Triangle mayors call for gun-law reform

jwise@newsobserver.comJanuary 15, 2013 

MAYORS2-NE-011413-HLL

L TO R: Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe, Uma Loganathan, whose father was a victim in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Durham Mayor Bill Bell took turns speaking out against gun violence during a press conference midday Monday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Durham City Hall. The three mayors are members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) who asked the President and Congress for tighter gun control measures on the one month anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting.

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com

— The mayors of Chapel Hill, Durham and Morrisville called Monday for Congress to enact “common-sense” gun-law reforms.

They were among more than 800 U.S. mayors who issued a coordinated statement on behalf of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns lobbying organization.

Their statement called for:

• Requiring criminal background checks for all gun buyers

• Banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

• Making gun trafficking a federal crime

In a press event at City Hall, they also presented a 30-second television ad sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns that features relatives of gun-violence victims calling on Congress to curb firearm violence.

Uma Loganathan of Blacksburg, Va., who appears in the ad, joined the mayors in Durham. Her father, a civil-engineering professor, was murdered in his classroom during the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

Loganathan said the mayors had asked her to come.

“Seeing them want to take safer measures was really encouraging for both me and my family,” Loganathan said. “A state with a Southern culture ... where firearms are, if not an important part of their lives, at least a part of their lives they’re familiar with.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the measures are “simple reforms we ... have been calling for for some time.” He spoke along with Mayor Bill Bell of Durham and Mayor Jackie Holcombe of Morrisville.

The statement was issued one month after the Newtown, Conn., shootings that killed 20 first-grade children and six adults.

“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that we even need to be here this morning,” Holcombe said. “But this is the right time to have this discussion.

“I don’t think anyone has seen those (Newtown) faces without deeply feeling a sadness that has enabled us ... to start looking for common-sense measures,” she said.

“This has happened too many times,” Bell said. “We’ve got the message, the question is, have the people in Congress got the message.”

Durham had 22 homicides last year, at least 20 involving guns, according to police statistics.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns was formed in 2006 to lobby for improved firearm laws in the interest of public safety. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino are its current co-chairmen. Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton are also among its members listed at bitly.com/27fEH1.

According to the group, an average of 33 Americans are murdered with firearms each day. Kleinschmidt said he, Bell and Holcombe have worked with the group “for a long time trying to bring some attention to these issues, and feels frustrated.

“Common-sense proposals (are) just being neglected,” he said. Under current law, “Gun trafficking as a federal crime ... is treated like chicken trafficking. We need to address gun trafficking for what it is.

In the wake of Newtown, Kleinschmidt said, gun violence has Americans’ attention and citizens are “eager” for measures to stop more mass killings from happening.

“What we are talking about respects the Second Amendment,” said Holcombe. “But we do need decisive action from Congress and we need it soon ... so that we don’t have another tragedy that we look back on and say, ‘We should have acted.’”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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