New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Bloomberg and dozens of shooting survivors and victims' relatives are calling on Congress and President Barack Obama to tighten gun laws and enforcement. / AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Standing in front of dozens of shooting survivors and victims' relatives, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on President Obama and Congress to swiftly take specific actions to reduce the level of gun violence across the country.
The "slaughter of innocents" at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were shot on Friday, should finally spur Washington to act, Bloomberg said. If this moment passes without action, he said, "It will be a stain upon our nation's commitment to protecting the innocent, including our children."
As co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg today urged Congress to pass three gun control proposals: the "Fix Gun Checks Act," which would require a criminal background check for all gun sales; an assault weapons ban; and legislation to make gun trafficking a felony. He also called on President Obama to take specific executive actions like recess-appointing a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
"It's not a panacea. It wouldn't get rid of all the guns on the streets," Bloomberg said of his proposals. "But it would go a long ways in limiting them." Gun violence, Bloomberg said, has become a "national epidemic and a national tragedy that demands more than words."
To push for action, Mayors Against Illegal Guns at the start of next year will send the new Congress 34 videos featuring testimonials from shooting victims and victims' relatives. The 34 videos represent the 34 Americans killed with guns every day.
Sunday night, at an interfaith vigil in Newtown, Mr. Obama said that in the coming weeks he will "use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."
The White House today declined to specify exactly what actions Mr. Obama would take beyond "engaging" with Americans. White House spokesman Jay Carney called gun violence "a complex problem that will require a complex solution." And while he reiterated that Mr. Obama supports a federal ban on assault weapons, he said there is "no single legislation, no single bill that alone solves this problem."
Meanwhile, the president and Congress are currently embroiled in intense negotiations over averting the so-called "fiscal cliff" in a timely manner. Bloomberg today, however, said there's no reason Washington can't address both the "fiscal cliff" and gun control.
"These things have nothing to do with each other," Bloomberg said. "If Congress and the president can't focus on two things at once, who on earth did we elect?"
The Senate today held a moment of silence for the Newtown victims, while the House plans to hold a moment of silence this evening. The House will also consider a resolution today condemning the shooting.
Bloomberg condemned lawmakers for failing to take action after other recent mass shootings, such as the 2011 incident in Tucson, Ariz.,or the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. "Somehow or another, we've come to think getting reelected is more important than saving lives," he said.
The blame belongs to both parties, Bloomberg said, pointing out that Democrats did nothing while in control of the full Congress during Mr. Obama's first two years in office.
As for actions, Mr. Obama could take without Congress, Bloomberg stressed that appointing a director to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be considered a matter of public safety. He noted that it's been six years since the ATF has had a confirmed director.