FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2012
MAYOR BLOOMBERG JOINS SURVIVORS AND FAMILY MEMBERS OF GUN VIOLENCE VICTIMS TO DEMAND WASHINGTON TAKES ACTION TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE
Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns Releases 34 “I Demand A Plan” Videos with Personal Stories About Gun Violence – Available at www.DemandAPlan.org
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered this afternoon at City Hall:
“Good afternoon. Joining me here today are people from across the nation who have either survived gun violence, including recent mass shootings, or have lost family members to gun violence. And if you think there’s a lot of people here, that is because there’s an awful lot of gun violence in our country.
“Since last Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut, dozens of grieving parents and grandparents, and an entire deeply wounded community, now know the kind of anguish that these people with me have endured.
“What happened in Newtown was an unspeakable crime – a mass murder in which six- and seven-year-old children were gunned down in their classrooms, along with their elementary school teachers and administrators.
“To all those who lost loved ones: our hearts are broken and our prayers certainly are with you.
“Last night, the President said he would use whatever powers his office holds to address this violence, and I think it is critical that he do so. Words alone cannot heal our nation. Only action can do that.
“Gun violence is a national epidemic – and a national tragedy – that demands more than words. We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. In the whole world, the only one.
“That’s why we need immediate national action, from the President and from Congress. It should be at the top of their agenda because what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was, sadly, no aberration.
“Gun violence takes the lives of 34 Americans every single day. That means that during President Obama’s next four-year term, some 48,000 Americans will be killed with guns. That’s roughly the number of Americans that died in the Vietnam War. And since 1968, when RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated, roughly 400,000 Americans have been killed with guns, which is more Americans than died in World War II. They will leave behind mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors, like those with us today, whose lives are devastated by loss.
“The President spoke out visibly on gun violence after the mass shooting in Tucson two years ago. Yet since those shootings happened, more than 24,100 Americans have been murdered with guns. That’s right, in two years, 24,100 more Americans have been murdered with guns. Had we done something then, a vast number of those would be alive today, and their families wouldn’t have been torn asunder.
“If the massacre in Tucson wasn’t enough to make our national leaders act, and if the more recent bloodshed in Aurora, Colorado, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in Portland, Oregon and other cities and towns wasn’t enough, perhaps this slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School will, at long last, be enough.
“Millions of Americans hope that’s true. But it’s not enough for us to hope. We have to speak up.
“We have to make our voices heard and hold Washington accountable for finally facing up to the epidemic of gun violence in our country. If this moment passes into memory without action from Washington, it will be a stain upon our nation’s commitment to protecting the innocent, including our children.
“Today, Mayors Against Illegal Guns – a bipartisan coalition of more than 700 mayors from cities and towns across America – is releasing a set of 34 very powerful, and very personal, brief video statements. We’ll see four of them in just a few minutes. These videos, I think, bear testimony to the sorrow and trauma produced by gun violence in our nation.
“Many of those with us today have made these video statements. In each video, those bearing witness have the same message: I demand a plan, the time for talk is over. Congress and the White House has to come up with something that stops this carnage, no matter what the political ramifications are. Somehow or other, we’ve come to think that getting reelected is more important than saving lives, that political power is more important than saving lives, that partisan politics is more important than saving lives. Enough.
“These video statements – which are available online at DemandAPlan.org – will be delivered to all of the members of the 113th U.S. Congress when it convenes next month. Then – as now – Mayors Against Illegal Guns will ask Congress and the White House to take common-sense steps to reduce gun violence.
“There are three major pieces of legislation that the President should push Congress to pass. Let me point out that one of the few acts related to firearms that Congress has passed in recent years was to immunize firearms manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits brought by those injured with guns. If they can do that – what an outrage – if they can do that, and they can’t do what we’re proposing now.
“Think about that, rather than trying to solve the problem, they deliberately passed a piece of legislation to make it worse. I don’t know where there’s any other industry that has received Congressional immunity from lawsuits brought by those injured with their products.
“First, Congress should pass the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would close the ‘private sale loophole’ that allows more than 40 percent of gun sales to go through without a background check. It would require every gun buyer to pass a background check.
“The majority of gun sales already go through the background check system, and it’s neither onerous nor intrusive, nor does it infringe on anyone’s rights. This bill would also require States and the Federal government to send all necessary records on felons, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
“In fact, the President, with a simple stroke of his pen, not needing approval from anybody else, could ensure the Federal government’s compliance with this provision.
