This week, I spoke to John Miller, the Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism at the NYPD. Over the course of his career in law enforcement and journalism, he has taken on terrorism in New York, served in the FBI, and interviewed mobsters and murderers from John Gotti to Osama bin Laden.
Our conversation took place right after the deadly massacre in Las Vegas, while we were still learning about the extent of the tragedy. And I asked him, at a time when some people seem to believe that it’s never appropriate to talk about gun violence, whether there is a role for police officers and public safety officials to speak out and take action.
John Miller: I think there is. You know, if you look at this conversation, it’s been stuck for a long time. You’ve got a powerful gun lobby. You’ve got members of Congress who benefit from them tremendously, and you have very little progress in gun laws. But as I argued before a congressional committee some time ago, I always thought, well, when members of Congress start getting shot, that’ll change. But Gabby Giffords was shot down in a parking lot at a campaign stop. Congressman Scalise was recently severely wounded in a similar incident. So, we know that’s not the breaker there.
I thought, well, you know, when we go with our families to the mall or the movies and we’re being in massacred in numbers there, that that would be the breaking point, and we’d get serious about this conversation. But we had a shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during the Batman premiere, where women and children and men were killed when they were out with their families to have fun. And that conversation lasted a very short time and resulted in nothing. The governor tried his own gun laws there and was run out in the next election for it.
Hear John Miller now on “Stay Tuned with Preet.”
And then I thought, when they massacre our babies in their kindergarten classes, our little children, that will be when we ask ourselves, can we continue with this madness? But that happened, and nothing changed there either. So, I guess we know who we are and what’s important to us. If our guns are more important than our elected officials, more important than our families at the mall, more important than our children in school, even when they’re in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, shouldn’t have been able to obtain them, people who are emotionally disturbed where that’s been documented—if that’s who we are, I think we need to ask why. I think we should all be asking a question: what makes sense? And it’s not the question we’re asking.
Preet Bharara: So, what does make sense?
John Miller: What makes sense is we should probably as a civilized country not be able to go to gun shows and buy assault weapons anonymously. We should probably not be able to buy weapons over the Internet that can be easily converted with a quick set of tools. We should probably not be able to elect whether to contribute to the database that’s supposed to keep guns out of the hands of people who have been adjudicated in court as to be mentally disturbed.
I think there’s a whole lot of things that would make sense that we’re avoiding because the other side of this argument insists that bringing up any one of these things is the first chink in the armor or the first crack that will lead to black helicopters, and the New World Order, and the government rounding up everybody’s guns. That’s just not true.
We have to ask ourselves after Las Vegas what we should have asked after Newtown, which we should have asked after Aurora, which we should have asked after Columbine – I mean, how far back do you want to go? Is this who we are? And if it is, because it is…is this who we want to be as a country still?
This piece has been lightly edited for clarity