NEWARK, NJ - Mayor Ras Baraka joined 214 mayors to call on the U.S. Senate to pass gun reform after two separate shootings last week left more than 30 people dead and dozens more injured.
Communities in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio are still reeling from two unrelated mass shootings that occurred less than 13 hours apart. Twenty-two victims reportedly died in the El Paso shooting that occurred in a Walmart, while nine died in Dayton when a suspected gunman opened fire in a crowded downtown area.
The United States Conference of Mayors, which includes Baraka and mayors from Dayton and El Paso, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring lawmakers back into session and consider voting on two gun reform bills previously passed in the lower house.
“The horrors that were seen over the weekend in Dayton and El Paso are just the latest in a surge of gun violence that is growing both exponentially and unchecked,” said Baraka in a statement. “It occurs in cities like ours that witness many gun deaths annually that never make the national news. This is an epidemic that should be treated as one.”
McConnell, a Republican, has yet to call senators in from recess.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, called for bipartisan solutions like red flag laws that could allow families to get court orders to keep relatives from getting guns. The president also said “mental illness and hate pulls the trigger, not the gun” while addressing the nation in the wake of the shootings.
“We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement,” Trump said, adding that those who commit hate crimes should face the death penalty.
Authorities are reportedly investigating if an anti-immigrant manifesto that appeared on the site 8chan was written by the alleged shooter in El Paso and federal hate crime charges are being considered.
The letter from the conference of mayors asked the senate to consider bills that would close loopholes in background checks for gun purchases and lengthen the background check review times.
“Both bills passed the House in February and have been languishing in the Senate ever since,” said the mayor’s conference CEO and Executive Director, Tom Cochran. “214 mayors are saying today that enough is enough and it is time to pass these bills and help us reduce gun violence in our cities.”
The conference, which consists of both Democratic and Republican mayors, has advocated for policies to combat gun violence for more than 50-years. It recently passed a series of resolutions regarding gun violence.
“It has been 20 years since Columbine, 12 since Virginia Tech, seven since Sandy Hook, and one since Parkland,” Baraka’s statement continued. “The time has long passed for Congress to address simple common-sense measures in the wake of any of these ghastly massacres.”