Seminar aims to improve gun safety

Sunday, November 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:44 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mid-Missouri law enforcement officers learned techniques for improving firearms safety and increasing convictions during an all-day seminar Thursday at the Daniel Boone City Building.

The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms division of Kansas City conducted the presentation. The seminar was part of “Project Safe Neighborhoods,” a program set up by the Justice Department to reduce firearm violence, said Jeffrey Fulton, assistant special agent in charge at the ATF’s Kansas City office.

In the morning session, officers learned how to identify behaviors that indicate someone is carrying a firearm. Richard Hobson, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer who led the session, suggested they need not look far for clues. .

“Everyone in here carries a gun; ask yourself what little things you do differently because you are carrying a firearm,” he said. “Make baseline observations.”

Officers also learned how to add more detail to their police reports in order to improve accuracy and aid with convictions. No stop should ever be viewed as routine, Hobson said.

“Trace every gun confiscated and assume every gun you encounter could have been used in a crime,” he said.

He also recommended making suspects aware of state and felony charges that could be levied against them in order to gain their cooperation. This can lead to evidence of other crimes, Hobson said.

The Columbia Police Department traces all confiscated firearms using the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, Columbia Police Officer Bill Lee said.

Lee said the event reinforced his current practices.

“The extent to which firearms used in crimes can be traced and the importance of identifying them every time was well conveyed,” Lee said. “If we have a victim of a crime and only shell casings are found and that gun turns up in Nebraska in two years we can connect the crimes.”

Lee is a member of the Community Action Team, which was created in 1998 to target trouble spots in Columbia. Its three members have made close to 500 arrests this year.

“The law will change our jobs tremendously,” Lee said.

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