LAPD union joins national push for 'bump stock' ban, better community relations

The Los Angeles Police Protective League has thrown its support behind a national effort to ban certain gun accessories and encourage police and professional sports teams to work together to improve encounters between officers and residents.

The union that represents thousands of rank-and-file LAPD officers joined several other big-city police unions and the San Francisco 49ers in the effort, which was formally unveiled Thursday morning at Levi’s Stadium.

The organizations signed a pledge to work with lawmakers to ban armor-piercing ammunition, gun silencers and “bump stocks” — the latter of which landed on the national radar after a gunman used them in the Las Vegas massacre this month.

They also promised to advocate for expanded mental health services and work with teams, businesses and other groups to put together public service announcements centered on how to improve police-community relationships.

“The goal is really participating in some proactive engagement versus symbolic gestures that would really move us toward a more understanding America and a safer America,” said Robert Harris, one of the Police Protective League’s directors.

The effort touches on two already-divisive topics that have drawn renewed focus in recent months: guns and policing.

The Oct. 1 shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas that left dozens dead and hundreds injured again thrust the issue of gun control into the national spotlight. Many called for limits on bump stocks — which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire as if fully automatic — though several bills introduced in Congress have since stalled.

“As law enforcement officers, as police unions, we are unwavering in our support of the 2nd Amendment,” Harris said. “But when it comes to accessories such as bump stocks, we think it is very reasonable to want to support legislation that would ban an accessory that would turn a semiautomatic rifle into a functioning fully automatic rifle.”

Those modified weapons, he added, can cause “devastating damage” to the public and police.

Recent protests by professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem have once again put national attention on deadly police shootings of civilians, particularly African Americans. Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the 49ers, started the demonstration, which has stirred often-heated conversations in living rooms and sports bars across the country.

“The conversation devolved into something very unproductive,” Harris said.

The hope, Harris said, is that by putting together public service announcements, police unions and pro teams will be able to reach a larger audience, share different perspectives and encourage a respectful dialogue.

“It’s very clear that protesting has brought ample vision, ample opportunity for people to speak loudly,” said Jed York, chief executive of the 49ers, at the news conference in Santa Clara. “Now we need to take that platform and actually turn it into real progress. I think this is a first effort at progress.”

The 49ers are donating $500,000 to the initiative.

York acknowledged the controversy surrounding the issues but said the initiative offered “common-sense reform to make sure that our communities are a safer place.”

“If we take criticism along the way, I think we’re all willing to take criticism if we’re going to make peoples’ lives safer,” he added.

kate.mather@latimes.com

@katemather

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UPDATES:

3:30 p.m. This article was updated with comments from Thursday’s news conference.

This story was originally published at 5 a.m.

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