“Congress did what they always do, they pass a law and then they don’t enforce it. They don’t vote the money to enforce it, and they don’t let the President appoint somebody to do the enforcement.
“Second, it is time to pass an enforceable and effective assault weapons ban – one that isn’t riddled with loopholes and easy evasion. A previous ban expired in 2004, and even though President Bush supported reinstating it, Congress never acted. That must change.
“Congress should also ban the high-capacity magazines that have been used again and again in these mass shootings. These weapons and ammunition can be used to kill large numbers of people quickly, and regulating them certainly falls within the bounds of the Second Amendment.
“And third, the President and Congress should work together to make gun trafficking a felony – as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and others have proposed.
“This legislative package would make it harder for criminals, drug abusers, minors, and the mentally ill to get guns, and harder for them to inflict the level of carnage that we saw this weekend. It’s not a panacea, it wouldn’t get rid of all the guns on the streets, but it would go a long way towards limiting them and limiting the number of people killed. And it would make it easier for our police and prosecutors to lock up those who supply illegal guns to criminals and the mentally ill.
“We urge the President to include all three of these steps in any legislative package he sends to Congress. And we urge him to assemble a legislative package quickly – so that gun violence can be the first order of business that the new Congress takes up when it convenes in January.
“I think the millions of Americans who have been affected by gun violence – including the individuals standing with me today – deserve nothing less.
“The President and Congress can and should address these measures at the same that they are reaching agreement on avoiding the fiscal cliff. These things have nothing to do with each other, and if Congress and the President can’t focus on two things at once, who on earth did we elect?
“At the same time, there are steps that the President can take on his own, right now, to address gun violence in addition to ordering all Federal agencies to send data to the crime database – and there should be no delay. I’ve already mentioned the Federal compliance Criminal Background Check System. There are three others.
“First, the President should make the confirmation of a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms a higher priority than it’s been so far. It has been six years since the ATF has had a confirmed director.
“Can you imagine the outrage if the Department of Homeland Security went six years without a confirmed director? It would never happen, because it would be a public safety threat and Americans would never tolerate it.
“Well let me tell you, leaving the ATF without a director is also a public safety threat. You would think that the President could demand, could cajole, should convince Congress – we should shame Congress into approving somebody who can enforce the very laws that Congress passed. That’s why today I urged the President to make a recess appointment to fill the vacancy at the top of the ATF.
“Second, the President should direct the Justice Department to step up its prosecution of gun criminals who try to buy guns.
“In 2009, 71,000 people who had been convicted of gun crimes tried to buy guns by lying on their background checks, yet the Federal government prosecuted only 77 of those cases. If your math isn’t any good, I’ll do it for you – that’s one-tenth of one percent. These are gun criminals trying to buy guns illegally – and the Federal government is just letting them walk.
“And third, the President should immediately lift what’s known as the Tiahrt gag order, which keeps the public in the dark about gun traffickers: who they are and how they operate.
“In Kansas, the voters rejected Tiahrt when he ran for Governor, and now it’s time for the President to reject his amendment.
“New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country – and every day, the members of the NYPD put their lives on the line to enforce those laws. Those are big reasons why we’re the safest big city in the nation. This year we’re on course to record the fewest homicides in modern memory.
“But we’re not satisfied with that. Even one murder is one murder too many – in our city or in any city. One murder is a tragedy that the victims’ loved ones carry with them for the rest of their lives, and it’s no consolation if it’s the only one.
“In one of the ‘I Demand a Plan’ videos we’re releasing today, a New Yorker, Chris Foye, who is with us today, talks about the death of his 13-year-old son, who was killed by a stray bullet near his home in Harlem. He describes what happened as ‘the worst pain a parent can go through.’
“Today, tragically, many more parents in Connecticut are now going through that pain, so let’s listen to what he and others have to tell us.
[Foye video is played.]
“Lori Haas’s daughter, Emily, was shot and wounded on that day in 2007 when a gunman killed 32 students at Virginia Tech University. Lori is also here today; let’s hear her story.
[Haas video is played.]
“Twenty-six years ago, Stephen Moses was killed in an act of random gun violence. In this video, his sister Mindy Moses, who is also here, tells us about her unending sorrow.
[Moses video is played.]
“Nardyne Jeffries’s daughter Brishell was killed in a drive-by shooting while eating pizza with friends. In this video, Nardyne, who is also here, tells us her story.
[Jeffries video is played.]
“Nardyne; Mindy; Lori; Chris: I want to thank each of you for giving us your testimony, for speaking out, and for joining us here today.”
Marc La Vorgna/John McCarthy (212) 788-2958
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