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Bloomberg Tells Mayors Keeping Guns from Criminals Is a Political Courage Issue for Congress

January 28, 2013

Following are excerpts from the opening of a major address on reducing gun violence delivered by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in the January 18 plenary luncheon.

“Whether you are the mayor of a little town or a big city, there are a lot of responsibilities that we all share in common. We have to balance the budget. We have to find new ways to create jobs. And we have to deliver quality, efficient services.

“But perhaps the number one responsibility we all have is protecting the lives of our citizens.

“As mayors, we see people breaking the law and we say: ‘How do we stop them?’ Unfortunately, you are here in a city where that’s not what people do. Here in Washington, for far too long, elected officials have been watching people break the law, and have said absolutely nothing. Or they have said: ‘I support the Second Amendment.’ Well that’s nice—so do most of us.

“Our bipartisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns now has more than 800 members, including many people in this room. And I think we all support the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment does give you the right to bear arms. Having said that, the Supreme Court has ruled that there are legitimate controls and regulations that are consistent with the Second Amendment and that we should use those to protect the public.

“But the real strength of our coalition and the real force that we have to protect our citizens is right here in this room. The mayors of small cities and medium size cities and big cities, the mayors of cities from the east and the west and the north and the south, Republican mayors, independent mayors, Democratic mayors, mayors from urban and suburban and rural areas.

“But keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, and it’s not something that we can do very effectively at the local level.

“This is not a constitutional question, but it is a political courage issue, and it is an issue for Washington. We can’t do it alone.

“This week, President Obama and Vice President Biden did step up and put forward a comprehensive plan for attacking gun violence. I give them both a lot of credit for listening to the voices of everyday Americans and putting public safety ahead of special interest.

“The trouble is, Congress is more removed from this issue than mayors are. Congress people don’t get called in the middle of the night when a police officer has been shot—mayors do. Congress people and Senators don’t have to go and explain to a mother or father or sister or brother, a spouse or a child, why their loved one is not going to come home, and how the person that shot them got the gun, and why we didn’t, as a society, do something to protect them and to keep that from happening.

“We understand what it’s like, and they don’t, and so it’s incumbent on us to explain to the people in Washington that when we have to go to the hospital and we have to look the police officer’s parents or spouse in the eye and explain that their worst nightmare has come true—their loved one won’t be coming home—it’s up to the Congress people to do something about it.

“When someone says: ‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’—I ask them: What about our police officers? They are good guys. They have guns. And all too often across this country, they get shot—and all too often, they do not survive.

“Those of us in elected office have a responsibility, I think, to protect those whom we ask to protect the public. And it’s up to us to convince the members of Congress that our officers deserve laws that help keep guns away from criminals.”