The San Francisco 49ers are working with large police unions to help bring attention to gun control measures, particularly the restriction of bump stocks, devices that vastly increased the rate of fire of the Las Vegas shooter.
“It seems insane to me that a citizen can buy something like that,” 49ers CEO Jed York said at a Thursday news conference. “I’m not anti-Second Amendment. This is something that is common sense.”
The 49ers have pledged $500,000 to outreach efforts, and are partnering with police unions from San Jose, Oakland, Santa Clara, New York, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Long Beach and Portland with the goal of bridging gaps between the police and the local community. The groups are backing federal legislation to outlaw bump stocks, armor-piercing bullets, and gun silencers, all of which the police unions cite as threats to legal law enforcement efforts.
Both the NFL protests and the very mention of the words “gun control” tend to incite a total lockdown of opinion. Aware of that, Robert Harris, secretary of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, noted that this is a safety issue, not a rights issue.
“We are unwavering in our support of the Second Amendment. We also believe that common-sense laws should be put into place to protect law-enforcement officers and the citizens they serve,” Harris said. “If as a country we hope to make any progress, it will take all of us to leave our comfort zones.”
Worth noting: several police unions, including those in Miami and Cleveland, have taken strong stands against the protests, and many fans have expressed anger at the disrespect they believe the protests show toward the police and the military. But the unions involved with the 49ers have noted that simple anger does nothing to change the status quo. “Police officers across the country felt unfairly disparaged by what took place. Some are upset, some are angry, some are offended. But upset feelings do not improve conditions for those of us who respond to calls for service,” said Sgt. Paul Kelly, president of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association. “We need to move the ball forward.”
“If we’re going to move forward, we can’t worry about hurt feelings,” York said. “If we take criticism along the way, we are all willing to take criticism if we can make people safer.”
The 49ers were one of the first teams involved in the ongoing protest debate; former quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first player to kneel to protest racial inequality and police brutality, and the team has remained committed to social change.