It’s Time to Emphasize Pragmatic and Achievable Gun Law Reform


Originally posted on Huffington Post.

If today is a typical day in America, 34 people—men, women, and children—will be killed with a gun. Countless more will be wounded. As the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, I don’t enjoy the luxury of ideological debate—whether guns in our society are “good” or “bad,” or arguing the constitutional parameters of “a well regulated Militia.” My concern, when I wake up every morning and when I put my head down on my pillow at night, is that none of my residents become part of that daily 34 person national tragedy. My hope, my prayer, is that Friday’s horrific shooting in Newtown might convince others to share this sense of pragmatic urgency.


Some of this fight to keep Newark's neighborhoods safe is within my control. My administration has poured unprecedented time, energy, and share of city resources into policing and crime prevention. We have engaged in focused policing, applied new management and organizational structures, are building a hybrid ceasefire model blending Chicago and Boston approaches, and employed advanced technologies such as acoustic gunshot detection. We have sought to address the many socio-economic causes of crime, from creating New Jersey's first city office of ex-offender reentry to a significant focus on Newark economic growth to create more opportunity for the underemployed in our local workforce. We have seen progress in driving down crime, including drops in shootings and gun murders since I entered office in 2006, but when it comes to guns, we can't adequately inhibit their flow into Newark, and we don't have the authority to reach the spigot. We must look outward to our state, other states, and to the federal government for any hope of serious progress.

There is no shortage of sensible reforms to pursue: We should immediately restore a modified version of the Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004, which included a ban on high capacity magazines. We should pursue one-handgun a month restrictions, which will allow law abiding gun owners to purchase up to a dozen handguns a year, but will significantly hamper gun traffickers due to the mechanics and economics of straw purchasing (having another buy guns on one's behalf). We must empower the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to do its job. BATFE has been without a permanent director for over six years, which is representative of Congress' obstructive treatment of the agency. There should be no more excuses. The time is now to have an honest conversation on these topics, and work tirelessly to win the necessary support to make them happen.

But allow me to set the floor. As President Obama mentioned in his powerful remarks on Monday afternoon, many reforms have significant support from the public, and even from gun owners. Fortunately, several of these widely agreed upon measures are among the highest impact reforms. The only reason these wouldn't happen is because of backroom dealing and lobby opposition, and we simply cannot allow that given what is at stake. While admittedly none of the following would have likely stopped Friday's tragedy, and we must address more closely related problems such as reforms to our broader mental health practices, any one of the below would save thousands of Americans from a similar violent end.

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