Peduto joins mayors at White House to pressure Senate vote on gun control bills
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto joined a group of bipartisan mayors from across the country Monday afternoon at the White House to call for a U.S. Senate vote on proposed legislation that would expand and strengthen background checks for gun buyers.
Peduto and other mayors — including several from cities that have been victimized by mass shootings — met with top domestic policy officials and senior advisers to President Trump. The group included a former Philadelphia police chief and the current chief of Houston, Texas.
“As the mayors spoke, the White House listened, and vice versa,” Bryan K. Barnett, mayor of Rochester Hills, Mich., and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said during a news conference in Washington shortly after the White House meeting.
“They didn’t commit to anything,” Barnett said of White House officials, “but they didn’t say no, and as an optimistic mayor, I’m confident that I heard an opportunity.”
Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville, Ky., described the interaction with Trump administration officials as “very constructive.” He said he and fellow municipal leaders see an urgent need for Congress to enact “common-sense gun legislation.”
“The frustration on the streets of America is palpable … The daily drumbeat of death that we feel in our cities — suicides by gun, urban violence,” Fischer said. “Washington needs to lead.”
Mayors from 278 cities across the country, including Peduto, signed a letter to Senate leaders calling for a vote on a pair of bills related to strengthening background checks — HR 8 and HR 112.
“The proposals we’re talking about are not radical,” Fischer said. “What’s radical is nothing is being done.”
HR 8 aims to expand background checks to include the private transfer of firearms between individuals. HR 112 extends the review period deadline for background checks from three to 10 business days. Currently, if a background check is not completed in three days, the sale can go through.
Both bills have cleared the House of Representatives.
“We want an up or down vote on HR 8 in the Senate,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “It’s a very easy action, it’s not complicated. … We want a bipartisan spirit on common-sense gun legislation as soon as possible — so another city isn’t at the hands of another issue like Dayton.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he might call for a vote on such legislation — as long as Trump supports it.
The president recently said that any gun control measures must balance public safety with the Second Amendment.
During Monday’s meeting, White House officials indicated that they favor “a suite of solutions” when it comes to gun-related legislation, Barnett said.
But he and fellow mayors remain hopeful that the stand-alone bills they’re advocating have a chance to “break the political paralysis and bring needed change.”
“Mayors are pragmatic, and we will work with anyone who will help us achieve our desired goal,” he said. “For mayors, this crisis is personal. We are on the front lines of this tragedy. … No community should have to live in fear of gun violence.”
A Washington Post-ABC poll released Monday found that 86 percent of Americans support implementing “red flag” provisions, which permit courts to seize guns from people deemed a threat to public safety. Another 89 percent support expanding federal background checks, according to the poll.
At least 8 in 10 Republicans, white evangelical Christians, members of gun-owning households and other traditionally conservative groups support both measures, according to the Washington Post.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors live-streamed Monday afternoon’s news conference on its Facebook page and shared a copy of the letter sent to Senate leaders on Sunday.
Peduto, who was among about a dozen municipal officials present at the event, was not available for comment late Monday.
Peduto on Friday said he planned to welcome back the Senate, which has been on recess, and call for “immediate action” on the gun bills.
Friday was a deadline that Peduto set on Aug. 6, calling for a Senate vote on the bills within 30 days. Peduto set the same deadline for action by the Pennsylvania General Assembly on state-related gun legislation.
On Tuesday, the mayors’ group plans to head to the Capitol to meet with several senators.