President Barack Obama is set to deliver his annual State of the Union address tomorrow night, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg would like to revisit a theme from last year’s speech–the tragic shooting in Tuscon which killed six people and injured Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
In a letter to the president, Mayor Bloomberg writes, “This week will mark Congresswoman Giffords’ last days in Congress before she steps down to focus on her truly inspiring recovery…[W]e hope that you will take the opportunity to address her departure, and the causes of it, in your State of the Union Address tomorrow.”
The letter is co-signed by Tom Menino of Boston, who is, along with Hizzoner, head of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. Gun control advocates have been stymied in recent years but how little these kinds of tragedies have moved the needle in favor of stricter laws. The last time meaningful gun control seemed at hand was after a series of random shootings in the mid-90′s.
So far there has been no indication that President Obama intends to mention gun control, or the Giffords shooting in his address tomorrow night.
The full letter is below:
January 23, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
When you last reported on the state of our Union, you expressed the nation’s hopes and prayers for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the Tucson shootings. This week will mark Congresswoman Giffords’ last days in Congress before she steps down to focus on her truly inspiring recovery. We hope her departure from public life will be temporary and her return will be swift. And we hope that you will take the opportunity to address her departure, and the causes of it, in your State of the Union Address tomorrow.
Last year, 12,000 Americans were murdered with guns. To put the death toll in perspective, imagine the entire population of a town being murdered over the course of a year. Or a university losing its entire student body, each day bringing 34 new murders. Surely, these events would shock Washington into action. But the grim fact that guns are used to murder 34 people a day is barely discussed in Washington – even though the tragic reality is that many of those lives could have been saved if the federal government had fixed its broken background check system.
After the Tucson shootings, you called for a new national conversation about guns, saying “we have a responsibility to do everything we can to put a stop to the daily death toll from gun violence in America,” and that “our focus right now should be on sound and effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.” To achieve that goal, you said “we should provide an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals can’t escape it.” We strongly agreed.
Many months later, almost nothing has changed. Criminals and other dangerous individuals are still exploiting massive gaps in the national do-not-sell database. These gaps facilitate the murder of 34 Americans every day. And they are at the heart of another tragic trend. Last year, for the first time in 13 years, firearms overtook traffic incidents as the leading cause of fatalities for law enforcement officers. In 2011, 65 police officers were murdered with guns, an increase of 10 percent over 2010. In at least 35 of these police killings, the shooter was a criminal or other dangerous person who was barred by current law from owning a gun, but slipped through gaps in the background check system.
The more than 600 members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns – representing both political parties and all regions of the country – urge you to address our broken background check system in your State of the Union address. Our country needs your leadership – and we urge you not to let this issue fall victim of election year politics. It is too important. And, as polls show, more than 80 percent of gun owners support the common sense reforms you have proposed to fix our broken background check system.
Tomorrow night, when you speak to the nation about your top priorities for the year ahead, we hope you will remember the debt we owe to the families of police officers killed in the line of duty; to all victims of illegal guns; and to the 12,000 people who will likely be murdered with guns this year – unless we act.
Thomas M. Menino Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of Boston Mayor of New York City
Coalition Co-Chair Coalition Co-Chair
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