Wisconsin police chief compares gun violence to Ebola, asks residents to volunteer for searches

Police Chief Norm Jacobs' idea that residents of Beloit, Wisc., should volunteer to let his officers search their homes for guns is drawing fire from Second Amendment advocates and homeowners alike.

Jacobs, the top cop in the southern Wisconsin city of 40,000, admits his novel notion that residents can request a visit by officers to inspect the home for any unknown guns that may be in the household has generated a lot of reaction, and not of the positive variety.

"Most of the calls have been negative," Norm Jacobs, the chief of police in Beloit, told FoxNews.com.

Jacobs' policy was featured in a recent report by Wisconsin Public Radio, in which he likened gun violence to Ebola and said voluntary searches were like a vaccine.

"Gun violence is as serious as the Ebola virus is being represented in the media, and we should fight it using the tools that we've learned from our health providers," he said.


Jacobs told FoxNews.com his aim is to rein in gun violence in a city that has seen seven gun-involved homicides this year without infringing on people's right to bear arms.

"We're not interested in taking lawfully owned guns," he said. "But safety starts at the home."

He said police have received one call requesting a search, which he said turned up a gun the owner knew about and wanted to turn in.

"We never expected the phone to ring off the hook," he said.

There is no gun registration law in Wisconsin and the Beloit police were criticized by gun rights groups and lawyers who say they may be entering a legal gray area. Tom Grieve, a Milwaukee-area defense attorney, wondered who in the household has the authority to contact police for the search. He offered a hypothetical in which feuding spouses called police on each other. And what would happen if police stumble on a 10-pound bag of marijuana during the search?

"As a former prosecutor, I'd say the homeowner is consenting to a search, so if police find drugs, I don't see why that homeowner wouldn't be held accountable."

Jacobs said police would perform an "inspection" not a search. Jacobs also said that police would not inspect the home unless it was "absolutely clear" that the consenting person had the authority.

Photo by The Beloit Daily News