City council expected to back mayor's stance on gun control
BY BERNARD HARRIS, Staff Writer
After an article about firearms recently ran in this newspaper, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray said he got a telephone call from a man asking why the mayor wanted to take away his guns.
"Because you're a criminal," Gray said he told the man.
When the man told the mayor he was not a criminal, Gray said, "Then I don't want to take your guns away."
Of the 19 mayors in the county, Gray is the only one involved in the national group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He told Lancaster City Council Monday that he has heard complaints from people opposed to his and the organization's position on new gun-control laws now pending in Congress.
Gray, however, said he has heard more comments from those who support his position.
City Council is prepared to offer its support to the mayor and take a position on gun control that has been thrust into the national spotlight since the December massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
"This is adding our voice to the bigger debate," said Councilman John Graupera, who introduced a resolution to fellow council members at a committee meeting.
The resolution supports Gray and his role with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and it also echoes the mayors' call for passage of legislation mandating universal background checks and bans on the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Council is expected to vote on the resolution on Tuesday, April 9, and passage is expected.
If passed, a copy of the resolution, along with letters supporting the legislation, will be sent to the state's federal legislators.
"The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with common-sense background checks. This isn't a radical idea," said Councilman James Reichenbach.
The three-page draft resolution includes a litany of recent mass shootings in the United States, highlighting those that have been done by people with known mental health problems or with guns purchased on the Internet or at gun shows that do not require background checks.
Gray said the argument is often made that additional gun regulation is not necessary and that existing laws need to be enforced.
Yet, he said, there are many loopholes in existing laws, including allowing an unlicensed, private gun owner to resell a gun to another person without having to register the sale or check the buyer's criminal or mental health history.
The pending legislation seeks to close that loophole by making gun trafficking a federal crime and requiring background checks for all gun sales.
It also would require states to submit mental health information that would prohibit some from purchasing guns.
Since 2007, when 32 people were killed by a gunman with known mental health problems at Virginia Tech, many states have begun submitting mental health information. Nineteen states, however, have each submitted fewer than 100 mental health records since that massacre, according to the resolution.
"What does a background check do?" asked Gray. "It simply identifies who cannot legally possess a gun."
The mayor argued that the constitutional right to gun ownership also carries with it reasonable responsibility.
"I love to ride motorcycles, but I can't do wheelies on Queen Street," the mayor said. He also noted that he has to register the sale of a motorcycle if he chooses to sell one.