Bernero: ‘Put down the guns, stop the killing’

By Sam Inglot
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is joined by Flint Mayor Dayne Walling (left) and other officials calling on the federal government for tighter gun control regulations. Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Mayors group calls for federal action to reduce gun violence

Monday, Jan. 14 — The Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition is calling on the federal government for universal background checks when purchasing guns, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines and making gun trafficking a federal crime. 

At a press conference today at City Hall, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, law enforcement officials, the Lansing School District superintendent and members of the faith community called on the federal government to enact measures to reduce gun violence.

The press conference marked the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 students and six teachers. It comes a day before the Obama Administration is expected to make recommendations on new gun control measures.

Bernero said there were three “simple things” the federal government could do to reduce gun violence: require universal background checks when selling guns; ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines; and make gun trafficking a federal crime.

“Put down the guns, stop the killing,” Bernero said. “These are bad people settling scores with illegal guns.”

“More than one life is lost to gun violence every day,” Walling said.

Already in 2013, there have been five shootings in Lansing, Police Chief Teresa Szymankski said today.

Walling questioned the old argument: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” He said if people were to see the bodies of young men and women in Flint “riddled with bullet holes,” they would begin to understand that “these guns are accomplices to murder.”

Saginaw City Manager Darnell Earley attended today’s press conference because the 50,000 people in his city have been “pleading for help” to address gun violence. He said there is daily “neighborhood warfare” in the urban cores of the state. There were four shootings in Saginaw over the weekend, according to the Saginaw Police Department.

Bernero said the three demands of the group were “common sense” solutions that he believed even a gun-advocacy giant like the National Rifle Association could get behind. He said there are “responsible limits” to all rights, including the Second Amendment.

“I can’t wait to see the NRA jump on some of these proposals,” he said.

Walling also said the federal government should secure more funding to help local police departments pay for officers to be mentors and positive role models for kids in schools. Lansing schools Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul reiterated Walling’s request.

The press conference also featured a new television commercial made by the coalition that will be airing in the Lansing market. The ad features people who have lost family members due to gun violence. “Demand a plan” from Washington was the mantra throughout the ad and the press conference.

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition boasts more than 800 mayors as members, including nine in Michigan. The group focuses on pushing policy to promote safe communities and reduce gun violence.