This national study assessed police chiefs’ support for various types of firearm control measures, perceptions regarding firearms as a public health problem, and the likelihood of initiating firearm control advocacy activities.
A 29-item survey instrument was developed to assess respondents’ likelihood of firearm policy support, interest, exposure, involvement with firearm control advocacy, and demographic and background characteristics. The survey was sent out in spring 2005 using a three-wave mailing to a national random sample of 600 police chiefs in cities with populations greater than 25,000 in 2002 and 2003.
The majority of responding police chiefs supported 11 out of 14 proposed firearm control policies. Most police chiefs (62%) believed that the government should do everything it can to keep handguns out of the hands of criminals, even if it makes it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to purchase handguns. Police chiefs were not likely to participate in the majority of firearm control advocacy activities. The advocacy activities that police chiefs were most likely to participate in were meeting with state legislators (52%) and writing a letter to a legislator in relation to gun control (44%).
Police chiefs support several potentially important firearm control policies. This suggests the need to evaluate interventions aimed at increasing their role in shaping policy on this important public health issue.