Gun Violence Center Stage At U.S. Conference of Mayors

Jan 22, 2020

Hundreds of mayors convened in the nation’s capital on Wednesday to address the challenges facing their communities, with the issue of gun violence at the top of mind.

City leadership from Washington, D.C., Dayton, Ohio, and across the country spoke to reporters and implored Congress to more aggressively address illegal guns, ghost guns and gun violence on a federal level.

“We are seeing no movement out of the capital, and our communities are begging for this change,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said.

Dayton made international headlines last summer when a gunman opened fire outside of a popular nightlife area, fatally shooting nine people and wounding 17 others in just 32 seconds. The shooting occurred just hours after an unrelated mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead and an additional 24 wounded.

“Mayors are on the front line of this issue,” Whaley said. “We will continue to be on the front line of this issue because we have no other choice. Because we get the calls at night when someone in our communities has died from insane gun violence.”

In Washington, D.C., host to the annual winter conference, law enforcement officials have struggled to tamp down on a rising homicide rate, fueled in large part by gun deaths.

In 2019, homicides reached the highest tally the city had seen in a decade, with 166 people killed, even as other crime metrics fell.

“We know that we really need the Congress to act on a national policy for common-sense gun regulations,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters. “I want the Congress to be able to pass a sensible bill that protects us.”

Bowser pointed to lax gun laws in surrounding states Maryland and Virginia, as well as the availability of the parts needed to build ghost guns — home-assembled firearms that are difficult to trace due to their lack of a serial number — for the city’s gun violence.

Last year, law enforcement officials recovered 115 ghost guns, up from just 25 in 2018.

“We all can do our part with our local gun laws, but [ghost guns], we know, is an issue that needs national attention,” Bowser said.

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

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