No question Greenwich should join Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickTo paraphrase John Donne, Greenwich is not an island, entire of itself. So, when it comes to gun violence, we cannot assume that Greenwich’s absence of gun deaths means that we are safe, or that we should not be concerned about the thousands of gun deaths that occur annually elsewhere in America.

The Greenwich Council Against Gun Violence is gathering signatures on a petition urging the town’s Board of Selectmen led by First Selectman Peter Tesei, to take a stand for stronger national gun laws by joining Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s organization that is pressuring Congress to strengthen the nation’s weak federal gun laws.

Democratic Selectman Drew Marzullo joined with alacrity. Mr. Tesei and Selectman David Theis have not. They should join without delay.

While Greenwich enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the state, including one of the lowest for violent crime (assisted by the largest police force per population of any suburban community in Connecticut), the slaughter last December in nearby quiet, bucolic Newtown warns us that the horrors of gun violence could be visited upon Greenwich at any time.

Greenwich sits astride the biggest conduit for crime guns in the country: Interstate 95. Along that highway every year, thousands of guns are transported north across the Potomac River from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to be used in gun crimes all over the Northeast. Nearly 90% of all guns used in crimes in New York City were purchased legally in other states. Thousands of Greenwich residents commute into New York City every day, putting them at danger of the consequences of lax gun laws in the South.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns wants Congress to enact universal mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, including at gun shows. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has concluded that “gun shows and flea markets are a major venue for illegal trafficking.” Moreover, guns purchased at gun shows account for 30% of all guns used in crimes annually.

All four guns used in the Columbine massacre were purchased without a background check at a gun show. Yet the Senate’s Republican minority filibustered legislation requiring such background checks. Mayor Bloomberg stated that they chose “to turn their backs on the 90% of Americans who support comprehensive background checks than buck the increasingly extremist wing of the gun lobby.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is demanding stricter enforcement against gun dealers who chronically break the law by selling to straw purchasers or by not carrying out background checks. The organization points out that just 1% of all gun dealers are responsible for selling 57% of the guns used in gun crimes. Mayors Against Illegal Guns opposed the ATF Reform Act of 2011, which, it asserted, would “protect dealers who break the law repeatedly, treat serious violations —like selling a gun without a background check—as minor violations with trivial penalties, and make it nearly impossible to impose any sanctions on lawbreaking gun dealers by requiring ATF to meet an unreasonable burden of proof to show that dealers are violating the law.”

While Republicans are far more likely to oppose gun control measures than Democrats, a number of Republican mayors in Connecticut have already joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Those Republicans include first selectmen Michael Freda of North Haven and Ryan Bingham of Torrington, an dmayors Richard Moccia of Norwalk, Patricia Murphy of New Milford, Joseph Maturo of East Haven and Michael Pavia of Stamford.

First Selectman Tesei and Selectman Theis should join Mayors Against Illegal Guns without delay. Because Greenwich is not an island, entire of itself.

 

Sean Goldrick is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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