Law Enforcement Leaders Demand That Congress Act Now to Reduce Gun Violence

Mar 19, 2013, 12:05 ET from Mayors Against Illegal Guns

New Ad Features Police Chiefs and Other Law Enforcement Leaders from Across the U.S. Saying Now is the Time for Common-Sense Reforms Like Background Checks for All Gun Sales

Background Checks Save Lives and Help Police Catch Criminals; Polls Show Overwhelming Support for Background Checks;

NEW YORK, March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mayors Against Illegal Guns today released a new ad featuring law enforcement leaders from across the country calling on Congress to pass background checks for all gun sales to save lives and help police catch criminals. The ad can be viewed at

Background checks prevent felons, domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, and other dangerous people from buying guns. But they also serve another purpose: when licensed gun dealers perform these checks, they retain a receipt with identifying information about the gun. These records provide a vital paper trail for police to combat gun traffickers and track down criminals before they strike again.  In the states that go beyond federal law to require checks for private sales, data from those sales allow law enforcement to trace the gun to the private market and solve crimes.  Mayors Against Illegal Guns has documented some of these cases in this fact sheet.

"Our nation's law enforcement officials know better than anyone what it takes to protect our communities from gun violence, and they know that background checks help save lives," said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "They have dedicated their lives to protecting the public, and as Congress debates our nation's gun laws, their voices deserve to be heard."

"Our police officers put their lives on the line every day to protect our neighborhoods and our families," said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "They are gun owners, hunters, supporters of the Second Amendment, and NRA members. And they agree that background checks on all gun purchases is a commonsense measure that will keep guns out of the wrong hands, help them do their jobs, and make our communities safer."

Law enforcement leaders in the new ad are (in alphabetical order):

  • Executive Director Joseph Akers, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Alexandria, Virginia
  • Chief Kent Barker, Vice President at Large, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
  • Chief Terrence Cunningham, Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • Chief Dwight Henninger, Vail, Colorado
  • Chief Jim Johnson, Baltimore County, Maryland
  • Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin, Sr., Athens-Clarke County, Georgia
  • Captain Victor McCraw, Arizona National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) Chapter President 
  • Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo, Houston, Texas
  • Deputy Chief William Nagle, Denver, Colorado
  • Chief Susan Riseling, Executive Committee Member, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
  • Captain Perry Tarrant, Tucson, Arizona
  • Director Michael Webster, McDaniel College, Maryland

The ad will air nationally on cable today and throughout the week on Washington, D.C. cable and on broadcast in home states of some of the participants in the ad. 

Around 40 percent of U.S. gun transfers are conducted by unlicensed "private sellers" who are not required to conduct a federal check,[1] and who often do business at gun shows and on the Internet – indicating that about 6.6 million guns are transferred in the U.S. every year with no background check for the buyer.[2] This loophole allows dangerous people who are prohibited from buying guns – including felons, domestic abusers and the seriously mentally ill – to avoid a background check by simply avoiding licensed dealers.

When private sales are conducted without background checks, as federal law currently allows, those sales cut off police leads and turn cases cold.  Almost 60 percent of ATF trace investigations involve secondhand guns, which are difficult to trace because unlicensed sellers are not required by federal law to keep records of the transfers.[3]

Evidence demonstrates that background checks save lives.  For example, in the fourteen states that already require background checks for all handgun sales:

  • Gun trafficking is 48 percent lower than in states that fail to require background checks for all handgun sales.[4]
  • In 2010, 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.[5]
  • 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.[6]

Recent polls by Mayors Against Illegal Guns showed likely voters in a wide range of states and congressional districts overwhelmingly support background checks for all gun sales. The average support for background checks for all gun sales among 41 congressional district polls was 89 percent; the average among 21 statewide polls was 86 percent.  The findings of these surveys can be found here.  These findings are in line with recent independent polls that have found more than 90 percent of Americans support background checks for all buyers.   Previous polling by Republican Frank Luntz for Mayors Against Illegal Guns also found that 82 percent of gun owners – including 74 percent of National Rifle Association members – support requiring criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.

Statements from Participating Law Enforcement Leaders (in order of appearance):

Chief Jim Johnson (Baltimore County, Maryland)
"We are long overdue for strengthening our nation's gun laws, and the consequences of our inaction thus far have been tragic. It's time for Congress to follow the will of the American public and law enforcement officials across the country by enacting commonsense safety measures, like criminal background checks for all gun sales. Our leaders must take meaningful action to help end the bloodshed in our communities."

