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Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition

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Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition

Mayors Against Illegal Guns
File:MAIG logo.jpg
Formation April 25, 2006[1]
Website


Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) is a coalition that claims to have more than 900 mayors[2] who support a number of gun control initiatives that the group calls "commonsense reforms" on firearms ownership in the United States. Most recently the group has focused on efforts to outlaw semi-automatic rifles and standard capacity magazines.

The coalition is composed of mostly Democratic mayors,[3] but also has some members of the Republican Party, the Green Party,[4] and political independents. Its statement of principles has received the endorsement of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Conference of Black Mayors.[1]

Origin

Mayors Against Illegal Guns was founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.[5] Bloomberg is the largest funder of the group, having contributed $3 million.[6] Eli Broad contributed $750,000 and the Joyce Foundation contributed $1.1 million.[7]

The group was formed on April 25, 2006, during a summit held at Gracie Mansion in New York City that was hosted by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who serve as co-chairs of the coalition.

The initial group consisted of 15 mayors who signed a statement of principles[8] and set a goal to expand their membership to 50 mayors by the end of 2006. As of November 2009, there were 522 mayors listed on the membership roster at the MAIG website.

Legislative initiatives

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is lobbying the U.S. Congress to:[9]

1) Repeal the Tiahrt Amendment

A priority goal of Mayors Against Illegal Guns is to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, named after its sponsor, Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS). Since its passage in 2003 as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, the Tiahrt Amendment has forbidden the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from releasing information from its firearm trace database to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor in connection with a specific criminal investigation, and any data so released is deemed inadmissible in a civil lawsuit.[10] Rep. Tiahrt has stated that his amendment is intended to protect the privacy of gun owners and to prevent abuse of the data by anyone outside of law enforcement.[11]

Mayors Against Illegal Guns seeks the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment for these reasons:

  • The Tiahrt Amendment restricts access of state and local law enforcement authority to gun trace data, hindering municipal police departments' ability to track down sellers of illegal guns, to investigate gun trafficking patterns, and to make connections between individual gun-related crimes.[12] Mayor Bloomberg has called the Amendment "an insult to the thousands of police officers that face the threat of illegal guns."[13][14]
  • The Tiahrt Amendment requires that NICS background check records be destroyed within 24 hours. According to MAIG, this makes it harder for law enforcement authorities to catch law-breaking gun dealers who falsify their records and makes it more difficult to identify and track down straw purchasers who buy guns on behalf of criminals who wouldn't be able to pass a background check or prohibited purchasers who buy firearms themselves due to errors in the background check process.[14]
  • The Tiahrt Amendment denies the ATF the authority to require dealer inventory checks to detect lost and stolen guns. Under current rules, the ATF can conduct a warrantless search of any licensed gun dealer once per year.[15]

Joining Mayors Against Illegal Guns in supporting the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment are 10 national law enforcement organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum; state law enforcement associations representing 22 states; and individual police chiefs representing 39 states.[16] The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has pointed out that the ATF under the Bush administration (2001–2008) was unable to produce any evidence that law enforcement officers were harmed by the agency's release of crime gun trace data prior to 2003.[17]

In July 2007, after the House Appropriations Committee rebuffed attempts to repeal the amendment, the Senate Appropriations Committee went further, approving a bill that, according to the New York Times, "threaten[ed] law enforcement officials with prison time for using gun tracing data beyond a specific investigation, say, for identifying and targeting trafficking patterns."[18]

Congressman Tiahrt responded to MAIG's position on his amendment in a congressional statement in 2007:[19]

At issue is a campaign urging repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from releasing gun trace data to the public. The ATF gun trace database contains investigation-specific information and is made available to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for criminal investigations. The ATF and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, support the Tiahrt Amendment and have requested its reauthorization every year since 2003. Both organizations claim repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment would jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations and risk the lives of undercover law enforcement officers ... The organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns is behind the Tiahrt repeal campaign. The group claims to have the support of numerous police chiefs across the country, which is also misleading according to National FOP President Chuck Canterbury:

"The mayors would have you believe that law enforcement supports giving them the information on gun traces because many of their employees--namely police chiefs, who often serve at the pleasure of the mayor--have publicly backed their coalition,” explained Canterbury. “But the officers in the field who are actually working illegal gun cases know that releasing sensitive information about pending cases can jeopardize the integrity of an investigation or even place the lives of undercover officers in danger. That is why the Fraternal Order of Police has always supported language protecting firearms trace data, now known as the 'Tiahrt amendment.' For the men and women in uniform who are fighting illegal guns, it is a matter of officer safety and good police work."

