Menino Leads Mayoral Alliance Against Firearms
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 23:03
“Mayors are on the front lines in the fight against gun violence—that’s why so many have joined our coalition since Newtown,” Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a press release by the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) on Mar. 7.
Since Menino became co-chair of the coalition alongside New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2006, when the coalition included only 15 mayors, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown to include over 900 mayors in 45 states.
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a new public service announcement on their website Mar. 7, marking a shift in tactics since the beginning of their coalition.While the coalition has typically only demanded a plan from Congress, the new public service announcement demanded specific action from Congress.
“The numbers don’t lie—support for background checks and other sensible reforms is clear,” Menino said. “That’s why we’re demanding our leaders in Washington help us to protect our communities and keep our children safe. Now is the time for action.”
Actions demanded by the coalition are categorized in three parts. The coalition demands that legislation be passed to mandate criminal background checks for every gun sold in America, that assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines be banned, and that gun trafficking be made a federal crime. According to the coalition’s press release, the 14 states that already require background checks for the sale of all guns have a gun trafficking rate that is 48 percent lower than in states “that fail to require background checks for all handgun sales.”
“Americans overwhelmingly support background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” Bloomberg said. “Now it’s time for Congress to stand with their constituents to pass a law requiring background checks for all gun sales—and to take other common sense steps that will save lives.”
Thirty mayors were featured in the public service announcement, including Mayor Jonathan Mitchell from New Bedford, Mass. Twenty-six Massachusetts mayors are members of the coalition, but the coalition is indeed a national one, including mayors as distant as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns picked up steam after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, in which six staff members and 20 children were killed by gunman Adam Lanza. The shooting at Newtown catapulted the issue of gun violence yet again to the national stage, although the effects of this shooting appeared to more deeply affect politics in Washington than past shootings. During his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama specifically alluded to the Newtown shooting, appearing to many as a promise of more attention to the debate regarding gun control and gun violence.
After Newtown, Menino continued to play an integral role in the mayoral coalition, including his hosting of a Massachusetts Delegation of Mayors Against Illegal Guns in late January, where he urged the expansion of the coalition’s reach, according to a press release.
“Call your aunt in Florida. Call your college roommate in Texas. Call your old neighbor who moved to Vermont. Tell them we need them to stand with us and demand a plan from their members of Congress,” Menino said before the delegation.
Braintree Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan echoed Menino’s demands for the need of a national movement. “This issue—gun violence—is not an urban problem, a suburban problem, or a rural problem, it is an American problem,” Sullivan said.
Congress appeared to be in step with the demands of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns when, on Mar. 7, a Senate Judiciary Committee approved laws that would crack down on gun traffickers and “straw purchasers,” those who buy firearms for those who cannot legally do so. The bill would increase the sentence of a straw purchaser to 15 years, and even to 25 years should the straw purchaser have had knowledge that a firearm may be used for violent crime. Debate of the bill will now continue on the Senate floor.
Critics of the bill include Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who, according to The Los Angeles Times, said that, given that there are already laws on the books to deter straw purchasers, he has “a hard time explaining to constituents how passing more laws that will go unenforced makes them any safer.”
David Chipman, however, a former special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, now works for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns and praised the bill, saying that it would clearly dictate that illegally buying a firearm for another individual is “morally reprehensible.”
In his State of the City address in January, Menino said, “Mayor Bloomberg and I will keep working with almost 1,000 mayors and over one million Americans. I ask you to stand with us on guns to say enough is enough.”