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Dormont, Pittsburgh Mayors Sign Gun Control Letter to Obama

Tom Lloyd, Luke Ravenstahl join Mayors Against Illegal Guns movement.

The mayors of Dormont Borough and the City of Pittsburgh, including Brookline, have added their signatures to a gun control letter written to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The letter is part of a Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) movement co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and is dated for Dec. 19, five days after a , that caused the shooting deaths of 26 people, including 20 children.

Here is the letter that Dormont Mayor Tom Lloyd and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl have added their names to:

Dear President Obama,

On Friday, December 14th the entire nation watched as parents stood outside the Sandy Hook Elementary School and waited, desperately hoping to be reunited with their children. That moment will never end for the families of the 20 children and six adults who were murdered that day at the school.

As mayors, we are charged with keeping our communities safe. But too many of us have sat with mothers and fathers of children killed with guns. Twenty-four children enrolled in public schools in your hometown of Chicago were shot to death just last year.

At the moving memorial service on Sunday evening, you said: "If there is even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that has visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that – then surely we have an obligation to try."

Our bipartisan coalition of more than 750 mayors has joined forces with over 700,000 Americans and more than 100 survivors of deadly shootings, including the mass shootings you mentioned in your remarks. Together, we urge you to put forward an agenda that is rooted in common sense and that will make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns, and easier for police and prosecutors to crack down on them. That agenda should:

  • 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. Since its inception, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has blocked firearms purchases at licensed dealerships by millions of individuals who are barred by federal law from owning them. 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. Millions of gun sales — estimated at more than 40 percent of the U.S. annual total — are conducted through private sellers. 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. They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers; approximately one out of five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty is killed with assault weapons. 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. As a result, according to the Justice Department's Inspector General, U.S. Attorneys decline to prosecute 25 percent of those cases while declining only 9 percent of drug conspiracy cases. Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports proposals to empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers, and their entire criminal networks.

Those ideas require action by Congress, but there (are) steps you and your Administration could and should take immediately to curb gun violence:

  • Appoint an ATF director: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the federal agency responsible for enforcing our gun laws, has gone without a confirmed director for more than six years. During that time, criminals and those with serious mental illness have been able to take advantage of insufficient enforcement of existing federal gun laws, and an estimated 72,000 Americans have been murdered with guns. In 2011, for the first time in over a decade, more police officers were shot to death in the line of duty than were killed in automobile accidents. The need for leadership at the ATF has never been more urgent. The time has come for you to make a recess appointment to fill the vacancy at the top of the ATF.
  • Prosecute prohibited purchasers who attempt to buy firearms, ammunition or high-capacity magazines: The Justice Department should vigorously prosecute felons and other prohibited purchasers who fail gun background checks. In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation referred more than 71,000 such cases to ATF, but U.S. Attorneys ultimately prosecuted only 77 of them. Prosecuting these offenders is a goal broadly supported by our coalition and the National Rifle Association. The Department should also develop a mechanism for sharing NICS denial information with local and state law enforcement officials by sending them active alerts; or, at a minimum, posting the information at the National Criminal Information Center so state and local law enforcement officials can access it during investigations.
  • Require federal agencies to report records to NICS: The NICS Improvement Act of 2007 requires federal agencies to submit mental health, substance abuse and other records that prohibit a person from owning a gun to NICS. However, few agencies comply. In October 2011, the FBI provided data to MAIG on reporting by 60 federal agencies. Of those 60 agencies, 52 had given zero mental health records to NICS. Although total federal agency reporting of mental health records increased by ten percent between March and October 2011, to 143,579, the vast majority of those records had been submitted by one agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs. Even fewer federal agencies are reporting drug abusers. Only three agencies — the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), the probation and parole services agency for the District of Columbia — have submitted any substance abuse records, and the vast majority of federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, have not submitted a single substance abuse record. The president should issue an executive order requiring all federal agency heads to certify twice annually, in writing, to the U.S. Attorney General that their agency has submitted all relevant records to NICS.
  • Repeal remaining Tiahrt restrictions:  While Mayors Against Illegal Guns and our law enforcement allies have made progress in relaxing the "Tiahrt restrictions," which are riders to the federal budget that restrict access to federal gun data, some still remain. These remaining restrictions keep the public, particularly researchers and elected officials, in the dark about gun traffickers – specifically, who they are and how they operate. It also requires the FBI to destroy records of approved NICS background checks within 24 hours. That makes it harder to detect law-breaking dealers who fake their records, or to identify straw buyers who undergo the checks on behalf of someone who couldn't pass. The Tiahrt Amendments also say ATF can't require dealers to inspect their inventory, which could reduce the tens of thousands of guns that go missing or are stolen each year. Finally, the police and other law enforcement agencies that get trace data can't use it in license revocation proceedings or in civil litigation.  The administration should repeal these restrictions in its next budget.

