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Mayor Reed Joins Mayors Against Illegal Guns

The national group of mayors, including a dozen from Georgia, sent a letter to President Obama Wednesday outlining the need to change gun legislation in the United States.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed joined more than 750 mayors across the country Wednesday in sending a letter to President Barack Obama in response to the shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the need to change gun legislation in the United States.

Reed was among a dozen state mayors to join the coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The group is led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. 

The letter read, in part, "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."

In the letter, dated Dec. 19, 2012, the mayors ask the President to do seven things. They are:

  • 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 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 Offenders 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.

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

In addition to Mayor Reed, other Georgia mayors who signed it included, Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Augusta; Mayor William F. Floyd, Decatur; Mayor Donna Pittman, Doraville; Mayor Earnestine D. Pittman, East Point; Mayor James Thomas, Jr., Hinesville; Mayor Robert A. B. Reichert, Macon; Mayor June D. Bradfield, McRae; Mayor Kathie deNobriga, PineLake; Mayor Jere Wood, Roswell; Mayor Patricia Wheeler, Stone Mountain; and Mayor Ralph Moore, Union City.

What do you think of the coalition's recommendations? Tell us in the comments.

D. Robinson December 20, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Typical knee-jerk, politically motivated reaction, that is of course, totally loved and largely caused by the ultra liberal media! Because of such media hype and rush for sensationalism, we are still not even told for sure, what weapons were actually used in this extremely sad and regretful tragedy. Even IF the 'rifle' was used (and this is still not clear and consistently reported), this would be one of the very rare shootings caused by such a weapon. And it has already been Proven by the last 'ban' that such laws have NO effect on such crimes. Therefore, the logical and necessary reactions should absolutely focus on doing anything BUT such regulations! Otherwise, all proponents of such actions would qualify as mentally ill, since one of the most brilliant men of all time states that the epitome of insanity is repeatedly performing the same act and expecting different results!
kelli rose December 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Chicago mayor Rahm Emmunal banned all guns which resulted in more murders than ever .. bad guys have guns vs no guns for good guys.
JustinK December 20, 2012 at 02:40 PM
^Murders in Chicago spiked in the 1970's (which was the impetus for a handgun ban) when Emanuel was a child.
Michael Wakefield December 20, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Those of you who prefer the horror of slaughtered children to reasonable regulation will be pushed aside by the great majority of Americans who care about our country.
JM Hurricane December 20, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Next step, try convincing Jamal, Tyrone, 'Lil' Ray Ray and Pookie.
Noah December 20, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Please go to Google and search for the results of gun regulation in every other industrialized nation on the planet. Then speak, but be informed first. Thanks.
Earl Williamson, RN December 20, 2012 at 07:43 PM
So, I am assuming that Mr Robinson and Ms Roise APPROVE of illegal weapons and the slaughter they contribute to. Please note that the Mayors oppose ILLEGAL weapons. Call me knee jerk ... right.
ELF December 20, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Good Grief. The level of hypocrisy and outright ignorance on display is a tragedy in itself. This is pure, unadulterated political pandering, nothing more nothing less. If Kasim has such a problem with 'illegal guns' then why did he cut his teeth as an entertainment lawyer for such upstanding, law abiding, gun despising entities like Def Jam, DMX and Murder, Inc? Near as I can tell, thier songs are chock full of references to staying in school, treating women with respect and by all means, avoiding guns and drugs, right? Which has a more detrimental effect on inner city kids: the messages spewed forth by these artists, or the NRA? You people are really silly. When Mr Mohammed Reed decides to give back all that $$ he made protecting acts that glorify gun violence, then he can talk. Other then that: he needs to STFU.
Michael December 21, 2012 at 11:50 AM
I am from the ghetto. My friends live in the ghetto. We don't manufacture guns. We don't qualify for gun licenses because most of us have a criminal background. We can't buy ammunition either. Hell, we can't even go hunting. So PLEASE STOP SELLING YOUR GUNS and blaming us for using them.
Jason Massad December 21, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I'm still making my mind up on this issue. It's complex, for sure. At the extremes, you can subscribe to the idea that a well-armed citizenry can help prevent these tragedies or you can call for an outright ban - which in my mind is impossible given the force of law of the Second Amendment. However, citizen carriers have not stopped these mass shootings. In my opinion ideology is getting in the way of practicality and evidence on this point. Plus At the same time, there's no neat and clean way to call a certain class of weapons - "assault rifles" and ban them, even if you could under the 2nd. One of the criteria for calling a gun an assault weapon as it was defined in the repeal on assault weapons that expired in 2004 was whether or not it could be rigged with a bayonet. Seems silly to ban a weapon based on the fact that its black plastic and "deadly looking." I read an interesting piece that claimed that the Bushmaster AR-15 type gun that was likely used in the Newtown shootings - and the entire class of guns like it - are basically built on the platform of the M-16, introduced in Vietnam what 30+ years ago.
Jason Massad December 21, 2012 at 12:23 PM
