Oak Creek police chief talks gun control with President Obama

CREATED Jan 28, 2013

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WASHINGTON - Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards joined a "Who's Who" of chiefs from cities and towns who have dealt with gun violence. He said the President and other top officials asked for ideas to curb the problem.

"This is an issue that illicits a lot of passion," said President Obama.

Four chairs from the President, Edwards brought the experiences from his small city to the national stage.

“What was talked about during that meeting?” asked Edwards. “It was a very good conversation."

From Washington, Edwards told Today’s TMJ 4 that the Presidential discussion focused more on gun violence than gun control.

“We talked about mental health issues, the availability of guns to people who shouldn't have guns, not about people who have the right to have the guns," he said.

The chief voiced his concerns for addressing mental health before crimes take place, and a communication barrier that keeps officers from checking a database to see if someone has a gun they're not supposed to own.

“I should be notified when anyone in my community is trying to purchase a gun illegally, and we should also have officers who can call that number and, right then and there, take guns out of that home,” he said.

Edwards has said repeatedly that none of the president's 23 executive orders would have prevented the Sikh Temple tragedy. But he's hopeful they'll give police the tools they need to keep guns out of the wrong hands, and to stop crime before it happens.

What needs to be done that this is a pre-emptive strike, rather than a reaction.

“I read something where someone said, guns are the start of all of this,” Edwards added. “That's how usually these things end is with guns. They don't start with guns. They start somewhere down the road, and that’s what we need to focus on.”

Chief Edwards would also like to see felony charges for people carrying concealed weapons who don't have a permit. The chief isn't finished with the discussion. Tomorrow, he'll be part of a panel on mass shootings with the Department of Homeland security.

Edwards also spoke out about fiery comments made by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. The sheriff asked residents to buy guns for protection, in case law enforcement doesn't arrive at crime scenes in time.

"Arming one's self is a totally personal decision,” said Edwards. “To try to use fear and say you should arm yourselves because we can't help you. Like I said, if the sheriff was talking about his department, that's something he'll have to deal with. But in my department, I feel like we've proven we will be there."

Sheriff Clarke's controversial message was released in a radio ad last week. Today, clarke told CNN it's all about safety.

“My message is for law-abiding citizens in certain situations, not to go out and enforce the law,” said Clarke. “I said inside your home when the wolf's at the door and the intruder comes in or someone sticks in your face when you're on the street to take your property.”

Clarke says he's always believed personal safety is a matter of individual responsibility.