Nearly 250 mayors from cities across the nation this week urged the Senate to cut short its summer recess to adopt gun control legislation that would require background checks for all firearm purchases.
Similar legislation already has passed the House.
No local mayors were among those who signed the letter, which the U.S. Conference of Mayors sent to GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who has been blocking the bill, and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer.
Mayors from four Washington and five Oregon cities signed the letter.
Four area mayors The Daily News contacted Friday said they had not heard about the letter. Two said they would not have signed it; two of them hedged.
Kelso Mayor Nancy Malone said she would not have signed because she would have wanted to know exactly “what they were referring to.”
“It’s not the gun that kills people, it’s the people that kill. I’m sorry they use a gun, but they could use a car or a knife,” Malone said. “I think we need educate people more about violence. It irritates me because I don’t understand why there has to be so much violence in our country. I don’t understand why people can’t just try to get along.”
Malone said she’d like a survey done to find out what makes people angry enough to kill another person.
Malone said universal background checks didn’t work in the most recent shootings because suspects bought the guns legally.
“I don’t know that gun control is the answer. I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t know that gun control is the answer,” she said.
Likewise, Longview Mayor Don Jensen said he hadn’t heard about the letter but said he probably wouldn’t have signed it.
“If you look at gun laws in Washington, we’re way ahead of everybody else. The fixes I’ve seen proposed on TV, the State of Washington already has. I don’t see further fixes needed in the State of Washington.”
He added that he doesn’t want to see the federal government telling Washington what to do.
“I think the other states ought to decide what they want to do. I’m only interested in Washington at this point,” Jensen said.
He would only get involved in the debate if the Longview City Council wanted him to, he said. “After all, I represent them.”
Jensen said he wasn’t sure how the country should address mass shootings, but said, “Taking guns away from legal (gun owners) isn’t going to fix what the nut cases are doing.”
Kalama Mayor Mike Reuter also hadn’t heard of the letter, but upon reading it said he would need to know if the proposed laws would have stopped recent shootings before deciding if he would support them.
“I’m not going to sign on to something because it makes people feel good,” he said. “I would want something with proven results.”
Any laws should be well-researched and thought out because “once rights are taken away, they’re a lot harder to get back,” Reuter said.
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However, Reuter said the country needs to do something to protect citizens from future attacks.
“We can’t just throw our hands up in the air and hope for the best,” he said. “We have to work on progress.”
Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole had not heard about the letter, but he said he supports background checks.
“I personally have no problem with increased background checks,” Cole said. “What I have a problem with is telling law-abiding citizens what (guns) they can and can’t have.”
The House legislation would require all firearm purchases to go through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It also closes loopholes, prohibits unlicensed gun transfers and would make it easier for law enforcement to trace guns.
The letter was sent in response to the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Mayors from both of those cities signed the letter.
The mayors call the House legislation “bipartisan, sensible gun safety bills” that would make cities safer without compromising gun owners’ rights.
“The tragic events in El Paso and Dayton this weekend are just the latest reminders that our nation can no longer wait for our federal government to take the actions necessary to prevent people who should not have access to firearms from being able to purchase them,” The letter says.
Mayors from some of the nation’s largest cities, such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles — signed the document.
Washington mayors from Seattle, Everett, Lynnwood, and Tacoma signed, as did mayors from Portland, Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro and Corvallis in Oregon. All these tend to vote Democratic.
Mayors from mid-sized cities across the nation also signed, such as those from Fargo, North Dakota; Sheboygan, Mich.; Shreveport, Louisiana; Stamford, Connecticut; Madison, Wisconsin; Canton, Ohio; and Lawrence, Massachusetts.
The letter capped a busy week of discussion about violence and gun control.
Former President Bill Clinton on Thursday prodded Congress to restore his 1994 federal ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. Attempts to revive it have failed.
“Assault weapons are designed to inflict maximum harm in a short period of time,” he wrote in an op-ed in Time magazine. “It should come as no surprise that when we see high death and injury totals, from Sandy Hook to Las Vegas to Parkland to El Paso to Dayton, the killers have used these weapons.”
This week, a group of clergy protested outside Sen. McConnell’s office, calling on the Republican Senate majority leader to take action to address gun violence.
McConnell said he has assigned committee leaders to explore bipartisan solutions.
“Only serious, bipartisan, bicameral efforts will enable us to continue this important work and produce further legislation that can pass the Senate, pass the House and earn the president’s signature,” he said in a statement. “Partisan theatrics and campaign-trail rhetoric will only take us farther away from the progress all Americans deserve.”
President Donald Trump said Wednesday he also favors strengthened background checks and “red flag” legislation to identify mentally ill people who could pose danger and should be barred from having firearms.