Fitzgerald said the mental health system needs to be better funded because jails across the country are becoming "dumping grounds for the mentally ill."
"I was not the only sheriff that spoke up on that issue," Fitzgerald said. "To me, that is the No. 1 thing if we are going to impact that kind of violence that's happening in America."
All the law enforcement participants interviewed said they appreciated the president's attention to the issue and found the meeting constructive. Manger said the president did a lot more listening than talking and heard about the need to fund more police officers to protect school safety and a proposal to restrict the sale of ammunition on the Internet besides the broad calls for stronger mental health and background check systems.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said he's never been more encouraged about the prospect of gun control legislation of some sort, even if the assault weapons ban his group supports is an uphill battle.
"You're not going to get 100 percent of people to agree on anything as it relates to gun control, and we're no different, but a majority of people in the room recognize that something needs to be done," he said. "This was not just a passing thing as far as the president and vice president are concerned. This is something that they are determined to keep in front of the American people until they get something passed."
While the assault weapons ban was not a major focus of the White House meeting, participants say it was discussed at length at a later meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who sponsored a ban in 1994 that lasted for a decade and last week introduced a renewal of the ban in Congress.
"I would say her message was not well received overall by the group," Stanek said. "Everyone has an opinion on it one way or another."
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