Portland officials renew calls for gun control one month after Newtown shootings

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan was joined by Police Chief Michael Sauschuck and school Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk this morning at a news conference to renew calls for federal gun control. The news conference also coincided with the release of a video by the national Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition featuring family members of gun violence victims calling for “a plan of action” from Congress.

That video can be seen here:

This morning’s event took place one month after a 20-year-old man entered a Newtown, Conn., elementary school and killed 26 people — including 20 children — therein before committing suicide. The shootings reinvigorated the nationwide gun control debate, and Vice President Joe Biden is currently heading an effort to develop an administration proposal on the subject.

Michael Brennan (BDN file photo by John Clarke Russ)

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns, including Brennan, want to see the following included in that proposal, according to a release issued today by the city of Portland (included are the coalition’s reasons for wanting each provision, in the words used in the city’s release):

  • Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales: Background checks are the only systematic way to stop felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people from buying firearms. But federal law only requires background checks for gun sales at licensed dealers. Almost 6.5 million guns are sold each year in the U.S. by unlicensed “private sellers,” including online and at gun shows. That means that between 40 percent and 50 percent of gun sales may take place with no background check for the buyer. According to Republican pollster Frank Luntz, 82 percent of gun owners support criminal background checks on all gun sales.
  • Banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines: Military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines have no place on our streets. They are designed to kill large numbers of people quickly, and they have no other use in civilian hands. Today, even people with criminal records, or with serious mental illness, can and do buy assault weapons from unlicensed private sellers who don’t conduct background checks.
  • Make gun trafficking a federal crime: Every year, tens of thousands of guns find their way into the hands of criminals through illegal trafficking channels. But there is no clear and effective statute that makes gun trafficking a federal crime. Prosecutors who want to combat traffickers are forced to rely on a weak law that prohibits “engaging in the business of selling guns without a federal license,” which carries the same punishment as trafficking chicken or livestock.

Some comments released from this morning’s news conference.

Mayor Michael Brennan:

Our city and our country both remain heartbroken over the heinous murder of 26 innocent people, including 20 young children, in Newtown last month. But we know that honoring their memory requires more than just mourning their loss. I am calling on Congress to stand up for the survivors, for the family members of victims, and for the millions of Americans who all deserve protection from illegal guns and military-style assault weapons.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck:

With 33 Americans being murdered with guns every day, the time is now for Washington to act. Our brave law enforcement officers in Portland are doing everything in their power to keep our communities safe, but our nation’s leaders need to do their part, too. By pushing for common-sense gun laws, the president and Congress can help protect Americans and save countless lives.

School Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk:

One month ago today, I watched in horror as gun violence claimed 26 innocent lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The day when our children are no longer safe in their classrooms is the day that our country has hit rock bottom. We are committed to ensuring the safety of our students in Portland, and we urge our leaders in Washington to help by passing sensible legislation that will protect our communities.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.