Mayors demand congressional action to stem gun violence

Jan. 14, 2013 @ 05:59 PM

Mayors from Durham, Chapel Hill and Morrisville and the daughter of a professor slain in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre held a news conference at City Hall Monday, demanding action from President Obama and Congress to reduce gun violence.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell called on Congress to require every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check, to get military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets and to make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Bell spoke as part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun violence prevention advocacy organization with 800 mayors across the United States.

“As a country, we have known some of the solutions to minimizing gun violence for decades, but the Congress has repeatedly failed to take the necessary steps to protect our community,” Bell said. “And after the deaths of so many innocent children [last month in Newtown, Conn.], this time must be different.’’

The news conference was held on the one-month anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown, where a gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and as Obama in Washington endorsed a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines along with stronger background checks for gun buyers.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt called on the nation’s leaders “to honor the memories of those who have been killed and families that have been tragically affected by violence” by enacting the reforms cited by Bell.

“The mayors agree, gun owners agree and Americans agree that now is the time for Washington to create a plan to address gun violence in America,” he said.

Also speaking was Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe, who said the reforms won’t impinge on the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment’s protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

“This is not about ignoring those Second Amendment rights, but we do need decisive action by Congress, and we need it soon,” she said. “[The reform effort] needs to branch out from the mayors that are part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns to our constituents, to states across the United States, to towns large and small, so that we don’t have another tragedy that we look back on and say: ‘We should have acted.’ ”

One of the most poignant statements at the conference came from Uma Loganathan, whose father was fatally shot at the Virginia Tech massacre. Her father, G.V. Loganathan, was a civil engineering professor at the Blacksburg school who was teaching a class when the gunfire erupted, killing 32 people and wounding 17.

Since then, Loganathan said, she’s met people who were victimized by shootings in other parts of the country, including Columbine High School in Colorado (1999) and Newtown.

“Watching their suffering is horrendous,” she said. “I think that we as Americans are better than this.”

Loganathan said the gun reforms being sought are “common-sense measures” about gun safety.

“I can’t see how anybody would be opposed to just taking a little bit of responsibility when they own a firearm,” she said.

The mayors’ organization is rolling out a 30-second, national TV ad in which speakers, including Loganathan, say they’ve had enough of gun violence.

“It can happen to your child,” speakers in the ad say. “Enough. Enough. Tell the president and Congress that you demand a plan to reduce gun violence.”