Mayors Against Illegal Guns
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition is a leftist political coalition of mayors from about 400 United States cities, with a stated agenda of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The group was formed by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The coalition's CEO is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The majority of members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition are Democrats.
Criticism of Methods and Hypocrisy
Indicted, convicted, and scandalized members
A substantial number of member of the coalition have been indicted in recent months, on felony charges. Here in the US, conviction of felony means the immediate loss of both the right to vote and the right to own a gun for the rest of one's life. This is an organization that espouses doing away with "illegal guns", yet a surprising number of their members have made choices in their lives that have set themselves on the path to being disenfranchised from ever owning a gun.
Personal character and integrity are prerequisites for anyone entering public office, to serve in an elected position of "special trust and confidence", such as a mayorship. Abuses of that trust, gross lapses of integrity, and forays into criminal conduct are not tolerated in our society. If anything, elected politicians are held to a higher standard than the general public, and their actions are closely watched. For an elected official to become a criminal, when they themselves are entrusted to protect us from criminals is nearly the most heinous and unforgivable thing imaginable in a democratically-ruled republic. For some of these same individuals to continue to be considered members in good standing of a "crime-fighting" organization—and not even censured by the organization—has been criticized as being hypocritical.
Three current and former members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition are currently under felony indictments, six others were recently convicted of felonies, one indicted member died of a heart attack before completion of his trial, and one member was recently convicted of a violent misdemeanor. The indicted and convicted members and former members include:
- Former Mayor Gary Becker of Racine, Wisconsin is under five felony indictments for child pornography, attempted child sexual assault and child enticement. He resigned after pleading not guilty and being released on bond. He was later convicted and received a three-year felony sentence in prison.
- Former Mayor David Delle Donna, of Guttenberg, New Jersey was indicted under a Federal extortion and mail fraud charges. He was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison.
- Mayor Sheila Dixon was indicted in 2009 on twelve counts, comprising four counts of perjury, two counts of misconduct, three counts of theft, and three counts of fraudulent misappropriations. The felony theft charges stem partly from incidents in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 in which she allegedly misappropriated gift cards intended for the poor and used them for personal purchases. Dixon was eventually convicted, but on January 6, 2010, under a pre-arranged plea agreement reached with prosecutors, Dixon announced that she was resigning as Mayor, effective February 4, 2010. Under the terms of the agreement Dixon got "probation before judgment" (PBJ). A PBJ is not considered a "conviction", thus enabling her to keep her $83,000 pension.
- Mayor Jerramiah Healy was convicted for obstruction of justice in 2007 and more recently was implicated in the corruption sweep in New Jersey involving the sale of body parts and money laundering. In all, 44 individuals were indicted. (Healy was named as "JC Official 4" and implicated, but was not indicted, in the probe.)
- Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted, arrested, and convicted. and subsequently jailed for 99 days. Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two felony obstruction of justice charges stemming from his efforts to cover up an extramarital affair. He also pleaded no contest to charges of assaulting a police officer attempting to serve a subpoena on a Kilpatrick friend in that case. The charges and allegations (not all against Kilpatrick himself) were of marital infidelity, conspiracy, perjury, corruption and murder. Following Kilpatrick's conviction, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms called on Kilpatrick to resign from the Coalition.
- Mayor Larry Langford was investigated in 2007 by the SEC on corruption charges. In 2008 a lawsuit was filed against him for illegally accepting $156,000 in cash and benefits. On December 1, 2008, Larry Langford was arrested by the FBI on a 101 count indictment alleging conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns in connection with a long-running bribery scheme. On December 1, 2008, Langford, along with William B. Blount and Al LaPierre, was arrested by the FBI on a 101-count indictment alleging conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns in connection with a long-running bribery scheme. His public corruption trial ended on October 28, 2009 with convictions on 60 counts, and resulted in his automatic removal from office.
- Deceased Mayor Frank Melton at the time of his death was under felony indictment on civil rights charges. (He died before a scheduled re-trial, following a mistrial.) In 2006, Melton pled guilty to a firearms charge, stemming from a raid (in which he was armed with a concealed pistol) on a suspected crack house. Melton conducted the extra-official Buford Pusser-style raid without a warrant to "bust up" a duplex apartment, accompanied by a group of youths that were not sworn law enforcement officers. That same event led to Melton's civil rights indictment. In November 2006, he pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor charges: carrying a gun in a park and in a church, and carrying a concealed weapon.
