Transcript: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s testimony on gun violence

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter testifies before the House Democratic Steering Committee on gun violence on Jan. 16, 2013. SOURCE: C-Span.org

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of testimony by Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter on gun violence before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Jan. 16, 2013: 

I’m honored to appear before you this afternoon on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to discuss with you the views of the nation’s mayors and what we must do to reduce gun violence in this nation and to make our cities and towns, our streets, our schools, our theaters, our places of worship safer places for all of our people.

Again and again and again, Americans have been stunned by senseless acts of violence involving guns.

The Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy targeting young children in Newtown remains incomprehensible.

Too many times during the last year mayors have expressed shock at a mass shooting. Even more frequently, many of us must cope with gun violence that occurs on the streets of our cities everyday.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has been calling for sensible gun laws to protect the public for more than 40 years. Mayors and police chiefs from cities of all sizes have worked together in this effort for decades.

We have done this because of the tremendous toll which gun violence takes on the American public day in and day out.

Let me share some additional numbers with you.

Every year in America, more than 100,000 people are shot; 37,537 of them die, including 11,583 who are murdered.

Every year, 18,000 children and teenagers are shot; 2,829 of them die, including 1,888 who are murdered.

Everyday in America, 282 people are shot and 86 of them die, including 32 who are murdered.

Everyday, 50 children and teens are shot and 8 of them die, including 5 who are murdered.

If this was a disease killing that many people, if this were accidents killing that many people, if this were bags of tainted spinach killing that many people, this country would immediately take swift action to stop that kind of death toll.

Somehow, some – seemingly paralyzed – when it comes to guns and violence but I would only repeat what Congresswoman McCarthy said, “This time it’s different.” And it must be.

Gun violence disproportionately affects urban areas. Our 50 largest metro areas have 62 sector cities. These cities account for 15% of the population but 39% of gun-related murders and 23% total homicides.

Philadelphia, like many major cities, has struggled to control gun violence for years.

However, despite our recent successes in employing more effective policing techniques, deaths due to gun violence have not dramatically fallen.

Let me use one set of statistics to illustrate this point.

Last year, the number of shooting victims in Philadelphia is 1,282. This is actually down, considerably, from the year before and the lowest number since we began tracking shooting victims in 2000.

However, the number of homicides was actually slightly up last year – 331 – 7 more than the previous year.

How are these two statistics possible? The answer is homicide victims have more bullets killing them. Put it another way: There are more rounds being fired and more intentional head shots.

So despite better policing, someone in Philadelphia shot, unfortunately, they may be more likely to die even though there are fewer shooting victims. We had an 11% increase in Philadelphia in head shots; we had a 30% increase in the number of bullets found at scenes measuring more than 20 rounds at a location.

Let me note that Pennsylvania does not have stringent gun restrictions. When the city of Philadelphia adopted stricter gun laws a few years ago, state Supreme Court struck some of those laws down. That is why we need federal legislation – comprehensive, common sense federal legislation for all of us to be safe.

Cities alone cannot reduce gun violence by themselves. We are doing everything that we can but still losing the battle thanks to the proliferation of guns in our nation.

Philadelphia’s story is not unique. Mayors everywhere struggle with gun violence using scarce city resources to fight it; resources we should be using to educate our children, create jobs for our residents and revitalize our cities.

In an open letter to the President and the Congress sent just three days after the Newtown massacre, we urged immediate action and over 200 signed on to that letter.

We call on the President to exercise his powers through executive orders and Congress to introduce and pass legislation to make reasonable changes in our gun laws and regulations.

Specifically, we call on Congress to (1) enact legislation to ban assault weapons and other high-capacity magazines that’s now being prepared by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and many others; (2) strengthen the national background check system and eliminate loopholes in that system; and (3) strengthen the penalty for straw purchases of guns.

Today, of course, President Barack Obama and Vice President [Joe] Biden released the administration’s plan to reduce gun violence, both through new legislation and executive action.

I was honored to be at the White House earlier today for that release and I can tell you that the administration clearly listened closely to the recommendations which the mayors have offered.

The nation’s mayors urge Congress to give that report full consideration and to move swiftly forward on the legislative action that it requires.

We know that preventing gun violence, whether it is mass shootings in a school or murder on a street corner, will take much more than just strengthening our gun laws.

We need to reverse the culture of violence in our nation so that violent acts are not the first response for settling a difference or compensating for a wrong.

We need to strengthen and more adequately fund our mental health system so that we can identify troubled individuals earlier and get them the help that they need.

Lastly, in addition, I personally support the creation of a national commission on domestic terrorism, violence, and crime in America, which will examine the issue of violent crime and prevention and put forward recommendations on what government can do on a local, state, and national level to reduce domestic terrorism, violence, and crime and prevent attacks such as those we witnessed in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, and Virginia Tech.

Yesterday, as mayor of Philadelphia, I also announced and put forward for our city something I refer to now as the “Sandy Hook principles”. These principles are a call to action for corporations to heed to the basic core values of American citizens in promoting the health, safety, and well-being of our communities. The objective of these principles is to influence the behavior of gun and ammunition manufacturers, distributors, and retailers by establishing a baseline standard for responsible conduct of their business. I shall share these principles with many other mayors from around the country. We expect during our conference we will be reviewing and discussing them in the days ahead.

Let me be very clear, however, strengthening our gun laws should not have to wait for any of these other actions to occur. The time for action is now.

The nation’s mayors pledge to work with you to build a safer America for our children and for all of our citizens.

Lastly, let me say this as a father: I find it reprehensible, disgusting, and outside the bounds of human dignity that the NRA placed an ad on television attacking President Obama’s daughters. Even in this – at times of outrageous business of politics, which we are all engaged – we must have the sense to not attack the families and children of those of us engaged in public service. The NRA has struck an incredibly new low in public discourse and that ad should be removed immediately. It has – that ad has no place in the legitimate dialogue that must take place in order to make this country safer for all of us, especially our children.

Thank you, Madam Leader.

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