/Mesa mayor urges White House and Senate to enact gun background checks

Mesa mayor urges White House and Senate to enact gun background checks

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Democrats are pressing President Donald Trump to intervene with Senate Republicans and demand passage of a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for gun purchases. (Sept. 9)
AP, AP

Mesa Mayor John Giles joined a small group of mayors on a trip to D.C. to urge the White House and Senate leaders to consider bipartisan legislation on background checks for guns.

Giles said the group met with White House officials on Monday and Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of the Arizona delegation, on Tuesday.

“Are we finally going to find the political will?,” Giles said in an interview with The Arizona Republic on Wednesday. “We’re hopeful.”  

‘Our nation can no longer wait’

After an early August weekend of shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that left 31 dead and dozens wounded, more than 270 U.S. mayors signed a letter to McConnell and Democratic Leader Charles Schumer urging immediate action on gun safety.

The mayors asked the Senate to return to session early – which did not happen – and to pass “bipartisan gun safety legislation.” They signed in support of H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, two House bills intended to strengthen background checks for gun sales.

“Already in 2019, there have been over 250 mass shootings,” the letter reads. “The tragic events in El Paso and Dayton … are just the latest reminders that our nation can no longer wait for our federal government to take the actions necessary to prevent people who should not have access to firearms from being able to purchase them.”

In addition to Giles, three other Arizona mayors signed the letter, sponsored by the United States Conference of Mayors: Kate Gallego of Phoenix, Mark Mitchell of Tempe and Jonathan Rothschild of Tucson. But Giles was the only Arizona mayor to lobby in D.C. this week.

What proposed legislation would do

H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019, would require all gun purchases to undergo a background check. It would prohibit unregulated secondary sales and enhance law enforcement’s capacity to track certain guns.

H.R. 1112 seeks to extend the background check review period from three to 10 days to make sure background checks are finished before guns are sold, preventing potentially dangerous individuals from buying guns.

Giles said four or five mayors met with Kellyanne Conway and other White House officials on Monday. He said the White House presented its many considerations, which he said were different from President Trump’s initial comment immediately after the shootings that he would consider background check legislation.

Giles said McConnell has cited the president’s reluctance to sign off on legislation as a reason for his delay in calling a Senate vote, so Giles said the mayors wanted to start by lobbying the White House.

Other mayors at that meeting included the mayor of Parkland, Florida, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, two cities that experienced recent mass shootings. Giles said his role was to represent the Republican point of view and say that he too, a Republican mayor from a big western city, approves of this legislation.

President Trump was out of town and not present at Monday’s meeting, but Giles said he was satisfied that Conway was there to hear the mayors.

On Tuesday, mayors met with key senators at the start of their return to session to urge that gun safety legislation be an immediate priority. Giles said he was impressed by senators’ expertise on the range of all possible bills and background checks: “They get it.”

22 funerals to attend

Giles said he became actively involved in urging background check legislation after the August shootings. During a conference call with the mayors of El Paso and Dayton after the tragedies, Giles said he was spurred to action.

He recalled Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso saying he had to attend 22 funerals. Giles said he immediately thought, “by the grace of God, it’s not Mesa.”

He said he couldn’t possibly imagine having to go to 22 funerals after a mass shooting in his own city.

Giles said he hopes the D.C. visit demonstrates to the White House and the Senate that mayors are “not going to walk away from this issue” and that they are going to continue to apply pressure at the national level for legislation to keep their cities safe and prevent future mass shootings.

Reach the reporter at Alison.Steinbach@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter: @alisteinbach.

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