In the past few days, the American people came together in a national outpouring of grief and sympathy for the families of victims slain in the mass shooting in Newtown. We share in that grief. But our constituents are also outraged and looking for leadership from the White House. We look forward to working with you to find a solution to gun violence in our country.

Sincerely,

This coalition of U.S. mayors

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JS December 22, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Mary Ellen - thanks for the voice of reason. False piety it is that they spout. I, personally, have decided to stop arguing with the loud minority of spokesmen of the gun culture. Many have devoted their lives to this single issue and cannot see beyond their interpretation of the 2nd ammendment. They have their own sets of statistics provided to them by the people who profit from the carnage going on in this country. I will instead work for candidates that have the courage to stand up to the gun culture and vote for sensible gun control laws. Many already in office have had enough and banning these weapons and magazines has already begun. My hope is that the Msgt's long anticipated (by him?) blog meets with silence by the majority of citizens who want this madness stopped. Let's put our energy towards positive change as we will never change the minds of the true believers of the firearm.
Ed M December 22, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I agree guns are not the problem but I do have one question - Why does a citizen need to own an automatic or semi-automatic weapon?
Joseph December 22, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Ed, a citizen CANNOT own an automatic weapon. It is illegal. Why does a citizen need to own a semi-automatic weapon? They don't NEED to, but they should to defend against those that have them for defense of themselves and their state/country especially if a tyrannical group takes control. That may sound nonsensical, but look at history, e.g., Turkey, Russia, China, Germany, Cambodia, Guatamala, Uganda.... the American Revolution. Quite simply if semi-automatics are banned from private ownership***, they need to banned to all other groups as well. *** Columbine occurred during the 'Assault Weapons Ban'. There are numerous studies that agree that guns are not the problem, but that it is more a deep-seeded issue ingrained in this society. For example, D.C. has one of the highest violence rates and incidents occur primarily in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage... look at the mental status of those that commit these atrocities. Gun ownership higher in rural areas while murder rate is way higher in urban areas. On average there is about one gun per citizen in this country yet, why doesn't this stuff happen daily? Bans only hurt law-abiding citizens. It makes law-abiding citizens sitting ducks to criminals whom will always find a way to be armed. Guns really aren't the problem. It's the people-- they're f'd up-- just taking guns away just means they'll find other ways to do f'd up things while law-abiding citizens get screwed (see airport security)...
MSgt. John DeLallo December 22, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Ed: Let's take a look at "modern day, high powered firearms". There is truly nothing new under the sun. John Moses Browning invented his semi auto pistol, the 1911, around 1909. Some newer models have a few bells and whistles like night sights and tactical rails to mount flashlights on, but the "innards" haven't changed since the Army adopted the pistol in 1911. Stoner's M-16 was adopted early in the Vietnam War, around 1964 or so. Its gas operated select fire used an operating system previously not seen, but it was a variation on a theme. Gas operated semi-auto battle rifles were in development and use before WWII. Even modern day smokeless powder was around before 1900, and self contained cartridges using black powder were used in Spencer's carbine during the American Civil War. More to your question, though, "who needs" militarily cosmetic semi-auto firearms? I have no idea, but the Founders did suggest that everyone have arms suitable for military purposes. Large capacity magazines are a matter of convenience. If you've never seen a tactical reload, you'd be amazed at how fast you change out the magazine on a pistol, or AR platform rifle. I prefer semi-auto, or better said, self loading arms "suitable for military purposes". Kennedy was killed with a crank bolt relic, and Lincoln with a percussion pistol. Cain used a rock. You can argue this point all day. If you don't want an AR, don't buy one. Their popularity is not a fluke.
MSgt. John DeLallo December 22, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Joseph: Provided you have the incredible cash resources required, you may lawfully own a crew served machine gun, submachine gun, or even a 40mm Bofors gun used in WWII for anti aircraft artillery aboard ships and land based as well. The National Firearms Act of 1934 makes such firearms so highly regulated that most folks don't bother with them. Add the Gun Control Act of 1986, which says no full auto or select fire arms manufactured after 1986 may be sold to citizens, and you can see the supply has dried up. Here are the rules to buying one http://www.autoweapons.com/pagelinks/buyandsell.html You an easily look up, say, Thompson submachine gun for sale, and see the cost is around 20 grand for a "generic" model, much more for vintage ones. http://www.mikesmachineguns.com/Guns4Sale.html is but one example. At those prices, and considering the tight control on full auto arms, not many bad guys are buying them. They're way too rich for me.

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