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Mayors campaign to decrease gun violence

25th March 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Noelle Jones
Contributing Writer

(Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Howard University News Service) — More than 850 mayors from big cities and small towns across the country have joined a coalition— Mayors Against Illegal Guns—aimed at protecting the rights of Americans who own guns, while fighting to keep criminals from possessing guns illegally.

Founded in 2006 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas More with only 15 members, this organization has grown and is working to disseminate its message and to organize in efforts to stop gun violence.

“With more than one million grassroots supporters—many of whom joined after the Newtown shooting by signing our Demand A Plan petition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns is now the largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization in the country,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Communication Director Erika Soto Lamb.

The Demand A Plan Campaign is a call to action aimed at lowering the startling statistics of gun violence and saving the lives of the 33 people who are killed in the United States daily by guns. The main goals of the campaign are to get Congress to pass legislation requiring every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check, to get military assault weapons and high capacity magazines off of the streets and to make gun trafficking a federal crime. Research from Mayors Against Illegal Guns Trace Data Center found that about 40 percent of guns acquired in the United States annually come from unlicensed sellers who are not required by federal law to conduct background checks on gun purchasers.

After the shooting in Newton, Conn., President Obama dedicated himself to delivering a set of concrete proposals to address the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. The Demand A Plan campaign believes that requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale should be apart of the plan. However, in order for these background checks to be effective, states must submit millions of missing records to background check databases.

These missing records are visible, fatal gaps partially responsible for the estimated 8,000 deaths caused in the United States by firearms, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. In D.C., the campaign reported, 4,557 reports were missing compared to the 477 that were submitted. If legislation to require universal background checks is passed, the submission of these missing reports into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System could be the difference between a mentally unstable individual being cleared to carry a firearm or not, supporters of the legislation say.

Demand A Plan is determined to do something about the staggering statistics nationwide—the use of about 25 celebrities like Beyonce, Cameron Diaz and Jamie Fox is one technique they’re using to raise awareness.

The use of celebrities, some featured in violent action-packed films in the Demand A Plan video has come under fire, with some criticizing the use of actors who have been more than “trigger happy” in their films.

“Just because an actor or artist has been in a v­­iolent movie doesn’t somehow offset their credibility to talk about gun violence. They’re mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters—proud Americans. We can talk about violence in (our) culture, but ultimately it’s the gun that matters,” Soto Lamb said.

“If we don’t do a better job of keeping these weapons out of the wrong hands, it won’t matter what sort of movies Hollywood is making. Movies are better regulated than guns are. Fifteen year olds can’t just buy a ticket for a violent movie yet the NRA opposes laws to prohibit terrorists from buying guns and won’t close loopholes that let criminals and dangerously ill people easily buy assault weapons,” she said.

For 20-somethings, the use of celebrities in the video makes it that much more attention grabbing.

“It is the perfect way to go about advertising keeping guns out of illegal hands. A regular citizen doesn’t have the type of platform and can’t reach the attention of as many people as a celebrity can,” said freelance journalist LaParis Hawkins. “When you see your favorite celebrity advocating for such a big issue, you stop and listen.”

The Demand A Plan Campaign allows supporters to donate funds and to sign a petition for Congress. Those who cannot afford to give monetarily are encouraged to call their elected officials to demand that they support “common sense”‘ gun reforms. They can also utilize social networks to increase visibility of the campaign’s message.

“We together can work towards a safer future,” Hawkins said. “America’s obsession with guns has to cease.”

This article originally published in the March 25, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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