Berkshires' 2 city mayors back Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition

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North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard and Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer have expressed their commitment to principles endorsed by a collection of hundreds of mayors across the country in the wake of last weekend's massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

The two attacks left a combined 31 dead and more than 50 wounded, leaving the nation reeling anew from news of mass shootings.

In a joint statement, the mayors of the Berkshires' two cities announced their support for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.

Bernard expressed frustration with the pattern that has formed after a mass shooting unfolds.

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"Go back to Sandy Hook, Columbine — they spark outrage and entrenched conversations, then our focus shifts until the next outrageous incident," he told The Eagle. "We need to keep the conversation alive. We have an obligation to be part of that conversation. So I felt I needed to add my name and join my fellow mayors around the state and around the country."

"We understand that statements and legislative advocacy alone will not prevent gun violence or senseless tragedy," Tyer said in the release. "However, as leaders we have an obligation to our residents and our communities to be part of this ongoing and growing national movement to support commonsense strategies and laws that make it more difficult for those intent on pursing a course of violence to act on their deadliest impulses."

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The coalition is a nationwide, bipartisan group of more than 1,000 mayors, organized by the Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy movement, whose mission is to "respect the Second Amendment by doing much more than keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people," according to its website.

In addition to endorsing the coalition's pledge, Tyer and Bernard pointed to actions in their cities aimed at responding to and reducing threats of gun violence, including: building stronger relationships at the neighborhood and school levels through focused and intentional community policing programs, including participation in the annual National Night Out; deepening partnerships among police departments and community agencies such as the Elizabeth Freeman Center and the NAACP Berkshire County branch; expanding the use of data to inform decision-making and enforcement initiatives and joining Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington's Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force.

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"At a time when legal and illegal firearms are fueling incidents of domestic terrorism; when white nationalist and white supremacist rhetoric has become commonplace in the public sphere; when students in our cities peaceably assemble to insist that our schools must be both places of learning and safe havens; and when over half the female victims of intimate partner homicide in the United States are killed with a gun, we must speak with one voice against this epidemic of violence," Bernard said. "Together we can promote reasonable regulations that preserve individual rights while ensuring a strong and uncompromising commitment to public safety."

Everytown For Gun Safety is an advocacy group campaigning for ways to end gun violence. According to its website, it "is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives. But something is changing. Nearly 6 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners, students and everyday Americans have come together to make their own communities safer."

In closing, Tyer said: "Mayor Bernard and I extend our deepest condolences to every family, every friend, and every community that has suffered the heartbreak of gun violence tragedies. We walk with you every step of the way in this fight to protect our cities and towns."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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