Violence in the World:
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition: Working Together to Make Our Country Safer
April 16 marked the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, the terrible day when one student killed 32 people and then himself. The pain and shock of that tragedy echoed throughout our entire nation. But the saddest truth is, across the country about 34 Americans are murdered with guns every single day—and most of those guns were purchased illegally. Illegal guns are raising the level of violence in our cities, and more and more Americans are starting to ask: Why is it so easy for criminals to get their hands on guns? That’s certainly not what our forefathers had in mind when they drafted the Second Amendment.
Despite these grim realities, we have reason to feel hope. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition that I founded with Boston Mayor Tom Menino two years ago is gaining momentum. Our membership has expanded to include more than 320 mayors who represent more than 55 million Americans. Recently, we met in Washington D.C. for our second national summit. It was a productive conference, capped by a groundbreaking agreement with Wal-Mart, the largest seller of firearms in the nation.
Wal-Mart has joined with our coalition of mayors to create “The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership”: a 10-point code to help ensure that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands. This pioneering set of guidelines includes running background checks for employees to make sure that the people selling guns aren’t criminals… videotaping sales to deter illegal purchases…and creating logs to alert salespeople of customers with suspicious sales histories. As the biggest private employer in the world and the biggest gun-seller in America, Wal-Mart has set a new standard for gun retailers across the country. We want all law-abiding citizens who purchase guns to ask: Does this dealer follow the responsible firearm standard? And if not, why not?
Although we still have a ways to go in the fight against illegal guns, this agreement was a big win for safe streets and for our democracy. It showed that we don’t have to wait for Congress to act to effect real change. In the absence of national leadership, private businesses are teaming up with local law enforcement to give the American people what we want: stronger protections…safer streets…and the freedom to send our kids off to school without fearing for their security.
This is my vision for cities like New York. It’s one shared by many Americans—and I hope by our three presidential candidates, too. Recently we unveiled a TV commercial—now airing nationwide—that features past statements from all three candidates in support of closing the “gun show loophole.” This loophole allows people to sell guns at shows without performing background checks. The candidates all say they want to close the loophole—and you can see that for yourselves by watching the commercial on our website atwww.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org.
Now we need our leaders to back up their words with actions, because the gun show sales are just part of the problem. We also need a law that prohibits anyone on the terrorist watch list from purchasing a gun. This should be a no-brainer! But in Washington, it isn’t. That’s why in the weeks and months ahead our coalition will continue pushing Congress to act.
As New Yorkers, even though we live in the safest big city in the nation, we understand the tragic consequences of gun violence. We shared the grief felt by the Virginia Tech community last year, and they’ll be in our prayers again this weekend, during what is a very sacred time for our city. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers gathered in Yankee Stadium for an historic mass led by Pope Benedict. At the same time, nearly two million Jewish New Yorkers observed the festival of Passover. This was a perfect occasion to celebrate our religious freedoms, count our blessings, and rededicate ourselves to making New York an even better, safer, and more tolerant city.#