||FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2007
BI-PARTISAN COALITION OF MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS HOLDS NATIONAL SUMMIT IN WASHINGTON, DC
Ending Federal Restrictions on Trace Data Will Be Mayors' Highest Priority
Led by Congressmen Rangel, Conyers, King and Kirk, a Bi-Partisan Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns is Created in Response to Outcry by Mayors
New Polling Data Shows Strong Majority Support - Including Among Gun Owners - For Mayors' Agenda
Presentations to Mayors Include the American Hunters and Shooters Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition (MAIG) held its first National Summit today in Washington, DC, attended by over 50 mayors from around the country. The bi-partisan coalition met to discuss the issue of illegal guns plaguing American cities. Building on the Statement of Principles developed at the first Summit held in April 2006 in New York City, the mayors today discussed the importance of gun trace data, joint lobbying against harmful federal legislation, cutting-edge policing strategies, and the unique initiatives being undertaken by mayors across the country on this issue. The Mayors today also announced that a bi-partisan Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns is being created - led by Congressmen Charles Rangel (D-NY), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Peter King (R-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). The Task Force will work to enact common sense measures to stem the flow of illegal guns and provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to combat illegal guns. Their top priority is opposing the Tiahrt amendment, which restricts cities access to, and use of, gun trace data. Today's Summit kicks-off the Coalition's first full calendar year of work together - and the first-ever coordinated, national effort to convince Congress to take ideology out of law enforcement.
"Our coalition has refused to fall into the same old trap that this is an either/or issue - either respect the rights of gun owners, or keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The fact is, respecting the rights of gun owners while cracking down on illegal guns are completely compatible goals - and we are committed to both. The fight against illegal guns reaches beyond the borders of any single city or state. It's our hope that our partners in the new Congressional Task Force will help get Congress to move forward and support common sense measures that empower - not hinder - law enforcement and the efforts of these mayors to protect their residents."
"Illegal gun violence is an epidemic sweeping across this country, causing senseless tragedy every day," said Mayor Menino. "As mayors, we are united by a common mission to save lives and make our cities safe. We have a shared responsibility to effect change and close the loopholes to prevent the sale of illegal guns. As mayors, it is our job to solve problems because city government affords citizens their first line of defense - but we can't do it alone. Mayors need partners and that is why we are here today - to work with Congress in a bipartisan way to address the issue of illegal guns. We are announcing a new Congressional Task Force that, together, will continue to strengthen this important partnership and get the illegal guns off our streets."
Bi-Partisan Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns
Building on the efforts of the bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, four leading members of the U.S. House of Representatives today announced the formation of a bi-partisan House Task Force on Illegal Guns, which will help mayors and law enforcement officials make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. The Task Force will be co-chaired by Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Chair of Ways and Means Committee; John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary; Peter T. King (R-NY), ranking minority member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and Mark S. Kirk (R-IL), a member of the Appropriations Committee.
The Task Force will work closely with the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as well as with law enforcement representatives across the country, to ensure that cities have the tools and resources they need to keep their citizens safe, and to support the Mayors' highest legislative priority: eliminating federal restrictions on access to, and use of, gun "trace data." Guns used in crimes are traced to determine when, where, and by whom they were purchased, information that is essential to cracking down on illegal traffickers. The members of the Task Force will help shine a spotlight on this issue and work with their colleagues to address it, as well as to explore other legislative proposals that have broad bi-partisan support among Americans, and which would also help keep guns out of the hands of criminals, including tougher penalties for gun traffickers. In addition, the Task Force will work to ensure that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) has the resources and flexibility it needs to carry out its mission effectively.
Federal Legislative Agenda
During the Summit, mayors heard presentations regarding increased federal restrictions to gun trace data from Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. Commissioner Kelly previously oversaw the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as Under Secretary for Enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department. Each discussed the importance of trace data for law enforcement agencies in identifying illegal gun traffickers and buyers, and the impact on cities of recent restrictions that Congress has placed on trace data, commonly known as the "Tiahrt Amendment." Since FY 2003, the Tiahrt Amendment has been attached to House appropriations bills and with each year, the restrictions have increased - limiting the ability of the BATFE to release trace data information and preventing local municipalities from using this data in any civil and administrative actions, such as license revocations.
Chief Joseph C. Carter, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Chief of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police Department, made a presentation to the Mayors on why their group has opposed recent efforts by Congress to restrict law enforcement's ability to enforce laws against gun traffickers. Founded in 1893, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has nearly 20,000 members. Other issues that were discussed included increasing penalties for gun trafficking.
Presentation from the American Hunters and Shooters Association
The mayors also heard a presentation from Ray Schoenke, President of the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), who discussed the attitudes and beliefs of gun owners, and how they are compatible with the common sense approach to illegal gun enforcement that the coalition is taking. Schoenke also discussed why these attitudes and beliefs are rarely given voice on Capitol Hill - and how that can change.
"The American Hunters and Shooters Association believes hunters and shooters can join together with federal, state and local policy makers to address the problem of urban gun crime without compromising away our rights," said AHSA President Schoenke. "By taking an honest straight forward approach we can and will work with our nation's mayors to find solutions that will keep guns out of the wrong hands and punish lawbreakers, while at the same time standing firm in defense of the Second Amendment."
