Gun control: A national conversation

On January 31, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

mayor_webBy Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

This month, President Obama, and more recently, Senator Diane Feinstein of California, began the difficult debate about gun control. Let me be frank: I am a former gun owner, and a supporter of the rights we are granted as American citizens under the Second Amendment. I am also strongly in support of the plan set in motion by President Obama and Senator Feinstein.

I am a proud and active member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national advocacy organization co-chaired by Mayors Bloomberg of New York and Menino of Boston. Joining my colleagues in seeking saner policies around firearm sales and ownership is most definitely a political act, and an act of conscience. Like many other gun owners past and present, I see no contradiction between endorsing the public’s access to firearms and a deep, personal conviction that reform is needed in the area of gun regulation.

As I look back on the violence of 2012, from the streets of Chicago, to a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, to the devastation of Newtown, Connecticut, and as I confront the staggering statistic that 30,000 Americans die each year due to gun violence, I have to applaud President Obama for starting the national conversation that will, I hope, begin to provide some relief.

At a minimum, his proposal would require criminal background checks for all gun buyers. The 23-step plan would also add more counselors and resource officers to schools and create better access to mental health services. I commend the President for recognizing the role mental health resources play in this issue, and I hope this is just the start of a conversation that will help us better understand how to prevent a lack of mental health care from potentially leading to tragic events.

But perhaps most important, the plan boldly calls for the reintroduction and the strengthening of the prohibition on assault weapons, a ban that expired in 1994 and that we wrongly failed to renew. The evidence from Australia makes the choice clear.

Following a mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996, the Australian government enacted sweeping gun control measures, which included massive regulation around semi-automatic weapons. In the decade prior to the reform, Australia saw 11 mass shootings.  There has not been a single incident since. Meanwhile, in the 13 years since that bipartisan legislation passed, Australia has seen a 59 percent drop in all gun-related homicides between 1995 and 2006, with a 65 percent reduction in suicides. Robberies involving guns are down. Home invasion rates are steady. And while these are compelling numbers from numerous studies, it’s important to remember that they are also lives.

At MAIG, we are working to keep guns off our streets, and the President’s proposal goes to the core of our mission: “As mayors, our highest responsibility is to enforce the law and to protect the people we serve. The issue of illegal guns is not conservative or liberal; it is an issue of law and order, and life or death.”

But the NRA leadership continues to maintain that any proposal to ban or regulate the sale of firearms disregards the Second Amendment. We know that most gun owners, and even most NRA members, do not share those extreme views. Nor do I. The President’s proposal is not an issue of Second Amendment rights. From free speech to property ownership, from privacy to the practice of religion, no right is completely unrestricted: As a democratically governed civil society, our nation has always put reasonable limits on our constitutional rights when to do so is in the public interest. In this case, the President’s recommendations are a modest, mainstream response to a genuine problem.

Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg said it best, “No piece of legislation is perfect and no piece of legislation is 100 percent effective. Think of it like a speeding limit. You may every once in a while violate the speeding limit, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have speeding limits, they protect people’s lives.”

I look forward to the debate on this issue, and am hopeful that we can arrive at a shared national approach that will help us decrease the incidence of gun violence in this country. This week, I will join Mayor Menino and other local officials and members of MAIG in expressing our official support for President Obama, and I will continue to advocate for the urgent reform of our national firearms policies.

At the end of the day, the message is simple: What happened in Aurora, Chicago, and Newtown last year could happen anywhere. It’s our job now to make sure it can’t.


9 Responses to “Gun control: A national conversation”

  1. GARY says:

    The NRA is right about having an armed security officer in schools! That’s common sense that everyone is ignoring! At the very lease, we need armed security in elementary schools to protect small childen. We have them in banks and courthouses; so why not schools with small children? Also, how do they plan on getting no less than TWO BILLION high capacity magazines out of the general public! Doesn’t make sense. Criminals will ALWAYS have high capacity magazines! It’s simply too late to stop them! Armed security in elementary schools is the common sense answer!

  2. Harry says:

    How is creating more legislation going to get guns off the street? The only things new laws do is to criminalize honest, law-abiding folks. Criminals don’t care about laws — they’ll get guns. Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation and has the highest gun crime. We’re not far behind in restrictive gun laws in this state, so Joey is preaching to the choir.

    Assault Weapon ban? Can you say “slippery slope”? If these political hacks could be trusted to do the right thing then yes, most folks would be in favor of limiting / legislating guns, but they can’t. Too much corruption and Joey here is just playing up his progressive, liberal “opinions”. None of which he really believes in or cares about, but he has to play the game in this city and state if he wants to move up. And he does. He really does.

    and is this not a scary line? “…As a democratically governed civil society, our nation has always put reasonable limits on our constitutional rights when to do so is in the public interest. …” Yikes – we’ll now have political hacks determining which rights they want us to keep. Isn’t that why we have the 2nd amendment in the first place? To stop tyrannical despots from trying to rule us. Joe ought to take a civics class.

  3. mememe says:

    As “a proud and active member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns” how do you feel about the failures of group? There is a huge amount of illegal guns out there. Why are you proposing further regulations and restrictions as opposed to actual quality enforcement of current policies?

    “no right is completely unrestricted” I have to say this is a sad, sad statement. You cant think of any inalienable rights that the government should not be allowed to restrict?

  4. Jose says:

    Joey you make me laugh. In NYC the cops implemented a stop and search for known fellons knowing that these were the people carrying illiegal guns. And what the great city of New York do? They forced the cops to stop this procedure because it was unconstitutional and hear this prejudicial. But yet Mayor Bloomberg is ok with restricting the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens by denying their rights to protect themselves even though the US Supreme Court has established that police officers are not in obligation to come to the aid of an indiividual who is danger.

  5. amen says:

    mememe—Mayors Against Ill. Guns-don’t sell them short, they did exactly what all these groups do. they got together, made up a name, and agreed that they are against illegal guns. probably took weeks of meetings to bang out that name and statement. Then that’s it. Hey, I’m also against illegal things. I just don’t have a catchy name.

  6. Barry the Pig says:

    There is another obvious solution, people. The kids themselves could be given guns, after suitable training, so they can protect themselves.

  7. Hunting Hound says:


  8. Avalon Stevens says:

    The statement “No right is completely unrestricted” scares the daylights out of me. Our rights and Constitution are in the crosshairs of President Obama and his followers such as Joe “the phony” Curtatone.

    I believe only the military and law enforcement need assault weapons, but the bigger issue in this statement is the targeting and erosion of our rights and Constitution. Don’t say it can’t happen here in the USA. It can and very well may. Wake up!

  9. A Moore says:

    Part of the problem are the judges. Sitting in court and hearing a case where the police chased two supposingly car theives, where they got of the car and pulled out a gun. This was in Dedham, “$15 court appearance fee case dismissed”. Don’t know if the gun was legal or not, but guess it’s okay to pull it on a cop. Where is that 1 year go to jail business? It’s an issue that probably will never really get resolved. But the whole mayors against illegal guns just looks good on paper. Law enforcement and judges could do more, but that’s about it. Reality.

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