In the wake of the Colarodo theater shootings, Mayor Scott Jackson announced Friday that he has joined Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Menino, the Co-Chairs of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, in signing a letter regarding illegal guns and related issues that is addressed to President Barack Obama and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In the letter, the mayors advocate for the passage of laws that mandate background checks for firearm sales that take place at gun shows and over the Internet, which currently aren't required and prohibit felons and others deemed dangerous from purchasing high-capacity magazines.
They also want laws in four southern state mandating the reporting of bulk assault rifle sales extended to the entire country and include sales made within five days of each other, and calls for stricter monitoring of the sale of amunition.
The letter reads as follows:
Dear President Obama and Governor Romney,
The mass shooting that left twelve dead and scores injured in Colorado last week was yet another example of the high cost of gun violence. But it was hardly unusual. Unless Washington takes action, 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during the next president’s term – 34 every day.
In the past week, more than 700 Mayors Against Illegal Guns and survivors of other shooting tragedies have asked both of you to offer a detailed plan to reduce the daily toll of gun violence. Our coalition urges you to explain how you will keep the public safe while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners if you are elected president in November.
In particular, we ask you to consider the following common-sense reforms.
- Improve efforts to get records of prohibited gun purchasers into the background check database: NICS has blocked more than 1.9 million prohibited purchasers from buying illegal guns. But the database is missing millions of records of individuals who are prohibited from owning firearms because of serious mental illness or drug use, including the alleged Tucson shooter. The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R.1781/S.436) would create incentives for states to complete their reporting and hold federal agencies accountable for failing to share their records with NICS. A 2011 survey conducted by a partnership of Republican and Democratic pollsters for Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 90 percent of Americans and 90 percent of gun owners support closing these gaps.
- Close the private sale loophole by requiring a background check for every sale: Millions of gun sales — approximately 40 percent of the U.S. annual total — are conducted through unlicensed sellers at gun shows, over the Internet or elsewhere and are therefore not subject to a federal background check. The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R.1781/S.436) would close this loophole by requiring that prospective gun buyers be given a background check. This measure enjoys broad public approval, including the support of 74 percent of NRA members, according to a May 2012 survey conducted for Mayors Against Illegal Guns by Frank Luntz.
- Block criminals, the seriously mentally ill and other prohibited gun purchasers from acquiring high-capacity ammunition magazines: Federal law prohibits felons and other dangerous people from buying guns or ammunition, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was designed to block these buyers at the point of purchase. But a gap in the law allows them to purchase high-capacity magazines that allow a shooter to fire hundreds of rounds in a matter of minutes – including the killers at Virginia Tech, Tucson and Aurora. The federal government should bar individuals who have been deemed too dangerous to own guns or ammunition from buying magazines that hold more than ten rounds, and enforce that law by requiring sellers to conduct background checks before selling these magazines.
- Restore oversight of ammunition sales: While it is now a felony for criminals and other prohibited gun purchasers to buy ammunition, there is no way to monitor these sales. Prior to 1986, ammunition sellers had to keep basic sales records, but the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (Pub. L. No. 99-308) repealed that measure among others. In the meantime, ordinances requiring sellers to keep sales logs in Sacramento and Los Angeles have enabled police to identify and arrest hundreds of criminals. In addition, Wal-Mart – the nation’s largest firearms retailer – keeps records of these transactions voluntarily. This common-sense public safety measure should be restored to federal law.
- Track bulk sales of assault weapons: Last year, at the urging of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) issued new rules requiring dealers in the four southwest border states to report bulk sales of assault rifles. In the first eight months of the program, these reports lead to the prosecution of more than 100 defendants. Similar reports for bulk sales of handguns lead to 300 criminal investigations involving more than 25,000 illegal handguns in just one year. The administration should extend this program to all fifty states and require dealers to report when they sell more than one assault rifle or at least one assault rifle and one handgun within five business days to the same buyer.
- 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, despite the fact that, according to a study funded by the Justice Department, people are 28 percent more likely to be arrested in the five years following their failed background check than they had been in the five years before it. 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.
- Create a special ATF unit to investigate trafficking crimes conducted online: Thousands of websites now host a flourishing trade in firearms and ammunition, and a recent New York City investigation found 25,000 guns for sale on just ten of them. Many online guns sales occur anonymously and without background checks. An investigation by the City of New York revealed that 62 percent of private online sellers were willing to sell guns to someone who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check – a federal felony. The ATF should create an Internet trafficking unit with the necessary expertise and capacity to monitor and interdict internet gun crime.
In the past few weeks, the American people came together to extend condolences to the survivors and the families of those we lost in Aurora. But we need more than a moment of silence to save innocent lives. We need leadership – and we need it to come from the White House. We urge you to outline a concrete plan to reduce gun violence and incorporate it into your campaign platform.