NY Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FOP have all requested this language to protect investigations and law enforcement officers. Hopefully it is true that not one law enforcement officer ever died prior to the enactment of the Tiahrt protection—Rep. Tiahrt joins the FOP, ATF and others in supporting a policy that will keep it that way."[19]

Commissioner Kelly, however, has participated in events calling for the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment.[20] The ATF under the Obama administration has issued no formal position on the amendment. While a Senator, President Barack Obama stated, "At a time when bloodshed on our streets is on the rise, making sure that our law enforcement officers have all the tools they need to fight crime should be our top priority. But instead of providing those tools, the Tiahrt Amendment ties the hands of police in their effort to halt illegal gun trafficking and sales. I am proud to join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns in their fight against this dangerous legislation. Our communities and the brave men and women who risk their lives everyday to protect us deserve more from Congress."[20] His administration, however, sought only minor modifications to the amendment during the most recent appropriations cycle.[21]

2) Close the "Gun Show Loophole"

Mayors Against Illegal Guns has called for the criminalization of transfers between private citizens.[22] Currently, private individuals are not required by federal law to conduct background checks on purchasers or maintain records of sale when they sell their personally owned firearms. Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports the enactment of S. 843 and H.R. 2324 to, as they put it, close the "Gun Show Loophole."[22]

3) Close the "Fire Sale Loophole"

Under current law, federally licensed firearm dealers who quit their business or have their licenses revoked by the ATF are allowed to transfer their remaining inventory to their "personal collections" and subsequently sell these firearms without conducting background checks on purchasers or keeping records of sale. MAIG supports the enactment of H.R. 6664, which would require these dealers to conduct background checks when disposing of their personal collections.[23]

4) Close the "Terrorist Watch List Loophole"

Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports prohibiting those on the FBI's Terrorist Watch List from purchasing firearms. MAIG supports S. 1317 and H.R. 2159, which would give the Department of Justice (DOJ) the discretion to block sales to 'terror suspects' and permit judicial review of these decisions.[24] The National Rifle Association has opposed this reform and pointed to a May 2009 DOJ report that found that 24,000 of the 400,000 people on the FBI's watch list were listed based on outdated or irrelevant information.[25]

5) Require Background Checks for All Employees of Licensed Gun Dealers

Under current federal law, if an individual is prohibited from buying guns, that person is also prohibited from selling guns. The law does not require federally licensed firearm dealers to conduct background checks on their employees, however, despite the fact that these individuals use the background check system at work every day. Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports the enactment of H.R. 6676, which would require background checks for all gun store employees.[26]

6) Oppose the "Thune Amendment"

Mayors Against Illegal Guns has opposed the enactment of the "Thune Amendment," which would allow interstate concealed carry of firearms by individuals who hold valid concealed carry permits (either issued by their home state or another state).[27] In July 2009, the Thune Amendment was narrowly defeated by filibuster in U.S. Senate.[28] Following that vote, MAIG issued a press statement that stated, "The defeat of the Thune Amendment is a major victory for the right of states to set their own public safety laws and for the bi-partisan coalition of Mayor's Against Illegal Guns. The vast majority of states have set minimum requirements for obtaining a permit to carry a concealed gun, and Congress should respect those laws instead of trying to usurp them."[29]

MAIG has worked at the state/local level to:

7) Require the Reporting of Lost and Stolen Guns

Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports legislation to require reporting of lost and stolen guns by individuals and federally licensed firearm dealers. In MAIG's words, "In most states, gun owners are not required to tell police when a gun is lost or stolen. That puts law enforcement at a disadvantage in tracking down those guns and the criminals who use them."[30] Currently, seven states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia have laws that require individuals to report lost and stolen guns to law enforcement. Several other states and local governments are working to pass similar laws.[31]

Some critics, like former prosecuting attorney C.D. Michel, have questioned the efficacy of such laws (Michel questions the laws' deterrent effect on straw purchasers and writes, "Effectively, these ordinances place the legitimate gun owner in jeopardy of prosecution for becoming a victim of a crime").[32] MAIG has countered this by claiming that the average "crime gun export rate" among states that do not require reporting lost and stolen guns is three times higher than the rate for states which have such requirements.[33]

Programs

Partnership with Wal-Mart

In April 2008, Wal-Mart—the largest retailer of firearms in the U.S.—voluntarily adopted a number of new sales practices at the behest of Mayors Against Illegal Guns to "help ensure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands." [34] Senior Vice President J.P. Suarez stated that Wal-Mart signed the 10-point code of the "Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership" to help the corporation "fine tune the things we're already doing and further strengthen our standards." He added, "We hope other retailers will join us in adopting the code."[35]

