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Tulsa police chief suggests nation transform response to gun violence

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin speaks in 2022.
Max Bryan
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin speaks in 2022.

As mass shootings plague the country, Tulsa's police chief is comparing the violence to 9/11 and urging a more comprehensive response. KWGS' Max Bryan sat down with Chief Wendell Franklin for StateImpact. Please note, both the audio and transcript have been edited for length and clarity.

MAX BRYAN: So to begin, after the Saint Francis shooting, you said you would leave gun laws up to the state legislature, but by the end of that month, you had told media outlets that permitless carry was causing problems in Tulsa, and you reiterated that point after the mass shooting at Allen Outlet Mall in Texas last month. So my first question is what led you to decide to speak out?

WENDELL FRANKLIN: Well, because I don't think that we're moving the needle on anything. If you compare what we're faced with 9/11, 9/11 occurred and it totally transformed America, totally transformed how you travel on airlines. No longer can you go to the terminal and see a loved one off or see someone come back. All of that is a sterile area. The federal government took over all airline security and there was this more robust effort to deal with and address some of the terrorist activities that were taking place. Fast forward to even structures, how structures were built, no longer are you building structures that have parking garages that you can access underneath a building. You can't do that anymore. Today, all of that's controlled. And any future buildings, those are not even a part of the actual building structure. They move those off to the side now, and here we are today, where we've recognized that we have some issues that need to be addressed, and we are operating as though everything is normal, and I don't think everything is normal.

MB: So you've also criticized a lack of regulation of untraceable ghost guns and straw purchasing. Recently you indicated you would support regulating the purchasing of high-powered weapons like AR-15s. Is there anything you can add to that list today?

WF: Ultimately, I'm a Second Amendment guy. I own guns of course. But I'm okay giving up some of that freedom, right? We had to give up some of that freedom after 9/11. I'm okay with waiting three days, five days, or whatever to get my firearm if I go out and purchase another firearm. So I'm okay with a pause to allow for weapons to be purchased and allow the government and the gun companies to look at the background and do a thorough check before that gun goes to someone.

MB: Have you spoken to any members of the legislature about our state's gun laws?

WF: In passing, I have. It's a topic that's not really brought up a whole lot and it’s something that gets glossed over quite a bit.

MB: How have those conversations gone?

WF: It’s an immediate pivot to some other topic. No one really wants to talk about it.

MB: Okay. So in December, you told me the second amendment was tricky. How do you balance challenges, or excuse me, changes that you believe will prevent crime with enforcing laws made by lawmakers who believe the second amendment means expanding firearm access?

WF: Ultimately, law enforcement, we are the experts. We're the subject matter experts at protecting America, right? Protecting our cities. We should be utilized in that manner. I am charged with protecting this community. And if there are better ways of protecting it, I think we should be looking at those better ways to protect it. Anything that we do, ultimately, we give up something to have that protection. You know, we put seatbelt laws in place, I'm not exactly sure when, probably the 1980s, I think. And we mandated that everyone starts wearing a seatbelt, and it took some time for people to grab hold of that. But if you look today it is an automatic thing that people put on their seatbelt when they get into a vehicle. You feel uncomfortable not wearing that seatbelt. I think again, we give something up to get safety for, for something safe. I think that's where we are today. We are going to have to give up some things. And I think there are some things that we can give up for a safer community.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.