Families Of Victims Of Virginia Tech And Newtown Massacres Gather In Blacksburg To Voice Support For Common-Sense Background Checks That Help Save Lives

Participants Thank Senators Warner and Kaine for Supporting Background Checks Bill That Would Keep Guns Out of the Wrong Hands, Get Critical Mental Health Records Into System

Jun 21, 2013, 10:09 ET from Mayors Against Illegal Guns

BLACKSBURG, Va., June 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Family members of victims of the Virginia Tech and Newtown massacres gathered in Blacksburg, Virginia today to voice their support for common-sense background checks that help save lives. Participants also thanked U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine for voting to support bipartisan background checks legislation sponsored by NRA A-rated Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey that would help keep guns out of the wrong hands and reduce gun violence across the country.

Participants and attendees included: Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was murdered in the Newtown massacre; Peter Read, whose daughter Mary was murdered in the Virginia Tech massacre; Andrew Goddard, whose son Colin is a Virginia Tech survivor; Uma Loganathan, whose father G.V. was murdered at Virginia Tech; and Jerzy Nowak, whose wife Jocelyne was murdered at Virginia Tech.

Fatal gaps in the current background check system allowed Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho to pass a background check at a licensed gun dealer – even though a judge had previously found him mentally ill and therefore prohibited from purchasing guns. But his mental health records were never submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and the consequences were devastating after he murdered 32 people and injured another 17 in one of the country's deadliest mass shootings in history.

This past April, Senators Warner and Kaine stood with the more than 90 percent of Americans who support background checks and voted in favor of the Manchin-Toomey bill that would have closed dangerous loopholes that allow dangerous people to obtain firearms by requiring background checks for commercial gun sales. It would also make sure that critical records are submitted to NICS by incentivizing states to improve their record-reporting system and removing perceived hurdles to the submission of critical mental health records. The legislation failed to become law, however, after a minority of senators voted to block the bill.

"Virginia Senators Kaine and Warner showed true leadership by voting in favor of background checks legislation in the Senate, and I thank them for their commitment to public safety," said Alexandria Mayor William Eullie. "Now, we need their colleagues to follow suit by making gun reform a reality in Washington."

"I applaud the efforts of Senators Warner and Kaine and Congressman Bobby Scott for supporting comprehensive gun violence prevention measures in the past and will continue to in the future," said Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim. "They need our support to find meaningful solutions to reduce gun violence."

"After the death of my daughter and so many of her classmates at Virginia Tech, Congress passed legislation strengthening the background check system," said Peter Read. "But the dangerous loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns privately and anonymously still threaten our safety. Until those loopholes are closed, every year thousands of families will continue to suffer the same tragedy that mine has."

"The prohibiting mental health records of the gunman who killed my father in his classroom weren't in the background check system, so he was able to get a gun. But even if those records had been submitted, he still would have been able to go to a gun show or online and buy a firearm without any questions asked," said Uma Loganathan. "Congress must expand background checks to include private sales before more innocent Americans are killed."

Evidence demonstrates that background checks help save lives. In states that already require background checks for all handgun sales:

  • Gun trafficking was 48 percent lower than in states that fail to require background checks for all handgun sales.1
  • The rate of women murdered by an intimate partner with a gun was 38 percent lower than in other states, while the rate murdered by other means was nearly identical.2
  • The firearm suicide rate was 49 percent lower than in other states, even though people committed suicide in other ways at almost precisely the same rate.3
  • Thirty-nine percent fewer law enforcement officers were shot to death with handguns.4

About Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Since its creation in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 members to more than 950 mayors from across the country. We have more than 1.5 million grassroots supporters, making us the largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization in the country.  The bipartisan coalition, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, has united the nation's mayors around these common goals: protecting communities by holding gun offenders accountable; demanding access to crime gun trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat gun trafficking; and working with legislators to fix weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other dangerous people to get guns.  Learn more at www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org

1 Daniel Webster, Jon Vernick, and Maria Bulzacchelli, "Effects of State-Level Firearm Seller Accountability Policies on Firearm Trafficking," Journal of Urban Health, July 2009.

2 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2010.

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005) [cited 2012 Dec. 20].

4 Federal Bureau of Investigation. LEOKA Database, 2001-2011 (Accessed Mar. 2013).

Alex Katz: akatz1@cityhall.nyc.gov or 212-788-7617
John Duckwitz: duckwitz@homefrontdc.com or 540-878-1136
Lizzie Ulmer: lulmer@maig.org or 269-271-2331

SOURCE Mayors Against Illegal Guns