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Attorney General Tells Mayors It’s Time for “Tough” Votes in Congress

By Laura DeKoven Waxman
January 28, 2013


After describing key provisions of the Administration’s plan to reduce gun violence, Attorney General Eric Holder told the Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee January 18 that “…some have said that these changes will require ‘tough’ votes by Members of Congress. Public service is never easy, and there come times when those of us who are in elected or appointed positions must put the interests of those we are privileged to serve above that which might be politically expedient or professionally safe….This is one of those times.”

The first thing Holder called on Congress to do was adopt legislation to require universal background checks, so that a full background check is conducted every time someone attempts to buy a gun. This, he said, “…can significantly strengthen our ability to keep criminals and other dangerous individuals from gaining access to deadly weapons.” Holder also called on Congress to renew the ban on high-capacity magazines, pass an updated and stronger assault weapons ban, protect the police by getting rid of armor-piercing bullets, and pass new federal laws which impose tough penalties on gun traffickers who help to funnel weapons to dangerous criminals.

Regarding the executive actions which the plan calls for Holder said, “Not one of the Executive Orders—contrary to what a few have said—impinges upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights or is inconsistent with the historical use of executive power.”

When she introduced the Attorney General, Criminal and Social Justice Committee Chair Houston Mayor Annise Parker cited several of the mass slayings that have occurred in the U.S. and described the letter signed by over 200 mayors which calls on the President to exercise his powers though Executive Order and the Congress to introduce and pass legislation to make reasonable changes in our gun laws and regulations. She highlighted the three legislative proposals which the letter calls for, all of which are contained in the President’s plan:

  • Enact legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines being prepared by Senator Dianne Feinstein and others;

  • Strengthen the national background check system and eliminate loopholes in it; and

  • Strengthen the penalties for straw purchases of guns.

Pistole Details TSA’s Risk-Based Approach to Security

“We believe we have the best security in the world, it’s the gold standard,” Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole told the mayors during the committee session. He described TSA’s risk-based approach to airline security, saying that his agency cannot expect to achieve a 100 percent guarantee given the nearly six million people or bags his agency must screen every day so, much as mayors do in their cities, it mitigates risk by working in partnership with the traveling public. Through the trusted-traveler PRE™ program, in return for sharing information about themselves travelers are pre'screened and receive expedited physical screening at airport check-points. Pistol indicated that the program is now operating in 35 airports and that his agency plans to increase that number.

McGinn Updates Mayors on Backpage.com Problem

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn provided the mayors an update on efforts to require Backpage.com, which advertises adult escort services on-line, to require in-person age verification to ensure that such services are not being provided by minors. McGinn reported that as a result of efforts by his city, the Conference of Mayors, and attorneys general around the country, Village Voice Media, which owned backpage.com, has divested itself of the site. The bad news, however, according the mayor, is that backpage.com has successfully, thus far, challenged as a violation of the First Amendment a Washington State law that would have established a new crime of advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor.