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Mayor Menino's testimony before Congressional Task Force on illegal guns

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April 15, 2008

Testimony of Mayor Thomas M. Menino before Congressional Task Force on illegal guns

April 15, 2008

I want to acknowledge and thank the original co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus – Congressmen Rangel, King, Conyers and Kirk. We are sincerely grateful for your leadership on this critical issue in what we know is a difficult political climate.

We also thank your colleagues for joining us today at this forum. I greatly appreciate this opportunity to testify.

Less than two years ago, Mayor Bloomberg and I brought 13 mayors together to form Mayors Against Illegal Guns. We share a common disdain for what we have seen happen in our cities, to our residents and to our police officers as a result of illegal guns. So, we signed a statement of principles and agreed to work together to take illegal guns out of our cities.

Today, I am proud to report that the initial group of 15 mayors has grown to over 3 hundred mayors who represent 53 million Americans. We’re Democrats, Republicans and Independents from across the country, working across party lines and geographic boundaries to address this issue.

Fighting crime is a top priority for all mayors – and fighting crime means fighting illegal guns. The stakes could not be higher. Fatal shootings of police officers increased 33 percent last year. I know that every mayor in this country will do whatever it takes to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our cities safe.

Just yesterday, the International Association of Chiefs of Police presented a report at our coalition’s national summit that shows that the flow of illegal guns is a major factor in this increase. Step one in any effort to protect police officers is keeping illegal guns out of the hands of the criminals who would use them to shoot police officers.

According to the ATF data, states with strong gun registration and licensing laws like Massachusetts see large numbers of crime guns coming from other states with weak controls over gun sales. Illegal guns know no borders. This only reinforces the need for common sense federal action to help close these gaps and protect our police, our residents and our community.

When I get the phone call in the middle of the night with news of another senseless tragedy, I ask myself – and we all should ask – “Where did the gun come from?”

Approximately 60 percent of illegal guns used in Boston come from other states. Boston Police officers have recovered 202 crime guns – the majority of which are illegal – so far this year. That’s why I am here – because I believe that working with our coalition will help keep illegal guns out of Boston and all of America’s cities and towns.

We have implemented several effective programs to address the issue of illegal guns and for a long time had what many referred to as the “Boston Miracle.” But this is a national crisis – not a problem faced by one city or region. And it demands a response from all levels of government.

Last year, I was so pleased when Congressmen Rangel, King, Conyers and Kirk announced the formation of the bi-partisan Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns.

You worked with us over the last year as we took on the Tiahrt Amendment, which limits local law enforcement’s ability to use ATF gun trace data. Thanks to the critical efforts of the Task Force and our coalition, the ATF has re-defined the Tiahrt Amendment and has begun releasing some of the data that law enforcement needs.

In recognition of the expansive nature of the illegal gun problem and because of the success of this coalition’s partnership with the Congressional Task Force, we are also reaching out to other leaders at other levels of government across the country.

Last month in Jacksonville, Mayor Peyton hosted a conference where our coalition helped launch a new bi-partisan coalition of State Legislators Against Illegal Guns.

Just last week, four leaders from across the country announced a new coalition of County Executives Against Illegal Guns.

And we’re working in partnership with 11 national law enforcement organizations, including: The National Sheriffs' Association; The International Association of Chiefs of Police; The International Brotherhood of Police Officers; 23 state and regional law enforcement groups, and; Over 235 individual state and local law enforcement executives.

Their support was a vital component of convincing the ATF to resume sharing a portion of their critical crime gun trace data.

So now, the voices of mayors are echoed by elected leaders and law enforcement officials from every part of America – and we’re making progress. Our numbers are growing, our mission could not be more timely and our message couldn’t be more clear: We need to stem the flow of illegal guns in our cities now.

Together, we will continue to work for common sense measures to fight illegal gun trafficking.

In closing, I urge you to strongly support our common-sense agenda that Mayor Bloomberg will outline in a moment and continue to work with us on this most important issue. I sincerely thank you for your efforts.

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