Sister Of Newtown Victim, Mayor Engen, State Senator Malek, Gun Violence Survivor, And Gun Owners Hold Rally In Missoula To Urge Senator Baucus To Support Common-Sense Background Checks

Jul 25, 2013, 15:34 ET from Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Baucus Voted Against Bipartisan Background Checks Bill That Would Keep Guns Out of Wrong Hands, Even Though 79 Percent of Montanans Support Background Checks for All Gun Sales

Rally is Part of "No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence" Bus Tour;

MISSOULA, Mont., July 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The sister of a victim of the Newtown massacre, a survivor of gun violence, Mayor John Engen, State Senator Sue Malek, gun owners, former law enforcement, and local advocates held a rally at the University of Montana in Missoula today to voice their continued support for comprehensive and enforceable background checks, and they urged Senator Max Baucus to reconsider his position on this life-saving measure and take another look at bipartisan background checks legislation.

The rally was part of the "No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence" – a 25-state national bus tour over a period of 100 days aimed at urging America's leaders to support common-sense gun policies. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the bipartisan coalition organizing the bus tour, has more than 6,000 grassroots supporters in Montana.

It remains far too easy for criminals, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous individuals – people who know they can't pass a background check – to skirt the law and obtain guns by purchasing them online or at gun shows, where background checks are not required under federal law. Bipartisan legislation sponsored by NRA A-rated Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey – and supported by Senator Jon Tester – would have closed this dangerous loophole by extending background checks to commercial gun sales. But in April, Senator Baucus joined a minority of senators in voting to block this sensible legislation.

In trying to justify his vote, Senator Baucus claimed that Montanans had said "loud and clear that they are overwhelmingly opposed to new gun-control laws."[1] But in truth, 79 percent of Montanans support background checks for all gun sales. On Tuesday, participants called on Baucus to stand with the people he represents and vote to support common-sense gun laws.

Participants included: Carlee Soto, whose 27-year-old sister Victoria, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was killed in the Newtown massacre; Mayor John Engen of Missoula, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns; State Senator Sue Malek; John Moffatt, former Vice Principal of Fergus High School and a survivor of the Lewistown shooting; Micah Helser, suicide prevention coordinator for the Missoula City/County Health Department; Claire Kelly, a local gun owner; and Deputy Chief Scott Swanson (ret.), a Montana resident who formerly served in the Santa Rosa, Calif., Police Department.

"Tragic mass shootings like the one in Newtown opened our country's eyes to the fact that we have a serious problem with gun violence in America," said Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was killed in the Newtown massacre. "With 33 Americans being murdered with guns every day, our leaders cannot afford to wait any longer to take meaningful action. We need our elected officials in Congress, like Senator Baucus, to put politics aside and support sensible gun safety measures, like comprehensive and enforceable background checks."

"Today in Montana we're beginning to have reasonable and long overdue conversations about the fact that gun rights and responsible ownership and oversight are not mutually exclusive. A majority of Missoulians believe background checks for gun sales are just good, common sense, and so do I," said Missoula Mayor John Engen. "I'm pleased that we are part of this important national dialogue."

"It's time for our elected officials to stand with Montanans and Americans across the country by supporting common-sense gun laws that will keep guns out of dangerous hands – and help save lives," said State Senator Sue Malek. "I thank Senator Tester for doing the right thing and voting to support bipartisan legislation that would have extended comprehensive background checks. Now, it's time for Senator Baucus to follow his lead and reconsider his position on this life-saving measure."

"On December 4th, 1986 a student came to school with a loaded gun that he was able to easily access. He gunned down a dedicated substitute teacher, and shot and gravely wounded me," said John Moffatt, who was a Vice Principal at the time at Fergus High School in Lewistown. "To honor the memory of the fallen teacher, and the memories of the thousands of Americans who have fallen victim to gun violence since then, we must push Congress to enact common-sense measures to help save lives. I hope Senator Baucus will take another look at bipartisan background checks legislation, so no more schools and communities have to suffer through this kind of tragedy again because of gun violence."

"As a gun owner, I know that we can respect our right to bear arms while also taking every common-sense measure available to protect our families and our communities," said Claire Kelly, a local gun owner. "And I'm not alone – nearly 80 percent of Montanans support comprehensive and enforceable background checks that prevent criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill from obtaining guns."

During the rally, participants and attendees also read the names of victims of gun violence who have been killed since the Newtown mass shooting in December 2012.

Rates of gun violence in Montana are higher than in the rest of the country in several key areas, making Senator Baucus' failure to support sensible gun violence prevention legislation that much more difficult to explain. In Montana in 2010, the number of women shot to death by a current or former intimate partner was 146 percent more than the national average, and 220 percent more than in states that require background checks for private handgun sales[2]; the number of suicides committed by firearms was 127 percent more than the national average, and 248 percent more than in states that require background checks for private handgun sales[3]; and in 2009, the number of guns sold by Montana dealers that were recovered at crime scenes outside of the state and successfully traced was 71 percent more than the national average and nearly four times the rate of states that require background checks for private handgun sales.[4]

The No More Names tour provides an opportunity for the more than 90 percent of Americans who support background checks to drive home a message to our elected officials that our country needs common-sense gun laws. At each stop, participants are holding rallies with a broad coalition of supporters – including police, survivors, domestic violence prevention advocates, mayors, and other elected officials – to commemorate those we've lost and call on our leaders to stand with the American people on sensible gun policies. They both applaud senators who voted to support comprehensive and enforceable background checks, and urge those who opposed this measure to take a second look.

States on the tour include: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit

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.[5]
  • 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.[6]
  • 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.[7]
  • Thirty-nine percent fewer law enforcement officers were shot to death with handguns.[8]

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 – including more than 6,000 in Montana – 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


[2] U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2011. Available at Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Supplementary Homicide Report. 2010. Excludes New York due to incomplete data.

[3] Centers for Disease Control. Fatal Injury Reports. 2010.

[4] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 2009. Available at

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

[6] U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2010.

[7] 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].

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

Alex Katz: or 617-721-3779
Stacey Radnor: or 202-870-6668
Kayla Keller: or 281-682-6212

SOURCE Mayors Against Illegal Guns