Conference President Responds to Tragic Shootings in Michigan, Pennsylvania; Calls for Immediate Congressional Action
Statement of The Honorable Wellington E. Webb, Mayor of Denver and President, The United States Conference of Mayors
I believe that the school shooting in Michigan and yesterday's shooting in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania all too clearly demonstrates the crisis that America faces with respect to the proliferation of guns on our streets, and the needless victims of gun violence in our communities. A six-year old child brings a gun into a first grade classroom, and fatally wounds another six-year old child. Twenty four hours later, a man sets fire to his apartment, fatally wounds two people and injures three others before taking hostages.
As a nation, we must question whether guns are too easily available to the general public. We must question whether gun manufacturers must be held accountable, and required to sell gun locks with every gun sold--or better still, build technology into their products which would prevent anyone but the owner of a weapon from firing it. We know the technology exists. The fundamental question has become quite simply this: at what point will we decide as a nation that another child must not die because of our national inaction on gun violence?
To focus national attention on the need for federal action on gun violence, The United States Conference of Mayors created a memorial Wall listing the names men, women and children in cities who have died as a result of gun violence between April 20 and December 31, 1999. April 20, 1999, of course, marked a tragic chapter in our nation's history: the date of the school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, that claimed fifteen lives, and forever changed the lives of countless others.
We first presented the Wall on January 27, 2000 in Washington, DC, during the Winter Meeting of the Conference of Mayors, and again on February 14 in Denver, Colorado. The Wall currently lists 3,094 names, compiled from 100 cities across the nation, of persons who have died as a result of gun violence.
The Wall, to those who have seen it, represents a living, growing reminder not only of lost lives, but lost opportunities by our national leaders to prevent needless deaths. Despite clear and overwhelming public support for increased gun safety measures in this nation, this Congress has not passed a single piece of meaningful legislation to protect our citizens from gun violence and prevent needless deaths. All the while, the death toll from gun violence is rising, numbering in the thousands.
We plan to add to the Wall the names of additional persons in those cities who have died as a result of gun violence, between January 1 and April 2000. When we unveil the updated, "first annual" Wall the week of April 20, on the first anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, we unfortunately expect that it will contain 1,000- 2,000 more names.
We applaud President Clinton for his commitment to pass legislation to save our families from the scourge of gun violence, and pledge that the Conference of Mayors will do all we can to ensure that such legislation passes in this session of Congress. And until Congress takes meaningful steps to prevent the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our communities, we firmly resolve to continue to add to the Wall the name of every man, woman and children who has died as a result of gun violence in our communities.
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.