U.S. mayors fearful and frustrated by both mass shootings and everyday neighborhood gunfire in their cities sent a message Wednesday to state and federal lawmakers:
If they don’t do something to curb gun violence, the mayors — working with law enforcement — will.
A group of about 50 mayors, including Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, gathered in Toledo Wednesday with law enforcement to discuss a unified strategy.
Their meetings were closed to the public, but the group broke midday for a news conference about their efforts.
“Change happens from the bottom up … in church basements, in school classrooms … and we want change,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said.
Peduto, whose own city was rocked in October by a mass shooting that killed 11 at a synagogue, Tuesday took action by side-stepping Pennsylvania state law, which prevents local municipalities from enacting their own gun-control laws.
Peduto signed three gun-control ordinances into law, including a “red flag” measure, which allows authorities to temporarily seize guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others.
The new Pittsburgh laws also ban the use of military-style assault weapons and most uses of large-capacity magazines.
Anticipating Pittsburgh’s move, the National Rifle Association immediately filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Pittsburgh, challenging among other things the city’s definition of large capacity magazines.
On Wednesday, at the meeting of mayors, Peduto said he looked forward to the lawsuit “because it will shine a light on what’s been a one-sided discussion” about guns. And he invited other mayors and leaders to join with him in a push for local gun control laws.
The group of mayors was also considering another way to get guns off the street, following Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz's push to use buying power as leverage.
Toledo spends about $200,000 every year on firearms, bullets, and gun replacement parts, The Toledo Blade reported.
In the fall, Kapszukiewicz said the city would only buy from responsible makers.
Now gun manufacturers who want the city’s business must answer a half-dozen questions, including whether they make assault weapons and whether civilians can buy them.
If cities all did this, Kapszukiewicz said, they might influence gun manufacturers.
Mayors and law enforcement from as far away as both the West and East coasts were in Toledo for the Tuesday meetings, but Ohio mayors did most of the talking.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley led the news conference, saying the group would also discuss how to flex existing laws to better work, including in partnership with federal law enforcement.
Akron Mayor Horrigan didn’t speak at the news conference, but police in the city often work with federal officials on guns and drugs.
Since 2015, Akron police have taken 2,931 guns off the street — including 811 last year, the most confiscated during any of the past four years.
Yet in the 13 months ending in March, Akron had only 10 days with no gunfire reported to police.
Just before the news conference ended, Lima Mayor David Berger slipped in front of the mic.
He noted that others stated there was momentum building for gun control, but, he cautioned, “it’s also occurring in the other direction.”
In Columbus, state Reps. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, and Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, appeared before the House Federalism Committee on Wednesday to present their case for allowing Ohioans to carry hidden handguns without a permit or training.
House Bill 178 would allow anyone age 21 or older, who is not prohibited by federal law from possessing a handgun due to a felony conviction or other disqualifying factors, to carry a gun without obtaining training or a permit. It also would permit Ohioans to legally carry other weapons, such as knives, for self-defense.
Also at the hearing but unable to testify due to legislative rules were a couple dozen members of the group Moms Demand Action; they sat silently in protest. They wore buttons reading "1,400/Honor with Action" — an understated count of the number of Ohioans who die annually from gunshots.
Ohio’s gun-death rate in 2017 was the highest since numbers were compiled beginning in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 1,589 Ohio gun deaths in 2017, 918 were by suicide and 621 were homicides. In addition, 19 people died in accidental shootings, and 21 died from “legal intervention” — shootings by police. Ten gun deaths were unclassified.
The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report. Reporter Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @agarrettABJ.