By John Diedrich of the Journal Sentinel
March 7, 2011
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday called for doing more complete background checks on firearm buyers and instituting background checks on all sales of guns, whether they are new or used.
Joined by nearly two dozen people affected by gun violence, Barrett said the proposals - included in a bill recently introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) - would help keep guns from those already prohibited by law from having them.
Anne Delaney, a nurse at the city Health Department, recounted how she was making a visit in May 2009 on Milwaukee's north side when the house was sprayed with bullets. Delaney said she hit the floor while her pregnant patient did nothing, saying it was common.
Later, Delaney found one of the bullets had struck her car. A slug was lodged in the driver's seat headrest.
"If I had been in the car, that bullet could have hit me in the head," she said.
The mayor, Delaney and others spoke at a news conference to highlight a rolling billboard calling for the changes and saying 34 Americans are killed each day with guns, directing people to www.FixGunChecks.org.
The truck came through Milwaukee this week on its way across the country. It is sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group formed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Barrett is one of 550 mayors in the group.
The group's efforts have been criticized by some gun-rights groups. Last week, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms brought a similar sign truck to Milwaukee with the message, "Guns Save Lives."
In a news release, the group's chairman, Alan Gottlieb, said Bloomberg is trying to push a radical anti-gun agenda.
"Bloomberg's campaign is a smoke screen," he said.
Barrett said Monday that he supports the Second Amendment.
"This message is not about taking guns from law-abiding citizens," Barrett said.
Congress requires background checks on all sales at federal gun dealers. But no check is required when an individual sells a firearm privately, such as at a gun show.
Congress has prohibited certain people - felons, people convicted of domestic violence, drug users and those found to be mentally ill by a court - from buying or having guns. But not all of those records end up in the national background check databank, operated by the FBI.
For instance, Jared Loughner, the man accused in the Arizona shooting that killed six and wounded, among others, a member of Congress, was found to be a drug user in 2008 when he tried to enlist in the Army. But that record was not shared with the FBI.
In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on the campus of Virginia Tech. He was found by a judge to be mentally ill, but that record also was not shared with the FBI. States are now required to share information on people judged to be mentally ill by a court, but more than half the states are not complying, according to an Associated Press analysis last month.
Barrett called on Congress and President Barack Obama to support Schumer's bill. Obama has done little in the area of gun regulation, and it took him two years to nominate someone to lead the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That nomination is being blocked by gun-rights groups.
"We need leadership from the executive branch and the legislative branch," Barrett said.
The Journal Sentinel's "Wiped Clean" series has revealed how Congress has created special rules for gun stores that protect even the biggest sellers of guns to criminals.