September 26, 2006Mayors From Across Pennsylvania, and Trenton NJ Mayor Palmer Join in Lobbying the General Assembly for Tougher Gun Laws to Curb Flow of Illegal Guns In and Out of Pennsylvania
Five months after hosting the first Mayors’ Summit on Illegal Guns at Gracie Mansion and fulfilling a promise made in his January State of the City address, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to join Philadelphia Mayor John Street and other mayors from the state to call on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to toughen state gun laws and increase penalties for gun offenders. Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Street were joined by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski; Reading Mayor Thomas McMahon; Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan; York Mayor John Brenner; Scranton Mayor Christopher Doherty; Lancanster Mayor Rick Gray; Williamsport Mary B. Wolf; and Trenton, New Jersey Douglas Palmer. While in the Pennsylvania state capital, the Mayors met with both Senate Democratic and Senate Republican leadership to discuss the impact of illegal guns on their cities. The mayors in attendance today also had the opportunity to sign the Statement of Principles developed during the April Mayors’ Summit.
“The fight against illegal guns cannot be waged from behind state lines,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Nearly 90 percent of the guns used in crimes in New York City come from out-of-state, and many come from Pennsylvania. That’s why, when Mayor Street asked me to join him and other Pennsylvania Mayors today in Harrisburg to press for tougher laws against illegal guns, I didn’t hesitate. I’m proud to stand with a bi-partisan group of mayors who have made public safety their number one priority. We mayors are the ones who are charged with protecting the safety of our residents and police officers. We mayors are also the ones who are called to the hospital when a police officer is murdered with an illegal gun. This is not a question of ideology or a referendum on the Second Amendment. It’s about protecting our citizens and making sure that illegal guns never find their way into the hands of criminals and onto our city streets. By working together – today and in the future – we can make our cities safer places to live and work.”
“This year 30,000 Americans will be killed not by terrorists or the Iraq War, but as a result of an epidemic of gun violence in our nation,” said Mayor Street. “These deaths from guns affect every city and every state, rural, suburban, east and west. They diminish us all and they are an alarm we must answer. That is why we're here today – to petition the General Assembly to provide more tools for our police and our communities to keep them safe from the problems of guns and violence. As we continue to enhance our policing efforts, we need stronger gun laws and more funding for prevention programs which are critical parts of any comprehensive crime reduction effort.”
Mayor Bloomberg’s Illegal Gun Agenda
Mayor Bloomberg has made stopping the flow of illegal guns an important priority in his second term. To that end, he is using a comprehensive three-pronged strategy: tougher enforcement, new legislation and innovative litigation to combat illegal guns.
In July, the Mayor signed four bills into law that include tough new measures that will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals; prevent under-the-table sales and require those convicted of a gun crime to check in with the NYPD after they have been released from prison; and ban real guns from being painted to look like toy guns. In June, at the Mayor’s urging, the State Legislature increased the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal possession of a loaded handgun to 3 ½ years, and eliminated the loophole that allowed judges far too much discretion in sentencing – changes the Mayor had called for in his State of the City Address last January.
Other enforcement efforts include creating specialized Gun Courts, which have resulted in longer sentences for gun offenders, working to introduce gun shot detection cameras that will discourage the use and possession of illegal guns, and establishing a “debriefing” protocol for every felony gun defendant, which is helping law enforcement agencies learn more about the identities of gun traffickers.
The Mayor is also fighting federal legislation that would protect irresponsible gun dealers by limiting access to trace data and barring its introduction in civil suits like this one, preventing law enforcement agencies from holding gun dealers fully accountable. The mayor is also opposing legislation that would make it harder for the ATF to revoke the licenses of rogue dealers.
Recognizing that illegal guns are a national problem requiring national leadership, Mayor Bloomberg, together with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, last April hosted a Mayors’ Summit on Illegal Guns that was attended by more than a dozen mayors from across the nation, from Seattle to Dallas to Philadelphia. The nonpartisan group of mayors discussed cutting-edge policing and legal strategies, identified opportunities for greater coordination in combating the flow of illegal guns, and signed a statement of principles to guide their efforts going forward. In June, the Mayor announced that more mayors from across the country had joined in this effort, and now the total number of mayors in the coalition is more than 80.
Stu Loeser/Virginia Lam