings in recent years, from Connecticut to Virginia, from Colorado to Wisconsin, from Idaho to Oregon and in too many places in between.

Congress, which is as unpopular as ever as it faces down the so-called fiscal cliff, could rebuild its credibility by restoring full funding for COPS and improve safety in our communities. Congress would then honor the young victims of the Sandy Hook massacre and those who were killed before them.

But let’s exclude overzealous Paragould cops, who would stop anyone who goes outside. Show them a copy of the Constitution instead.