Mayors Urge Crackdown on Illegal Guns
By SEWELL CHAN and ANDREW JACOBS
Published: January 23, 2007
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 — Mayors from some of the nation’s largest cities gathered here today to urge Congress to crack down on the sale of illegal firearms. But their expanding coalition, led by Mayors Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Thomas M. Menino of Boston, has begun to encounter resistance among some advocates for gun owners.
The coalition of mayors announced the creation of a bipartisan task force of four House members that will try to introduce legislation in the new Congress cracking down on illegal guns. The mayors also unveiled new poll results showing that most Americans support stricter gun laws.
The daylong meeting of the coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was the biggest event so far in an effort that began last April with a meeting of about 15 mayors at Gracie Mansion in Manhattan. More than 120 mayors have since joined the coalition; about 40 attended the meeting today, including the mayors of Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, Minneapolis, Hartford and Newark.
Mr. Menino said he hoped the gathering, at the Cannon House Office Building, would send a message. “Illegal guns are a national problem that demands a national response,” he said, adding, “We are only as strong as each of our members.”
But there were signs of emerging opposition to the mayors’ effort. The New York Sun reported last week that Jared Fuhriman, the mayor of Idaho Falls, Idaho, was the first and so far only mayor to drop out of the coalition, saying he thought the coalition was going too far. The coalition now includes mayors from 44 states and the District of Columbia. (Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Wyoming are not represented.)
Several pro-gun groups criticized the coalition’s efforts. In a news release, they called Mr. Bloomberg “the Manhattan gun grabber” and questioned the propriety of his use of undercover sting operations and civil litigation to crack down on gun dealers. The National Rifle Association has been sharply critical of Mayor Bloomberg.
Members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns insisted that they respected the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Mr. Bloomberg said he was not trying to curb existing gun rights. “That’s ideological nonsense and we’ve just got to move past it,” he said. “Respecting the rights of gun owners while cracking down on illegal guns are completely compatible goals and we are committed to both.”
The creation of the task force might signal that the issue of illegal guns is gaining traction in Congress — though with the war in Iraq, climate change and other looming issues, it might be difficult for guns to become a priority.
The two Democrats on the task force are Representatives Charles B. Rangel of New York, the new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The Republicans on the task force are Representatives Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois[/i][/b].
The task force will focus on eliminating the Tiahrt amendment, a controversial provision that has blocked cities from gaining access to, and using, gun-trace data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The task force says it will also “work to enact common sense measures” to stem the flow of illegal guns, officials said.
The new survey announced by the mayors involved 803 adults from Jan. 10 to 15 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm, and the Tarrance Group, a Republican firm. The survey found that 56 percent of respondents said they favored stricter gun laws. The margin of error was about 3.5 percent, plus or minus.