It's a light weapon with light, high-velocity ammunition. It's not inherently any deadlier - in fact arguably much less - than many hunting rifles. But I think it's disingenous to say just because regulation is tricky, it can't be done. Why can't you start with high-capacity magazines? What's the utility of a 30-round magazine versus the risk to the people staring at the barrel of a gun that can fire 30 rounds in seconds? That's not part of big-game hunting. It's got utility by the military and at the gun range, which in my mind says that it's designed to kill people and to train to kill people. I also don't think that the right to own a gun means you have a right to own one at that second. The background checks need to be more thorough - at some points it's laughable. The 2nd ammendment says nothing about the process for obtaining a gun, just theat you have a right to own one. A recent New York Times piece laid out scenarios where people who had been involuntarily committed for mental illness had the ability to purchase guns. In many cases, state databases that would have that kind of background information aren't linked to the federal database used to screen you. That's negligent. That problem can and should be solved tomorrow. And Elf, I respect your position, but just because some rappers glorify gun toting, are you really going to claim that they have more influence than the NRA, a powerful lobby that promotes a business interest? .
Jason Massad December 21, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Which group created the loophole for no-wait gun shows? Which group lobbied for a pathway to get felons restored so they can own a gun? Etc. Before the Fast and Furious stuff, I Iived in Phoenix. The Arizona Republic - long before the issue was turned into a political football - had a great series of stories on how Mexican drug cartels systematically employed straw purchasers to go to Arizona gun shows and buy light and heavy arms. If I remember correctly, a homeless man purchased a .50 caliber in one day. The Mexican drug cartels came to the U.S. to buy their weaponry. That left a deep impression on me. The 2nd ammendment guarantees a right to own a gun. But there are some many examples of how some of the regulation to put them in the right. law-abiding hands is window dressing. Yet people's lives depend on it being done right
ELF December 21, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Hey Micheal: why dont you and your friends stop buying the guns and using them instead of blaming someone else? You know what the real problem is? The concept that staying in school, working hard, staying out of trouble and being respectful is 'acting white' or being a 'cornball brother'. That has more of a negative effect then guns, and it is a message put across by the very same 'artist' that line Kasim Reed's pockets: so he could go on to become Mayor. That being said: here is an analogy. Imagine yourself on an island, with 9 other people. You have 2 choices: would you rather have ONE gun, or 10? The option 'no guns' is not on the table. In the USA, the guns are 'here' just like on the island. So: those of you that sign on with Kasim and the other mayors: you like the first option. Good for you. You reap what you sow. Now, what we CAN do is regulate the 'guns' on the island. We can make sure nobody gets an RPG or a hand grenade, but a pistol or rifle, properly licensed and registered: I dont have a problem with that. Your milage may vary
ELF December 21, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Jason: with respect, look around. The majority of gun homicides occue in innercity areas, from young men with criminal records. Thats a stone cold fact. 'Thug Culture' has more of a dterimental effect on the same innercity youths then the NRA EVER could. Does the NRA encourage 'beatin down a snitch' or 'poppin a cap in a cops a$$'? No. So yes, I am saying this has waaaay more of a negative influence, and it should be obvious. My initial point is: Kasim Reed represented these very same acts and got paid to do so. He is welcome to his opinions and legislature, but I can point out it's hypocrisy. your milage may vary
donald December 21, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I just hope that Reed drove a street paver to the mailbox when he sent his letter.
Jason Massad December 21, 2012 at 10:09 PM
O.K., suppose you're correct. Your statement seems to assume that if "Thug Culture" - as you put it - didn't exist there would be no gun problems. The culture that glorifies it, in my opinion, comes after the reality of gun violence. There's predators in the world, and there are people who are protecting themselves from harm. I don't believe that people, in general, are carrying guns because they're cool. That's especially true in some cities where gun violence is an everyday reality.
Michael December 26, 2012 at 04:05 AM
There may be a so-called Thug culture but it is useless without the actual weapon and ammo. This culture you mention is actually perpetuated by the media in movies and tv everyday; not just rap music. By the time a child is 12 years old he's seen thousand of guns fired and people killed in media from video games to cartoons. I have personally seen shootouts and its nothing like television. BTW shootouts as they happen on TV are very rare. Most killing is premeditated. The point is that 1 gun is enough to kill someone and it doesn't matter the caliber or whatever. I saw someone taken out with a .22 pistol. If a man buys more than 1 or 2 guns he's probably going to sell them. They know the guns cost more in the ghetto so that's why we're targeted. The teeth in the law needs to start with gun and ammo sales not gun buying. Now it's like arresting drug addicts and allowing the dealers to run free.
Michael December 26, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Thugs might have the lead in individual gun related shootings but nobody can beat crazy white people in mass killings. Now who should be scared of whom?
Michael January 07, 2013 at 09:55 PM
#Seth, The incident on Ponce and Moreland was solved and someone named Shaheed, age 30, is in jail. It was probably over drugs. They are trying to crack down on pan-handlers but it's an ongoing effort considering they don't usually lock them up. I think they're given a ticket or a summons. Not sure. http://atlantadailyworld.com/index.php/adw-news/1697-police-arrest-suspect-in-daylight-ponce-de-leon-and-moreland-shooting

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