The New York Police Department, as well as other police departments across the country, is facing a tough but important task.
An amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968, passed as part of a federal spending bill that went into effect in September, prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm. Police officers and military personnel aren't exempt, and the law is retroactive.
The NYPD commendably has taken the first steps toward complying with this law. Until recently, potential officers who met basic age and education requirements were screened out only if they had a felony record. Now, the department maintains that a misdemeanor domestic-violence conviction also is an "automatic disqualifier." If you can't carry a gun, you can't be an officer, the department is saying. Other police departments should listen carefully and follow suit.
The task of identifying and disarming those with guns won't be easy. Internal records will show which officers have been arrested in the past five years for injuring or threatening a family member with violence, but the NYPD has to check with prosecutors to find out which were convicted. Next it has to figure out what to do with those officers.
The NYPD is moving in the right direction. No one who has been convicted of domestic violence should be carrying a firearm, even if it's a part of the job.