Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 11, 2000

CONTACT:
Tony Iallonardo
Phone (202) 293-7330
Pager (202) 241-0244

On Eve of Million Mom March Mayors Bring "Wall of Gun Deaths" to the Capitol, Plead for Gun Safety Legislation

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Donna Dees-Thomases, founder of the Million Mom March gathered on the National Mall before the west front of the U.S. Capitol today to remind Congress that gun deaths continue to mount across the nation and plead for House and Senate action that could help stem the violence. Mayors presented a "Wall of Gun Deaths", a 54-foot long and 12.5-foot high memorial listing the names of 4,0001 victims of gun violence, and pledged their full support of the Million Mom March, occurring Mothers' Day Sunday, March 14 in Washington.

Discussing the upcoming march, Dees-Thomases stated, "For too long we have ignored the gun violence epidemic because it was always in somebody else's backyard. We cannot afford to ignore it any longer because our children's lives are far too precious. That is why this Sunday, we moms will gather here in our nation's capital and 67 other cities across the country to demand sensible gun laws."

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams pledged his full support for the march, and recalled a recent shooting in his own city that drew national attention. "Last month's shooting at the National Zoo was a wake-up call for this city. As unthinkable as gun violence is in our National Zoo, it has happened all too often out here in our neighborhoods," said Mayor Williams. "In the last five years, even though homicides have declined overall, we have still lost more than 1,200 people to the scourge of gun violence. More than 150 of them have been young people. I am very proud to stand with our nation's mothers and mayors today to say enough is enough. It's time to get guns off our streets and out of the hands of young people."

Gary Mayor Scott King, whose nephew Blake, was killed by gun violence in the last year, said, "Of course, the victims of guns don't just include the dead, but their families and friends as well. The dead have been buried, but if we can prevent further deaths, then those deaths will not have been in vain."

The report, titled "The Death Toll Since Columbine," documents the day-to-day experience of 100 U.S. cities in which 4,001 persons are known to have died as a result of gun violence in the 11 months following the Columbine incident. It is a report on the individual fatalities produced by this gun violence, based on the cities' responses to a series of requests for information by the Conference. The cities included in the report were drawn from the 50 largest in the U.S., from those represented in the leadership of the Conference of Mayors, and from those submitting information for earlier Conference reports on gun violence.

Other findings:

  • Of the 100 cities, only eight had no gun violence fatalities between April 20, 1999 and March 20, 2000.
  • Of the 92 cities which had fatal shootings, the report lists, by date, the name and age of each victim - except where city or police department policy does not permit the release of this information, or where the victim could not be identified or the victim's age determined.
  • For 62 of the cities, the report also includes brief descriptions of the circumstances surrounding a selected shooting incident.
  • Of the 92 cities reporting fatalities, there are no days during the reporting period that are free of firearms deaths.
  • Of the 3,852 victims for whom ages are known, eight percent are juveniles, 17 years of age and under.
  • Young adults, 18 to 25 years of age, account for 35 percent of the total fatalities.
  • The youngest victims in the report are just two years old; the oldest victim is 97.
  • The 100 cities surveyed in the report range in size from Chicago, which has a population of more than 2,720,000, to Bedford Heights, Ohio, with a population of about 11,800.

In a prepared statement, Denver Mayor and Conference President Wellington E. Webb said of the survey's findings, "The grim results of this survey show that until action is taken, the death toll will simply grow and grow. I'm pleased with the work of moms and mayors in the year since Columbine to deglorify violence in our neighborhoods, but I'm also frustrated that Congress has not budged. I hope some of the holdouts in Congress will pause before this massive "Wall of Gun Deaths", where perhaps they will see a familiar name from their hometown, and I hope it causes them to rethink their position."

For more than 30 years, the Conference of Mayors has actively supported comprehensive efforts to reduce gun violence and the illegal trafficking of weapons. Long before the Columbine tragedy, the mayors had been focusing on the issue of school violence and had identified the need for constructive after-school opportunities as a top priority. In 1998, the Conference developed A National Action Plan on School Violence and Kids from 2:00 to 8:00 PM. That plan, presented to President Clinton and the Congress in October of that year, included a strong call for Congressional action on gun safety.

In 1999, the Conference declared September 9 as "Gun Safety Day," a day designed to focus national attention on the importance of keeping guns away from kids and criminals. Then, the Conference presented the results of its first post-Columbine report on gun-related deaths - 556 victims in 44 cities - to underscore the need for legislative action. On January 27 of this year, during the Conference's Winter Meeting in Washington, the mayors unveiled a wall identifying nearly 3,100 victims of gun violence from April 20 until the end of 1999 in 100 cities. For each day following the Columbine incident it listed the name and age of each person killed with a firearm - a dramatic illustration of the magnitude of the problem. The latest survey was released April 18 by Mayor Webb on NBC's Today Show.

Mayors will continue to update the wall and display it nationwide until Congress takes meaningful action. The Senate last year passed gun safety measures that would close existing legal loopholes and offer greater protections for children. Mayors - both Democrats and Republicans - appealed to the House to accept these measures in its conference with the Senate. This did not happen, however, and Congress adjourned in November having taken no action on gun safety. Since the return of Congress in January the situation has not changed. In fact, the Congressional leadership has not yet allowed the House-Senate conference committee to meet on the legislation. Despite this Congressional inaction, mayors continue their bipartisan appeal for legislation that will reduce the gun violence death toll throughout the nation - an appeal grounded in the certainty that it is what the American people want, and what they deserve to receive, from their elected representatives in Washington.

Commenting on the void of Congressional leadership, Conference executive director J. Thomas Cochran said, "I hope this year, when members of Congress call their moms on Mothers' Day, they'll ask whether the House and Senate should pass sensible gun safety legislation. I believe if Congress listens to the advice of their moms, we'll see action in very short order.

The full report, "The Death Toll Since Columbine" can be viewed at the Conference's web site, www.usmayors.org. More information on the Million Mom March can be accessed at www.millionmommarch.com.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are about 1,100 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

Million Mom March Mothers' Day 2000 is dedicated to the mission of educating our children and our country about the life-threatening danger of guns.

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