Local leaders urge support of universal background checksWritten by Dave Willinger | | email@example.com
Councilman and mayoral candidate Joe McNamara joined the executive directors of Progress Ohio and the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence and former mayor Carty Finkbeiner in asking Toledoans to urge their representatives in Washington, D.C., to support for federal legislation mandating universal background checks for gun purchases.
The April 3 rally was set on the edge of the Southland Shopping Center parking lot in proximity to a makeshift memorial to Kaitlin Gerber, the 20-year-old woman killed by her ex-boyfriend Jashua Perz on March 24. McNamara called universal background checks “common sense” and cited statistics showing significantly lower gun suicide and gun violence against women in places where similar statewide legislation is already in place.
“It’s perfectly fine to balance Second Amendment rights with making sure we have safety measures in place to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and ending senseless deaths,” McNamara said in a news release from Progress Ohio, a statewide nonprofit that describes itself as “dedicated to issue advocacy across Ohio,” and whose executive director Brian Rothenberg also spoke at the news conference.
McNamara told a small gathering of local media, “We need the federal government to do this,” referring to universal background checks for gun purchases, part of the legislation that many advocates warn is now stalled in Congress.
Sen. Rob Portman addressed the issue at an April 3 Columbus event. When asked about background checks by a reporter, Portman said, “There is opportunity to enforce the existing background checks,” according to a transcript provided by the senator’s office.
“The more you look into it, the more you find out that some of the information is not being provided,” Portman said.
“A universal check that would require registration, I would be against. I think the idea of a registration, a global registration, would be something that I would oppose and that a lot of my colleagues would as well,” he said.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur’s communications director Steve Fought, said she does “support universal background checks. [Kaptur] also supports a ban on assault weapons; to renew the ban that expired.”
A fact sheet distributed by Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, cited a January 2013 poll by the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, that found that “83 percent of Ohio residents want every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check.”
Toledo is listed as one of 900 cities in America whose mayors have signed the coalition’s statement of principles, which includes punishing “to the maximum extent of the law” the criminals who use illegal guns and “target[ing] and hold[ing] accountable irresponsible gun dealers who break the law by knowingly selling guns to straw purchasers.”
Mayors Against Illegal Guns pledges to support the goal of “protecting the rights of Americans to own guns, while fighting to keep criminals from possessing guns illegally.”
Signatories also support “punish[ing] – to the maximum extent of the law – criminals who possess, use, and traffic in illegal guns” and “keep[ing] lethal, military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines off our streets.”
Finkbeiner, who as mayor in the mid-1990s oversaw the passage of a citywide ban on assault weapons and “Saturday night specials,” said there were 199 shootings in Toledo last year, a dramatic increase, in his words. Finkbeiner said Ohio basically pre-empted the gun restrictions his administration put in place when “the state took away home rule” in such matters about seven years ago.
Finkbeiner recalled how members of the Michigan militia in the 1990s surrounded One Government Center in protest of his local gun bans. He said he was “impressed” with McNamara’s “courage” on the issue of mandating universal background checks, legislation that Hoover emphasized is aimed at gun sellers not gun buyers.
Regarding Finkbeiner’s record on gun control, Hoover said, “Carty was never afraid of this issue,” noting the former multiple-term mayor’s support of it “never hurt his re-election.”
Mayor Mike Bell’s office was not available at press time.