David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino today called on US Senator Scott Brown to support a bill in Congress that would require background checks for sales at gun shows, in an attempt to slow the flow of illegal firearms into Massachusetts.
At a press conference flanked by people who lost family members to gun violence, Menino took direct aim at Brown, a Republican who maintains a surprisingly close relationship with the Democratic mayor.
"We haven't heard from Senator Brown," Menino said. "When Senator Brown was a state senator, he supported similar legislation. We donít want to impact the Second Amendment. We just want to stop the proliferation of illegal handguns in America and save lives."
"As he has said before, Senator Brown believes these decisions should be left up to the states," Brown spokesman Colin Reed said in a statement.
The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including private sales at gun shows and through the Internet. Federal law currently only requires background checks by licensed gun dealers.
Massachusetts has "the strongest gun laws in the nation, but people go down South and buy these guns at shows," Menino said. "There's no background checks. That's wrong, and we've got to stop that."
Menino's office cited a 2010 report that found that 64 percent of illegal guns recovered at Massachusetts crime scenes originated out of state. The greatest number of those firearms came from New Hampshire, followed by Maine, Florida, Georgia, and Vermont, according to the report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
The bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, would also impose harsher penalties on states that do not submit records to a national database that tracks people barred from buying firearms because of criminal records or mental illness.
Standing with Menino at the press conference was Omar Samaha, whose sister Reema was one of 32 people killed at the shooting at Virginia Tech in April 2007. The gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, had a history of mental illness but passed a firearm background check because records had not been submitted to database.
Samaha is part of a national tour that includes a truck with a digital counter displaying the number of Americans killed by firearms since the January shooting of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. That number today hit 3,945.
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