The "Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership" has since become a model for Heeding God's Call, a coalition of faith organizations in Philadelphia that has encouraged local gun dealers to adopt the 10-point code.[36]

No More Names

No More Names is a program launched on June 14th, 2013 (the six month anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting) with the stated purpose to "pass common-sense laws, including comprehensive background checks, that will reduce gun violence and save lives." The program revolves around a bus tour of twenty-five states in one hundred days starting in Newtown, CT. At each stop "gun violence survivors, mayors, faith leaders, and other community members will read aloud the names of Americans killed with guns since Newtown". This is to encourage members of Congress "to pass common sense gun laws".[37]

When the name of Tamerlan Tsarnaev was read aloud at a bus tour event held in Concord, New Hampshire, several in the crowd shouted, "He's a terrorist!" MAIG apologized for the incident after the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper reported Tsarnaev's name being read.[38] Further inspection found that the list also contained the names of at least ten murder suspects including former LAPD officer turned fugitive Christopher Dorner.[39][40] In response, the group issued a statement explaining how they were using a list complied from Slate.com, which in turn used the Twitter account @GunDeaths "as the source of its data".

Members

Participating mayors

Mayors Against Illegal Guns lists over 900 mayors as active members.[41]

Publicly announced resignations, misidentification, roster removals, disavowals

Largely in response to a recent NRA organized letter writing campaign, dozens of mayors have resigned from or distanced themselves from the MAIG while still in office.[42][43][44] The NRA 's web site lists 73 mayors that have quit the MAIG, including 15 in Pennsylvania, alone.[45][46][47][48] Responses have been varied, including, announced resignations, requests to be removed from the MAIG's roster, or disavowals of ever joining the coalition. In one case, Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. of Portales, New Mexico complained that the NRA listing of member mayors had incorrectly identified the mayor as being a member. Ortega was indeed listed as a MAIG member in a July 2009 MAIG-produced letter to congress.[20] One mayor mentioned that her reason for resigning was "...because she thought [MAIG] was attempting to erode all gun ownership, not just illegal guns."[49] In some other cases, mayors have claimed that MAIG has used their name without permission.[50][51][52][53][54]

Publicly announced reaffirmations

At least four mayors have issued public statements in reaffirmation of their membership and praise of the coalition, in response to the NRA's letter-writing campaign. One mayor reaffirmed her membership while stating "Nothing that this organization has lobbied for has been to get rid of guns altogether or to take away people’s Second Amendment rights".[55][54][56] [57][58][59]

Opposition from the NRA

The NRA opposes MAIG, on the ground that MAIG is not really against "illegal guns" but is in fact "anti-gun." They further argue that MAIG holds this position deceptively.[60]

In early September 2009, the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) distributed a mass mailing to its members encouraging them to pressure their mayors to resign from Mayors Against Illegal Guns.[61][62][63][64][65][66] The mailer read, in part, "[NYC Mayor Michael] Bloomberg created MAIG as a front group to lobby Congress to oppose important pro-gun reforms and support new federal gun control restrictions. And [your mayor] has joined this anti-gun Bloomberg crusade. It is critical that your mayor dissociate himself from this anti-gun group and you can do your part by contacting his office and urging him to withdraw his MAIG membership."[67] The NRA has also issued web alerts to its members encouraging them to take this action.[68]

The NRA lists 73 mayors on their website who have resigned from MAIG as of September 23, 2009.[69] Newspapers have covered several of these resignations in more detail.[70][71][72][73][74] In some cases, mayors have claimed MAIG used their name without permission.[75][76][77]

In October 2009, NRA spokeswoman Rachel Parsons stated that "the coalition’s participating mayors from both large and small cities dropped from 463 to less than 400" as a result of the NRA's letter-writing campaign.[78] Mayor Bloomberg, however, has said that while 60 mayors have left the organization since the NRA's campaign was launched, another 110 mayors have joined.[79]

Some of the NRA's criticism has included attacks on Bloomberg, MAIG's co-founder. The NRA has described Mayor Bloomberg as “a billionaire, Boston-grown evangelist for the nanny state."[80] NRA Contributing Editor James O. E. Norell has further stated, “Beholden to nothing except his own ambitions, the mayor has established himself as a kind of national gun-control vigilante.”[80]

See also

  • Wicker Amendment – legislation to allow rail travelers to put legally owned guns in AMTRAK baggage (MAIG opposed this)

References

External links

  • Mayors Against Illegal Guns
  • No More Names program site
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg's homepage
  • Office of the Mayor of Boston
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