In what was described at the time as a "devastating blow" to President Obama's efforts to regulate guns in the post-Sandy Hook environment, a measure that would have expanded the use of background checks to cover all firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet failed to reach the necessary 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, ending the momentum for such regulations in the wake of the December 2012 gun-violence tragedy that resulted in the loss of 26 lives, including 20 children.
Today in St. Petersburg and in other cities in 14 other states around the country, gun-control activists gathered together to say that they are committed to electing candidates who believe in sensible gun control — all part of a national effort led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to unveil his new organization, Everytown for Gun Safety; Everytown merges his other gun-control groups, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action. The goal is to sign up one million new supporters this year on top of the 1.5 million they already have.
"With the launch of Everytown, our efforts are only going to grow," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, kicking off a press conference on the steps of City Hall shortly before noon today. "This is an all-hands on deck effort," where he called on those present to enlist everyone in their community to work towards fighting for policies that will attempt to curb gun violence. "We are passionately invested in this fight. It is the time to turn the tide and together, I know we will."
The mayor made it a point during last year's campaign to align himself with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and signed on as one of his first acts after being inaugurated in January.
Kriseman was joined by Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, another signatory to Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He said he was a dad and a responsible gun owner, and called on state legislators to repeal the law that bans local lawmakers from crafting policies regarding guns (such a measure prevented Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from banning guns inside a security zone during the 2012 Republican National Convention).
"Our officers encounter armed criminals with greater frequency on the street," said David DeKay, the Interim Chief of Police in St. Petersburg. "We all know too well that firearms are out there in the hands of criminals within our community." He said responsible gun ownership is also needed. Along with others who spoke at the news conference, the interim chief urged those in attendance at the press conference to sign what was referred to as a "voter commitment card," which calls on the signer to support local, state and federal candidates who will "fight for common-sense laws to reduce gun violence."
Everytown for Gun Safety wants to expand background checks, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, crack down on gun trafficking and educate parents about the safe storage of guns.
"This is a very important issue to me," said community activist Lisa Wheeler-Brown, the president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations, whose son died from gun violence. "If I can prevent another mother from losing a child, that is what I would do."
"It is an important right that we have to own and use guns, but it is terribly irresponsible when for any other reason for public safety and personal safety that people own guns, " said Reverend Manuel Sykes, the head of the NAACP St. Petersburg branch.
C.L. Townsend, a self-described "Florida hunter," said he knew about protecting Second Amendment rights and responsible gun ownership. He blasted the National Rifle Association as "fear-mongering," calling it a "plague on our discussion of the responsible regulations needed to protect our children and ourselves." He said some of the NRA's policies are "reasonable," but chastised the organization for featuring fear over facts too much of the time.
Michael Bloomberg told the New York Times
today that he intends to spend $50 million to try to combat the power of the NRA, and punish those politicians who fail to support Everytown's agenda. According to the report, instead of relying heavily on television ads, Bloomberg intends to put much of his money into field operations that have worked well for the NRA and similar groups.
Tomorrow marks a year since the U.S. Congress last attempted to pass a gun-control bill.