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Gun control advocates: Milwaukee police union misses mark with firearms lawsuit

By: - October 5, 2022 6:30 am
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Gun control advocates say a recent lawsuit by the union for Milwaukee Police Department officers to force the department to replace one particular sidearm is missing the mark.

Since 2020, two officers have been injured when  department-issued SIG Sauer P320 sidearms fired without the trigger being pulled. The Milwaukee Police Association sued the city in September, stating that many officers have “lost all trust” in the P320 and demanding that the city  replace the weapon.

In a joint statement Monday, two grassroots organizations working to curb gun violence called on the police union to focus on the gun’s manufacturer rather than the city of Milwaukee.

“The police union has a right to be outraged that officers have been injured by these weapons, but they have failed to identify all the true culprits,” said the WAVE Educational Fund and Brady in their statement.

The groups said the SIG Sauer company, not the city, should be held responsible for the unreliable weapons and should be pressured to provide a remedy. “SIG Sauer likely does not feel an urgency to fix the problem or concern about being held accountable for producing a shoddy product, because of the actions of the next set of offenders: Congress and the gun lobby,” they said.

WAVE and Brady noted that when Congress created  the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1972, the agency excluded the regulation of firearms after lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA). “That means firearms are virtually the only consumer products with no government agency having authority to provide oversight, set safety standards, or recall defective products,” the gun violence groups stated.

America’s laws around firearm oversight have been slow to catch up to technological developments in the firearm industry. Only recently have federal regulations been developed to rein in the spread  of untraceable ghost guns—which are assembled by ordering individual parts which don’t have serial numbers — although they have been circulating nationally since the 1990s. Communities across southeastern Wisconsin had seen increasing numbers of ghost guns, including in relation to criminal activity.

The SIG Sauer company’s products have been gaining acceptance for military use. Just months ago, the U.S. Army adopted the SIG SPEAR as its new service rifle,  M-4 and M-16 rifles that have been in service for more than  50 years. The company also designed a new light machine gun for U.S. Army soldiers, which was adopted alongside the new rifle. A new SIG-designed sidearm has also been recently adopted by the military and issued to troops.

Military equipment often makes its way into the supply stores of police departments, raising the question of whether  U.S. troops will encounter similar issues with other SIG weapons as the Milwaukee PD has with the P320 sidearm.

WAVE and Brady also criticized police unions for siding with gun manufacturers instead of holding them responsible for ensuring a safe product is in the hands of service people.

“The Milwaukee Police Association (MPA) need only look in the mirror to see the final culprit,” the organizations stated. “Too often, the MPA, like many local and national rank and file police unions, has worked, arm in arm with the gun lobby to weaken gun laws and eliminate gun industry accountability. By aligning themselves with the greed-driven gun lobby, they have shot themselves in the foot.” The statement calls on the  union to “focus their future lobbying efforts on supporting the firearm oversight and accountability laws that are needed to create a safer environment for their officers and the public.”

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.

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