National Opinion Polling
The mayors also heard the results of a new, bipartisan national poll that shows strong support for tougher enforcement of existing gun laws and common sense provisions to prevent and solve crimes, including access to and use of trace data from gun sales. The data was presented by pollsters Alan Quinlan and Michael Bocian of the firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which works primarily with Democratic clients, and pollster Brian Nienaber of The Tarrance Group, which works primarily with Republican clients. The poll, conducted from January 10 to 15, surveyed 803 Americans and has a margin of error of approximately 3.5% with a 95% confidence level.
The poll found that gun violence is a top concern to the public when compared to other issues. Fifty-eight percent of Americans are very concerned about gun violence, compared with 56% that were very concerned about the quality of public schools and 47% about illegal immigration. The poll also showed that 82 percent of Americans favor either tougher enforcement of existing laws or tough new laws - while only 14 percent of Americans think that we have too many gun laws and that some should be repealed. Further, Americans oppose restrictions on gun trace data that prevent police departments from sharing information and cities from using that information to hold gun dealers accountable for following the law. When the Tiahrt Amendment is explained to Americans and they hear arguments for and against it, they overwhelmingly conclude that police should be able to use and share trace data to prevent and solve crime. This support is broad, including large majorities of gun owners (87 percent favor), big city residents (91 percent) and rural residents (87 percent), Democrats (93 percent) and Republicans (89 percent).
The nationwide poll also found overwhelming support - among both gun owners and non-gun owners - for additional common sense measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals; more than eight-in-ten Americans favor prohibiting sex offenders, those convicted of illegal gun possession, and those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns, and support for ballistic fingerprinting - which helps police trace crime guns when no weapon is recovered - is also very strong.
Best Practices Presentation from Mayors
During the Summit, the mayors from Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago and Seattle also presented "best practices" from their cities, detailing innovative initiatives developed in their cities to combat the flow of illegal guns and curb gun violence. These presentations offered an opportunity for the mayors to exchange ideas and discuss what strategies have been successful and what combination of practices may better suit different types of cities in different regions of the country.
For example, Seattle has one of the lowest violent crime rates of any major city in the country, but 64% of Seattle's 31 homicides last year involved firearms. Seattle is urging state lawmakers to close the gun show loophole, and it has also undertaken an ongoing effort to assemble crime gun information to identify dealers engaged in illegal gun transactions and those who purchase guns and then sell them illegally to convicted felons and other ineligible persons.
Under Mayor Daley, Chicago has led the nation in the confiscation of handguns, seizing and destroying an average of more than 10,000 a year. In 2006, Chicago Police confiscated more than 12,000 illegal guns. Within the last two years, Chicago has also installed 215 gunshot-detection cameras near crime hot spots and open-air drug markets, and will install 100 more this year. The cameras can be controlled from a remote location and feature directional software that helps pinpoint the street location of a crime. Mayor Daley has also spearheaded Project Safe Neighborhoods, a joint program between the Chicago Police Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office aimed at armed career criminals. The program prosecutes repeat gun offenders in the federal courts, which impose tougher sentences than Illinois state courts.
"Last year, Chicago's crime rate went down 3 percent, while the national rate increased 3 percent," said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. "One of the reasons for our success is that our police continue to lead the nation in removing illegal guns from the streets. Last year they confiscated more than 12,000, and every time we seize an illegal gun, we reduce the probability that someone will be killed, injured or robbed at gunpoint. It's important for mayors to share strategies on getting illegal guns off the street so we can continue to make our children and our neighborhoods safer."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett works directly with local gun dealers to change their sales practices. Mayor Barrett is particularly aggressive when it comes to straw purchases and closing the loophole that allows handguns to end up in the hands of minors. One gun dealer in the Milwaukee area is now undertaking additional background checks on certain transactions not covered by state law and has implemented a high-tech security system which captures information that is then shared with local and federal law enforcement.
"As Mayors, we are on the front lines," said Mayor Barrett. "We have to look in the eyes of the mothers who lose their young sons in a heated argument with some thug who thinks nothing of carrying and using a handgun to solve a problem. We have to answer to the neighbors who are nervous to sit on their front porches because of the threat of a drive-by shooting. We can do many things, but until we stop the flow of illegal guns in our cities, we will not be able to successfully address the violence."
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin led a discussion of the coalition's priorities. "As a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, I am proud to join the other mayors from around the country since we all face similar challenges when it comes to illegal guns and we can all learn from each other ways to effectively combat them," said Mayor Franklin. "This Coalition is more than studying the statistics; it is about strengthening enforcement efforts at home and strengthening advocacy and active lobbying efforts both here in Washington D.C. and in our state capitals."
About the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition
After the April 2006 Summit, the original group of 15 mayors pledged to enlist up to 50 mayors from around the country and reconvene a meeting of mayors at the year's end. By early June 2006, 52 mayors had already joined the coalition and today, there are 123 mayors from 44 states and the District of Columbia in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. In October 2006, Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Menino announced the launch of the Coalition's website, www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org, fulfilling a pledge from the first Summit to create an information sharing resource. During the fall, the Coalition held regional conferences in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago designed to encourage a dialogue among regional senior city officials and improve inter-city coordination in the fight against illegal guns. These conferences were designed to lead into the January 2007 Summit.
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