Our Opinion: Mayors won't give up, neither can voters
When gun violence erupts in a community, as it did last weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, the mayors of those communities are on the front lines. They deal with the immediate aftermath of the incidents and then the long-term healing of their communities.
Not surprisingly, more than 1,000 American mayors are members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a group that crosses the usual hardened party lines to find ways to rid communities of gun violence. In the wake of the weekend shootings that left 31 dead, Berkshire County's two mayors — Linda Tyer of Pittsfield and Thomas Bernard of North Adams — issued a joint statement deploring the violence and supporting the gun reform efforts of mayors across the country (Eagle, August 8.)
Both mayors benefit from tough Massachusetts gun laws that have helped the state rank in a second place tie with neighboring New York for the lowest death rate by guns according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mayors Tyer and Bernard also noted in their statement that their communities have addressed the issue of gun violence in a variety of ways, including partnerships between police departments and neighborhood agencies and increased prevention efforts in the schools.
These efforts are of great value, but because of the ease in which guns can be transported across state lines a concerted national effort to confront gun violence is necessary. This has not happened, in part because the numbing regularity of gun massacres and the refusal of congressional Republicans to address them has created a sense of hopelessness among Americans.
"Go back to Sandy Hook, Columbine — they spark outrage and entrenched conversations, then our focus shifts until the next outrageous incident," said Mayor Bernard to The Eagle. "The nation cannot shift its focus away from the deadly shootings in Dayton and El Paso and the need for action in response.
In recent days, President Trump has raised the possibility of instituting background checks for gun purchasers. This is supported by as many 90 percent of Americans in polls and would pose no threat to the Second Amendment or to lawful gun owners. The National Rifle Association predictably expressed concern, prompting the president to say Friday that he had assured NRA leaders that their interests will be "fully respected and represented" in any dialogue. That will undoubtedly be the case in a nation's capitol that has long grovelled before the NRA. It is the interests of a majority of Americans that their interests be fully respected and represented.
But background checks are only a part of the solution. There must be a ban on the assault weapons that enable gunmen to kill dozens in a matter of minutes or seconds. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted Wednesday found that 74 percent of Americans support such a ban, including 55 percent of Republicans.
There was similar talk, of course, about major gun reform following the massacre of children seven years ago in Newtown, Connecticut, but nothing happened. It is easy but counterproductive to give in to cynicism. Through organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, which organized the mayor's coalition, Americans sickened by gun violence can demand that their elected representatives follow the will of the majority and pass common sense measures to reduce gun mayhem. Ideally, before the next massacre.
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