Ryan Holeywell is a staff writer at GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The country's mayors echoed President Barack Obama's call for a ban on automatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines at their winter conference in Washington, D.C. Thursday.
While tragedies like the mass shooting of students in Newtown, Conn. and movie-goers in Aurora, Colo., have raised the profile of the debate about gun regulation, mayors attending the conference emphasized that gun violence has long been a scourge of major cities.
"The fact of the matter is, we've been committing slow-motion mass-murder for years," Kansas City, Mo. Mayor Sly James said during a press conference a few blocks from the White House Thursday morning.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors -- and more than 270 mayors attending the meeting -- have not yet formally adopted a response to the president's lengthy list of proposed steps to reduce gun violence announced yesterday, said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
But Nutter did emphasize the organization's long-standing support for stricter gun laws. Last month, more than 200 mayors signed a letter to federal leaders calling for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, strengthening of the background check system, and harsher penalties for straw purchases of guns.
"It is time for our country to deal with this," Charleston, S.C. Mayor Joe Riley said. "It's time for Congress to deal with this. I believe what the President of the United States has recommended is a sound, comprehensive, reasonable, common-sensical approach that can make our country safer."
Yesterday, the president announced a series of proposals intended to curb gun violence. In addition to calling for legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, he also proposed other reforms too, like lifting the federal ban on gun violence research and offering financial assistance to schools seeking to hire police officers and counselors.
The president also proposed making background checks for all gun sales mandatory and backed reforms for the background check system by encouraging sharing of information between states and reducing regulatory burdens that may lead to incomplete data.
Some of those reforms -- in particular the assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans -- will require congressional action, and in a bitterly divided Washington, that debate could be lengthy and hard-fought.
Vice President Joe Biden, who touted the president's plan during a 45-minute speech at the mayor's conference Thursday, said the administration is ready for a long political battle. "I've been in this fight for a long time," Biden said. "I have no illusions about the fight that's in front of us. But I know full well the political obstacles that will be thrown up against us are not impenetrable."
Aware of the political realities of major gun legislation, the White House also announced nearly two dozen executive actions the president will sign that are designed to support the reduction of gun violence too.
Officials from the National Rifle Association -- which has proposed placing armed personell in every school in America -- expressed skepticism at the president's plan.
"Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation," the organization said in a statement following the president's announcement. "Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."
During his remarks, Biden also proposed more research on the impact that violence depicted in television, movies and video games has on young people. He said his call is "not an indictment of the industry" but merely a desire to study the topic.
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