Mayors on target on gun regulations

Jan. 15, 2013 @ 02:55 PM

Like many urban areas, Durham is no stranger to gun violence. Already in this young year, we’ve seen two lives cut short by firearms.

We have been spared any tragedy even close to the magnitude of what happened last month in Newtown, Conn., or last summer in Aurora, Col. But gunfire is too common on our streets.

So it is no surprise that Mayor Bill Bell, a tireless crusader for a safer Durham, spoke out Monday as part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, joining some 800 mayors across the country in a call for stiffer measures to tamp down gun violence.

With President Barack Obama also on Monday promising to submit a comprehensive federal plan for curbing gun violence within days, Bell and his fellow mayors made their key objectives known.

They would require every gun buyer to pass criminal background checks – a step now evaded in the nearly half of gun purchases at gun shows or between private individuals. The ban on military-style assault weapons, which Congress failed to renew in 2004 after a 10-year run, would be reinstated. High-capacity magazines that allow deranged shooters to spray more deadly rounds before reloading would be banned.

Those are sensible limitations that do nothing to interfere with the right to own guns for legitimate reasons such as hunting, sport shooting or self-protection.  Nothing in these regulations should prompt the frenzied fear of a government seizure of guns, the sort of fear that is driving folks to seek gun permits and purchase guns in record or near-record numbers here and across the nation.

Those measures are supported generally by law-enforcement officers around the country – a group which, along with mayors, fully understands the challenge of coping with a gun-saturated culture and which knows at any moment their city could be the scene of the next tragic outburst.

“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, this time must be different.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt echoed Bell’s words at a Durham City Hall press conference.

“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.

We add our voice to that of the top elected officials in Durham and Chapel Hill. The time for action is now.