2008-05-23 / Top Stories

Anti-Gun Mayors Go After Candidates

The bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns today announced that it is airing a television advertisement in Kentucky to highlight the presidential candidates' shared support for closing the gun show loophole, a background check gap that enables prohibited purchasers to avoid checks by buying firearms at gun shows. The television ad, which is part of a six-figure advertising campaign and will run more than 100 times in Kentucky starting this morning and continuing through Sunday, May 18, includes prior statements of the three candidates for president in favor of closing the gun show loophole. The ad will air on the eve of the Kentucky's May 20 primary. A recent bi-partisan poll indicates that 87 percent of all Americans - and 83 percent of all gun owners - favor closing the gun show loophole.

"The gun show loophole creates a dangerous and unnecessary threat to public safety, and that's why an overwhelming majority of Americans - and an overwhelming majority of gun owners - favor background checks for all gun sales at gun shows," said New York City Mayor and coalition co-chair Michael R. Bloomberg, who has not endorsed a candidate for president. "The 320 mayors in our coalition applaud Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama for their position on this vital issue, and we call on them to show leadership by getting Congress to pass this critical public safety measure this year."

"All three candidates in their own words have shown a commitment to a common sense measure that will protect communities from illegal guns," said Boston Mayor and coalition cochair Thomas Menino, who is supporting Senator Clinton. "Closing the gun show loophole is a necessary and sensible action that Mayors Against Illegal Guns sees as a real stride forward for public safety across the United States. As Mayors, we are 100 percent committed to making our cities and nation safe and secure from the proliferation of illegal guns. We know that all three candidates share this belief and urge them to take action."

The gun show loophole is a gap in federal law that allows so-called "occasional sellers" of firearms, who often operate at gun shows, to sell firearms without performing background checks or keeping records of their sales. The loophole provides criminals with easy access to firearms. Because they frequently concentrate at gun shows, it is easy for felons and other prohibited possessors to find someone who will sell to them without a background check. A study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) indicated that 30 percent of guns involved in its illegal trafficking investigations were connected to gun shows. One high-profile example of the threat to public safety that the gun show loophole poses is the Columbine High School shooting, where all four guns used in the massacre were bought at gun shows without background checks.

"We've seen an unacceptable increase in violent crime in Jacksonville and I am working to make sure that guns - especially guns illegally purchased at gun shows - stay out of the hands of dangerous criminals," said Jacksonville, Florida Mayor John Peyton, who is featured in the advertisement and is supporting Senator McCain. "While I fully support a gun owners' right to legally purchase a gun, the gun show loophole has got to be closed."

"Too many of the guns used to commit crimes in cities across the country are sold to violent criminals at gun shows," said Baltimore, Maryland Mayor Sheila Dixon, who is featured in the advertisement and is supporting Senator Obama. "We need to protect law-abiding gun owners, our citizens, and our police officers by closing this loophole now."

A survey completed this month showed 87 percent Americans - as well as 83 percent of Americans who own guns - favor requiring "all people who sell guns, including at gun shows, to conduct criminal background checks." Likewise, closing the gun show loophole is favored by 85 percent of supporters of Senator McCain and 89 percent of supporters of the Democratic candidates. The survey, commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was conducted jointly by the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which primarily works with Democratic clients, and the Tarrance Group, which primarily works with Republican clients. The poll, conducted from March 31 to April 3, surveyed 800 Americans and has margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

The Bush Administration also supports closing the gun show loophole: "I don't think we ought to be selling guns to people who shouldn't have them," said George W. Bush in 2000. "That's why I support instant background checks at gun shows. One of the reasons we have an instant background check is so that we instantly know whether or not somebody should have a gun or not." At last month's national summit of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the acting director of the ATF, Michael Sullivan, re-iterated the Administration's support for closing the loophole. Since it was created in April 2006 at a meeting of just 15 mayors, the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns has now grown to 320 members, who together represent more than 55 million Americans.

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