Captain Perry Tarrant (Tucson, Arizona)
"In Tucson, we've seen just how devastating it can be when guns fall into the wrong hands. To protect our communities, our police officers, and our children, it's crucial that we do everything in our power to keep guns away from dangerous people. Background checks do just that, and by extending them to cover all gun sales we can help save lives nationwide."

Deputy Chief William Nagle (Denver, Colorado)
"Denver's law enforcement officers have been witness to some of the worst mass shootings in our country's history, but that hasn't broken our resolve to protect our citizens. The Colorado General Assembly recently passed a series of reforms that will help our officers better preserve the safety of the public, but gun violence is a national problem that requires a national solution. Congress must act now before more lives are lost."

Chief Terrence Cunningham (Wellesley, Massachusetts)
"Background checks are not only a preventative measure to stop criminals from obtaining deadly weapons – they're also a critical law enforcement tool that help us solve crimes and keep our streets safe. Police officers across the country are risking their lives every day to protect our communities from the dangers of gun violence. We need our elected officials in Washington to do their part by passing this sensible reform."

Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo (Houston, Texas)
"The Second Amendment protects the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, and background checks don't limit or diminish that right whatsoever. Federal law already prohibits felons, the severely mentally ill, and domestic violence offenders from buying guns – it's only common sense that we check all potential buyers to see if they're prohibited. We need our leaders in Washington to do the sensible thing by requiring background checks for all gun sales."

Joseph Akers, Executive Director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Alexandria, Virginia
"Our gun laws are currently riddled with dangerous loopholes that make it all too easy for criminals and the severely mentally ill to purchase guns with no paperwork and no questions asked. That means more dangerous people get armed, more innocent people are killed, and more law enforcement officers end up shot in the line of duty. The situation is inexcusable, and the fix is simple. Background checks work, but Congress must ensure they are required for each and every gun sale."

Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin, Sr. (Athens-Clarke County, Georgia)
"Requiring background checks for every gun sale is the most effective way to stop criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill from getting armed in the first place. It's no wonder why the overwhelming majority of Georgians support universal background checks. We need our elected officials in Congress to stand with the people they represent and vote to pass mandatory background checks that will help keep our communities out of the line of fire."

Chief Dwight Henninger (Vail, Colorado)
"Background checks on firearm purchasers are important for public safety and the safety of our officers and deputies. Background checks are a point we can all agree on in the effort to reduce gun violence, and most importantly, they save lives."

Chief Susan Riseling, Executive Committee Member, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
"Nobody knows the dangers of armed criminals better than America's police officers, who must combat the scourge of illegal guns every day on the streets of our communities. But law enforcement can't win the fight alone.  Congress must pass the commonsense safety measures that the overwhelming majority of Americans support. We can preserve the Second Amendment and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and mentally unstable people. "

Michael N. Webster, Director of Campus Safety at McDaniel College (Westminster, MD)
"Tragedies on our nation's campuses might have been averted by universal background checks; background checks which almost all Americans support.  Congress owes Americans this protection."

About Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Since its inception in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 mayors to more than 900 mayors from across the country. We have more than 1.4 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 their communities by holding gun offenders and irresponsible gun dealers accountable; demanding access to trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat illegal gun trafficking; and working with legislators to fix gaps, weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other prohibited purchasers to get guns.  Learn more at

[1] Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, Guns in America, 1996, available at 2,568 individuals, including 251 gun owners, were surveyed by telephone and asked how they obtained their firearms.

[2] In the 38 states that have not fully closed the private sale loophole, an estimated 9,856,984 background checks were conducted between November 2011 and November 2012, out of an estimated 16.5 million total firearm transfers in those states. 40 percent of this total—6.6 million transfers—occurred without background checks. Calculation based on FBI data. Available:

[3] U.S. Department of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearms Traffickers, 2000, available at:

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

[5] U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2011.

[6] 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].

Erika Soto Lamb: or 646-580-5281
Alex Katz: or 617-721-3779

Contact: Mayor Bloomberg's Press Office (212) 788-2958
Mayor Menino's Press Office (617) 635-4461

SOURCE Mayors Against Illegal Guns