Bipartisan group of local leaders, NLC sends letter to Congress calling for gun safety legislation
In the wake of several gruesome mass shootings, lawmakers in Washington, DC are locked in a familiar debate over gun safety legislation. On Wednesday, survivors and victims of gun violence testified about their experiences before Congress, calling on lawmakers to take action.
“I don’t want this to happen again,” Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grade student at Robb Elementary School and survivor of the Uvalde, Texas tragedy last month, said in a pre-recorded video for lawmakers. Cerrillo said she hid when the shooting began and called 911 after a teacher was killed in front of her.
The most recent shootings have reignited a conversation about gun safety measures to prevent mass shootings that began with the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Speaking recently at the annual meeting of the Conference of mayors of the United States, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed a sense of helplessness. administrators feel there is little local governments can do to quell gun violence.
“If there was a magic solution to this problem, we would all have committed to it already,” she said at a press conference before the start of the weekend’s event. Universally, advocacy organizations representing local administrators have called on the federal government to take action on gun safety measures.
On Wednesday, the National League of Cities (NLC) sent Congress a letter signed by more than 500 mayors, council members and other local elected officials from every jurisdiction in the United States, calling for accelerated action on “tougher laws who keep guns out of the hands of the violent individuals and support stronger mental health systems,” according to a statement from the advocacy organization. “Local leaders see firsthand the horrific effects of gun violence on their residents. They attend funerals and wakes, mourn with community members, and have worked to enact policies and programs to prevent future tragedies. While action at the local level is important, federal action is also needed and long overdue.
Signatories included Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Among other measures, the letter calls for a crackdown on the illegal sale and distribution of firearms; a mandatory 30-day waiting period after purchasing a gun so that local police departments can perform mental health and criminal background checks; and a ban on all semi-automatic and automatic “assault weapons”.
The letter also calls for the passage of red flag laws or the power to remove weapons from someone who is considered a risk to themselves and others. Other actions include stricter background check laws, increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control for targeted violence reduction measures, improved access to physical and mental health care, and the creation of a “national commission comprised of federal, state, and local officials, gun rights advocates, survivors of gun violence, law enforcement and medical and mental health providers to recommend solutions to reduce gun violence in the United States,” the statement read.
Beyond Federal Actionthere are steps local administrators can take, according to the Center for American Progress, which bills itself as an independent policy institute.
“We simply cannot continue to live under the daily threat of gun violence,” said Eugenio Weigend Vargas, director of gun violence prevention at the center, noting that gun prevalence and violence are intrinsically linked. “Gun violence – not criminal justice reform – has been the main driver of rising crime rates. If policymakers are serious about ending crime, gun violence prevention laws must be high on their agenda. »
According to an analysis conducted by Weigend Vargas, homicides increased by 28% nationally from 2019 to 2020. This increase was driven by a “dramatic increase in firearm-related homicides”. Firearm homicides increased by 35% in 2020; eight out of 10 homicides that same year were committed with a firearm. Another concerning statistic is that firearms continue to be the leading cause of death among children and teens, overtaking vehicles in 2019.
In the face of these troubling data, cities and counties can target the root causes of gun violence through trauma-informed and racially equitable community approaches, such as street outreach programs (which allow respected members of the community to stop the violence before it happens). Organizations can also improve data collection, protect survivors of domestic violence, partner with schools, establish gun violence prevention offices, and provide facilities where veterans and others can temporarily store their firearms if they are in a state of crisis.
“Each year, thousands of veterans lose their lives in firearm suicides. It is crucial to establish areas where they can safely store their firearms in the event of a crisis,” a statement from the Center for American Progress.