Atlanta mayor signs letter urging U.S. Senate to pass gun safety laws

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was one of 214 signatories on a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate, asking them to call Senators back to Washington and take up gun safety legislation. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
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Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was one of 214 signatories on a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate, asking them to call Senators back to Washington and take up gun safety legislation. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Thursday added her signature to a letter of mayors who are urging the U. S. Senate to reconvene and pass two gun safety bills already approved by the U. S. House of Representatives.

The letter was signed by a group of 214 bipartisan mayors, including Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and El Paso Mayor Dee Margo — mayors whose cities are the latest to be stricken by mass shootings that left a combined 31 people dead over the weekend.

“Already in 2019, there have been over 250 mass shootings,” the letter says. “The tragic events in El Paso and Dayton this weekend are just the latest reminders that our nation can no longer wait for our federal government to take the actions necessary to prevent people who should not have access to firearms from being able to purchase them.”

The letter from the U.S. Conference of Mayors was addressed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York). It says the two pieces of legislation would greatly strengthen the nation’s background check system and would have prevented the 2015 Charleston mass shooting had the laws been in place.

The bills “are bipartisan, sensible gun safety bills that would make our cities and our people safer, and would in no way compromise gun owners’ rights,” the letter says.

In a tweet early Thursday, Bottoms indicated that the issue is deeply personal for her: The mayor’s nephew, Darius, would have turned 21 years old this week, but was killed in a case of mistaken identity a few years ago.

“Whether a mass shooting or gang violence, our families & communities are hurt just the same,” Bottoms wrote on Twitter.

In a prepared statement on Thursday, Bottoms said all elected officials have to work together to solve the issue.

“Public servants — from the local level to Washington — have an obligation to protect the lives of those we are entrusted to serve,” the mayor said. “We need strong leadership willing to take the necessary measures to prevent heinous, senseless acts of violence.”

According to the letter, the legislation would require anyone purchasing a firearm to undergo a background check, prohibit the unlicensed transfer of guns through secondary sales and give law enforcement more ability to trace gun crimes.

Other mayors who signed on to the letter represent cities that have experienced mass shootings in recent years, including: Las Vegas, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Annapolis, Md., and Parkland, Fla.