by Thomas P. Healy
Spurred by a nationwide epidemic of gun violence, nearly 250 mayors from across the country have signed a letter urging Congress to enact pending gun legislation.
Penned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), a nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more, the letter urges Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the U.S. Senate back to Washington, DC, and pass two bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in February.
Both bills address the issue of universal background checks, which has widespread support across the country.
Mayor Joe Hogsett is one of several Hoosier mayors who signed the letter. At the Broad Ripple starting point for “Mayor’s Bike to the Fair Day” on Aug. 10, he spoke about his support for the initiative. “I think the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ letter is meant to suggest to the Congress and to the Administration in light of El Paso, Gilroy, and Dayton, that the time has come. Background checks are only sensible—and widely supported.”
In addition, Hogsett noted, “The City is currently doing a very good job of trying to stay on top of people who are illegally in possession of weapons through our Crime Gun Intelligence cooperative.”
Launched in April of this year, the Crime Gun Intelligence Center uses forensic technologies to analyze crime gun evidence collected from homicides and nonfatal shootings. The evidence is processed through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’s (ATF) National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) . The results identify repeat violent offenders with links to multiple crime scenes and generate investigative leads that have successfully resulted in removing crime guns from circulation.
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
- Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency
- Marion County Prosecutor’s Office
- United States Attorney’s Office – Southern District of Indiana
- Indiana University
- Indiana Department of Corrections
- Marion County Probation Department
- Marion County Community Corrections
- Members of the Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership (IVRP)
CITIES ON THE FRONT LINES
During a press conference call Aug. 9, USCM president Bryan Barnett, mayor of Rochester Hills, MI, was joined by El Paso mayor Dee Margo and Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, who took questions.
They responded in the affirmative when asked if their respective cities have implemented programs to assist first responders in coping with the trauma of processing such horrific crime scenes.
“Starting from day one we set up a family assistance center,” Margo replied. “It will be staffed for several weeks. Everyone is eligible and everyone is encouraged to use these services including counseling and healthcare—we’re doing the whole thing.”
Whaley said her community has offered first responders mental health services for many years, but beefed it up in recent years because of the opioid epidemic. “For fire and police, it’s standard procedure to place them on administrative leave as we go through the investigation. They automatically go through counseling services through that process.”
She added that counseling services are also made available to all city employees. This expansion was made in response to multiple recent traumatic events, including a tornado and a Klan rally. “We’ve been working on that for a while. It’s important for all the different areas of government to have access to services,” Whaley said.
Dayton is also opening walk-in support services in the Oregon district for the community at large. “Thousands of people were in the Oregon district that night,” she said. “It is a place with business owners and wait staff who don’t have access to the health care they might need, so we want to make sure they have access.”
Barnett, who serves as USCM’s president, said the organization is also taking such holistic approaches nationwide. “The Conference of Mayors is working with the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) to put together some lessons learned from these situations to talk about how to prepare because these things are happening so often.”
Barnett emphasized USCM’s position that mayors are doers. “Mayors are on the front lines of what’s happening with gun violence in America,” he told reporters. “Mayors and cities are left to deal with the residue of congressional and presidential inaction.”
Mayor Hogsett agrees. “The truth is, at the local level you don’t have a choice. You don’t have the flexibility of these wide ideological chasms. People expect you to get things done and that’s exactly what mayors do.”