I confess that I didn’t know much at all about the new police chief in El Paso, Texas before reading a profile and interview with Peter Pacillas, but I’m happy to report that unlike far too many politically-appointed chiefs, Pacillas seems to have no issue with law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights.
In his first interview since being appointed chief last month, Pacillas was quizzed by El Paso Times reporter Adam Powell about a number of issues, including the state’s permitless carry law, and rejected the reporter’s suggestion that the law is putting the safety of officers or the general public at risk.
Q: How have Texas gun laws impacted or changed policing during your career?
Pacillas: “We don’t make the laws, the Legislature makes the laws. As far the concealed carry, or the constitutional carry, it doesn’t change the fact that anytime a police officer shows up to a scene, as we’re trained at the El Paso Police Academy, there’s always going to be a weapon involved because the police officer’s bringing it. So, you have to make sure that you’re able, capable of protecting yourself and evaluating the circumstances of the incident as they develop.”
Q: Other states have received opposition from law enforcement groups over constitutional carry proposals. Do you worry that constitutional carry in Texas makes routine encounters more dangerous?
Pacillas: “So, the criminal is the criminal element. It will disregard whatever law you want to talk about. So, if they’re going to disregard weapon laws, they’re going to have them anyway. The concealed carry or open carry actually proved itself out in the Cielo Vista shooting. You had a licensed concealed carry individual who stopped that criminal activity where somebody was going to be murdered. And who knows what could have happened if it had kept on going.”
The incident that Pacillas referred to was a shooting at the Cielo Vista mall back in February. A 16-year-old reportedly pulled a gun and fired several shots during a dispute with another group of teens, killing 17-year-old Angeles Zaragoza and injuring another teen. As the suspect began running from the scene, he pointed his gun at mall patrons, including a 32-year-old man who drew his own pistol and shot the armed suspect in defense of himself and others before rendering first aid to both the teen suspect and his victims.
That particular defensive gun use didn’t generate many headlines outside of El Paso, but it clearly stuck with the chief. Pacillas was on point when he said that the criminal element, by definition, is willing to break the laws that are in place. Gun control laws are much more effective at preventing lawful gun owners from exercising their Second Amendment rights than they are at preventing violent crime, and it’s great to see Pacillas understands that.
It’s not like the chief is some neophyte or desk jockey who’s never patrolled the streets, either. As the El Paso Times reports, Pacillas graduated from the city’s police academy 38 years ago and worked his way up from patrolman to chief with stints in the department’s bomb squad, criminal intelligence division, tactical unit, homeland security division, and SWAT team along the way. Pacillas was on the force in 2019 when a cowardly killer opened fire at a Walmart next to the Cielo Vista mall and killed 23 people, so he’s well aware of the dangers posed by active shooters. Based on his comments, he’s also acutely aware of the role that armed citizens can play in saving lives in those situations.
I don’t know where Pacillasstands on things like “red flag” laws, bans on modern sporting rifles or “large capacity” magazines, or a number of other gun control policies, but he definitely understands the benefit of an armed citizenry when it comes to both individual self-defense and the ability to defend others when seconds count and officers may be minutes away. That’s refreshing to hear from a big city chief, even in a state as 2A-friendly as Texas, and the people of El Paso are lucky to have someone who gets the importance of our right to keep and bear arms heading up the police force.