The city's police chief has a seat at the table as Vice President Joe Biden leads a national Firearms Commission on gun violence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., killings.
Chief John I. Dixon III learned of his appointment Dec. 19, the same day President Barack Obama hosted a press conference announcing the effort.
"This is not some Washington commission," Obama said last week. "This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task to pull together real reforms right now."
Obama said he expects to discuss the proposals in the 2013 State of the Union address.
"There are a whole bunch of proposals that have been thought about, debated, but hopefully also some new ideas in terms of how we deal with this issue," the president said. "Their task is going to be to sift through every good idea that's out there, and even take a look at some bad ideas before disposing of them, and come up with a concrete set of recommendations in about a month."
Dixon said the approximately four-hour meeting Dec. 20 was attended by Biden, U.S.Attorney General Eric Holder, other Cabinet members and representatives from about a dozen national organizations.
"I was very impressed with that; it set the tone that this was serious," Dixon said Thursday.
"I was selected because I represent one of the organizations," he said. Dixon serves as first vice president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Petersburg has fortunately never witnessed a mass shooting like Newtown, but street-level violence and robberies frequently end in woundings and deaths from gunfire. Earlier this month, a UPS driver was shot and wounded, and a man was shot and wounded yesterday. Police investigated two shooting deaths in October.
"Hopefully, we can craft some things that will allow us to solve some of the problems locally, as well. It's definitely needed," Dixon said. "We've got people who bring what I call a grassroots perspective."
"It's a very open-ended agenda at this point," Dixon said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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