Campaign against illegal guns goes on the road

The coalition of 550 Mayors Against Illegal Guns is on the road to your community. The Democratic and Republican mayors who hail from states across the country have gone into high gear to publicize their campaign to keep guns out of the hands of individuals prohibited from buying firearms.

It’s a high-profile road trip. A specially outfitted mobile truck with an in-your-face billboard clock displays the number of Americans murdered with guns since the Tucson tragedy.  And the number of lives lost since January 8th? A mind-numbing, gut-wrenching 1,565.

The billboard truck made its debut on February 16, 2011, in New York City’s Times Square. It has now hit the road to visit more than 25 states across the country over the next two months.  As of the writing of this post, the campaign is making stops in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio. At every destination the awareness campaign will be meeting with local mayors, law-enforcement officials, religious leaders, victims of gun violence, and sportsmen. Their goal is to highlight the groundswell of support for taking measures to ensure that guns do not end up in the hands of felons, the mentally ill, or individuals on the terrorist watch list.

Send the records. Close the gaps.

The mayors’ goals may be summed up in two, easy-to-remember prescriptions: “send the records” and “close the gaps.” The mayors hope that the tour will personalize the issue by publicizing the stories of people touched by gun violence across the country.  They hope, too, to build political pressure on states to fulfill their legal obligations under the 2007 National Instant Check System Improvement Act.

You may follow the tour’s progress and check if the road trip will be visiting your community by visiting the online campaign at


Lending credence to the focus of the mayors’ cross-country campaign is a report released on February 17, 2011, by the Associated Press detailing the dismal record of some states to comply with the 2007 National Instant Check System. According to writer Greg Bluestein:

More than half the states are not complying with a post-Virginia Tech law that requires them to share the names of mentally ill people with the national background-check system to prevent them from buying guns, an Associated Press review has found.

The deadline for complying with the three-year-old law was last month. But nine states haven’t supplied any names to the database.  Seventeen others have sent in fewer than 25, meaning gun dealers around the U.S. could be running names of would-be buyers against a woefully incomplete list.

Eleven states have provided more than 1,000 records apiece to the federal database, yet gun-control groups have estimated more than 1 million files are missing nationwide. New York has submitted more than 100,000 records.

Congress has doled out only a fraction of the $1.3 billion it promised between 2009 and 2013 to help states and courts cover the costs of the 2008 law.

For some states, the amount of federal grant money they could be penalized for not complying is less than what it would cost them to get their records-sharing systems up to speed.

…California has shared records of more than 250,000 people, Virginia more than 100,000, according to records AP obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request in late 2010.

The states that have failed to submit any mental health records are:  Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota.

Seventeen states submitted very few records: Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.…Several states have also struggled to amend their privacy laws that restrict the release of health information, and others have had to create an appeals process for those who say they have been wrongly barred for mental health reasons from buying a gun.

A commonsense approach

Momentum to take effective action gathered steam last week at the federal level when, on February 14, 2011, a public comment period expired for a measure under consideration by the Obama administration.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has requested that the White House direct the agency to exercise their authority to require that licensed gun dealers report when a buyer purchases multiple assault weapons, such as AK-47s, along the U.S. Mexico border.  Currently, gun dealers are required only to report multiple sales of handguns.

Why are bulk sales of deadly assault weapons exempt from the reporting requirement? This is more than just an academic question.  The AK-47 is the weapon of choice of the Mexican drug cartels responsible for a wave of violence in Mexico that is spreading across the American border.

The statistics are staggering: 90% of guns recovered and traced in Mexico are purchased from gun dealers in the U.S.  This month alone, the ATF charged 34 individuals with purchasing 700 guns that ended up in Mexico.  One buyer in Phoenix, Arizona, purchased more than 100 AK-47s in a single month.

On February 23, 2011, Senator Chuck Schumer announced legislation that would

  • Get all names of people who should be prohibited from buying guns into the NICS.
  • Require background checks for every gun sale in the U.S.