WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter wants to make it clear, he believes in the right to bear arms. He carries a weapon at work each day as part of the job.
KSN asked Easter if now is the right time to have a conversation about guns, following the Las Vegas shooting.
His first response was, no. But, he did offer his thoughts on keeping officer weapons up to speed to match what the criminals are using.
“We’ve had numerous tragedies across the United States. This one here (Las Vegas) follows several years ago when we had the Sandy Hook tragedy, and that one led into several types of gun control discussions,” said Easter. “I don’t really partake in those particular discussions. I think that people have the right to bear arms, I believe in the constitutional right on that. My question is the high-powered weapons that now, in Kansas, that you can just carry, walking down the street.”
Easter said from a law enforcement standpoint, having people walking on the streets, legally, with high-powered weapons is concerning.
We asked about law enforcement keeping up with criminals that chose to use high-powered weapons.
“Do we run into individuals with high-powered weapons? Yes, we do,” said Easter. “That’s what caused the Sheriff’s office several years ago to equip each deputy out on the streets with a rifle, to be able to match that kind of firepower. It started years ago.”
“Do I think that people should be allowed to just carry those type of high-powered weapons walking down the streets of Wichita or in Sedgwick County? No I don’t,” said Easter. “I think that’s gone too far, in my personal belief. Now, when it comes to manufacturing those type of things I really don’t have an opinion on that.”
Easter said all patrol officers with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s department are issued a rifle for their patrol cars. He said that is important. Equally important he says is body armor for officers and deputies.
But, he adds, times have changed. To a degree.
“In my time when Ii was a beat officer out on the streets, if anybody else had a weapon, that was (at the time) against the law. And you knew immediately that that was something that they were not allowed to have and you treated it as such,” said Easter. “Now days you have to assess whether there’s something else going on with them (carrying a weapon) and they’re in possession of a gun if there is some type of suspicious activity. Those type of things. But I will tell you even back then, did the criminals have guns? Yes they sure did.”
Easter said he does not take a political stance on guns and gun ownership.
But one area where he has a strong opinion is on prevention. That’s a conversation Easter says society in general and lawmakers specifically should continue to be having.
“I think the conversation has been taking place for several years. I don’t know if, again, I’m not one to politicize anything. I think you know me well enough by now. So trying to have this conversation after this tragedy, one side or the other of this story is going to say this is politicizing it,” said Easter. “However, do I think there needs to be more conversations when it comes to background checks, when it comes to looking at actually who is purchasing these weapons? And are they going to maintain those weapons or are they handing them off to other people because they don’t quality to get a weapon because of either their criminal record or their mental history? Those are issues that we do face.”
Easter also said the officers in Las Vegas did everything they could and are to be thanked for doing their jobs well.