Lack of Gun Control Puts Cops at Disadvantage, Mayor Says
Mayors throughout country are signing letter to President, Congress seeking stricter gun control legislation.
A 20-year-old man last week shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children, at a school in Newtown, Conn., his mother and himself. On Wednesday, more than 750 mayors from around the country, who are part of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) coalition, signed a letter to call on President Barack Obama and Congress to pass stricter gun control legislation.
"With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. Bloomberg is Co-Chair of MAIG.
"We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership–not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today," Bloomberg said.
As part of MAIG since the start of 2012, Hackettstown Mayor Maria DiGiovanni said more gun control legislation has been needed for quite some time.
"I'm a complete supporter of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms," DiGiovanni said. "But I'm also a strong believer in gun control. I don't get why someone needs to have an assault weapon."
DiGiovanni, who's father was in law enforcement and brought his service pistol home with him everyday, is no stranger to weapons in the home.
What worries DiGiovanni, though, is that suburban community police departments like Hackettstown are usually not equipped with the type of weaponry that is legal for citizens to currently own.
"In a situation like Newtown, and what that shooter had, the first responding police are at a total disadvantage," DiGiovanni said.
If legislation for more gun control is not passed, DiGiovanni said it may be time to think about fighting fire with fire, potentially equipping officers with more intense weaponry.
"You don't want your police department to be underutilized," she said, "but do we react that way? It may come to that point. The police need to have the right tools."
The letter, which included signatures from 67 New Jersey mayors called for three primary objectives to make it harder for people to own guns while easing the job of police and prosecutors to enforce legislation.
- Require every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check: Background checks are the only systematic way to stop felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people from buying firearms. These checks are instantaneous and highly effective, but criminals and other prohibited purchasers avoid these checks by buying firearms, including online and at gun shows, from unlicensed “private sellers” who are not required by federal law to conduct the checks. The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R.1781 / S.436) would close this enormous gap in our laws by requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale.
- Get high capacity rifles and ammunition magazines off our streets: Military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines have no appropriate civilian or sporting function. They are designed to kill large numbers of people quickly as well as law enforcement officers. The time has come to review the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and draft a new law that is clear and enforceable and will take these weapons out of our communities.
- Make gun trafficking a federal crime: Today, there is no clear and effective statute making gun trafficking a crime. Prosecutors are instead forced to rely on a weak law prohibiting engaging in the business of selling guns without a federal license, which carries the same punishment as trafficking chicken or livestock. Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports proposals to empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers, and their entire criminal networks.
The letter has been signed by other North Jersey Mayors including Robert Bowser (East Orange), Dawn Zimmer (Hoboken), Stephen Santola (Livingston), William Laforet (Mahwah), Victor DeLuca (Maplewood), Cory Booker (Newark), James Barberio (Parsippany-Troy Hills) and Robert Parisi (West Orange).
The coalition has also requested that Obama and Congress work together immediated to appoint a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), which has lacked a director for over six years. The ATF is charged with enforcing federal gun laws.
Also that the Justice Department be urged to prosecute prohibited purchasers, any one who fails a background check, who attempt to buy firearms, ammunition or high-capacity magazines; as well as requiring federal agencies to submit mental health, substance abuse and other records that prohibit a person from owning a gun to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Lastly, the MAIG urged for the repeal of the Tiahrt restrictions, which are riders to the federal budget that restrict access to federal gun data. Some of the restrictions in place include information about gun traffickers, that the FBI destroy records of approved NICS background checks within 24 hours and that the ATF
The letter stipulated that Obama and Congress should begin work on MAIG's recommendations immediately and repeal any restrictions in the next budget.