- Mayor Eddie Perez was indicted on bribery, fabricating evidence, and conspiracy to fabricate evidence felony charges. Perez turned himself in to state police, stating that he had a lapse in judgment but did nothing illegal, and vowed that he would not step down as Hartford's mayor. He was arraigned on September 8, 2009. His trial date was postponed to November 2009, and then to February, 2010. On September 2, 2009 Perez was again arrested, and additionally charged with first-degree larceny by extortion, stemming from a no-bid parking lot deal, unrelated to the other corruption charges. He again proclaimed that he would stay in office, despite these new felony charges. He was later sentenced to three years in prison.
- Former Mayor Samuel Rivera, of Passaic, New Jersey was convicted of corruption, influence peddling, and extortion charges. In August 2008 he pled guilty,and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
- In 2008, former Mayor Will Wynn was convicted of Class C misdemeanor, for a choking assault on a man who had crashed a party.
Five current members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition have been troubled by scandals that involved firearms:
- As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg came into office, he inherited a chronic firearms permit favoritism scandal from his predecessors that still remains an unresolved issue. Writing in the New York Sun, attorney David Kopel observed: "The problem is acute in New York City. Celebrities, the ultra-wealthy, and the politically influential get carry permits. But many of the people who need them the most — such as stalking victims, or crime witnesses who have been threatened by the criminal's friends — often do not." There are currently only about 36,169 permits to keep firearms in private homes in New York City, with the majority issued to retired police officers. Of these permit holders, only 2,516 are more liberally licensed for concealed carry outside their homes. The issuance of permits is discretionary in New York City, per Penal Law 400. (It is considered a "may issue" locality, unlike the "shall issue" policy used for concealed carry in most other localities.) Despite "tight" restrictions on "demonstrated need or special danger", a who’s-who list of celebrities, billionaires, entertainers, professional athletes, and politicians has somehow managed to get firearms permits. This list includes New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher Michael Korda, and talk show host Howard Stern. In 2007, The New York Post reported that gun license holders include financier Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., Queens district attorney Richard A. Brown, Westchester County district attorney, Janet DiFiore, music executive Tommy Mottola, chief executive of Marvel Comics, Isaac Perlmutter, radio show host Don Imus, lawyer Barry Slotnick, lawyer Raoul Felder; publisher Robert Forbes, the cab-driving political activist Fernando Mateo, former New York Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (recently indicted for fraud), actor Robert De Niro, actor Harvey Keitel, film producer Martin Bregman, cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler. All of these individuals have retained their gun licenses under Bloomberg's "tough on guns" administration. The New York Post noted: "Television news anchor John Roland, who let his license lapse in 2006, got his gun permit back in 2007." A surprisingly high number of celebrities have concealed carry permits, rather than the more common "keep at home" (premise) permits. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Bloomberg asked Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to look at the issue, and added: 'If you want a gun permit, you should have to really show that your life is in danger, and that having a gun will protect you, will improve the chances of you surviving.'" But despite Bloomberg's publicly-stated concern, there have been no announcements of any celebrity gun permits being rescinded, or any reforms to prevent favoritism, cronyism, bribes, or other abuse of discretion in license issuance. With a city population of 8.3 million, the 36,169 gun permit holders represent just .043% of the population and the 2,516 concealed carry permit holders represent a scant .003% of the population.
- Mayor Richard M. Daley has been criticized for the city of Chicago's long-standing practice of providing armed bodyguards for a number of city politicians, including city clerk James "Jim" Laski. In the city clerk scandal, Daley was shamed into removing the perk of the armed bodyguards for the clerk. The Chicago Sun-Times reported: "The decision was made almost immediately after Laski became the first elected official to be caught up in the Hired Truck scandal. But Daley insisted that the bribery and extortion charges against Laski were not the trigger. It was the fact that, until this week, Laski had not been showing up for work." Laski was later convicted of taking $48,000 in bribes and received a two-year sentence. Former Mayor Eugene Sawyer, City Treasurer Judy Rice and Alderman Edward M. Burke, chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee still have armed bodyguards.
- Mayor Gerald Jennings of Albany, New York was implicated in a scandal regarding the alleged illegal purchase of 52 machine guns. It is unclear whether the weapons were purchased for departmental use or for the use of private individuals. Weapons were delivered to Police Department addresses but apparently paid for with private funds. The Department has not produced a list of weapons, their location, the names of the individuals who purchased them, or their disposition or destruction. At least one later turned up, illegally for sale to the public, in an area gun store. The police officer who sold the gun to the store has testified that he bought it from a Police Union official who was also the Department's armorer. The current Chief of Police is the fifth appointed by Jennings. The case is still open.
- Following the illegal seizure of firearms in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin settled a lawsuit and had a permanent injunction issued prohibiting Nagin or any New Orleans employee from confiscating any lawfully possessed firearm and ordering the return of hundreds of illegally confiscated firearms. (They had been confiscated at Mayor Nagin's order.). Nagin's administration has also been troubled by reports of improprieties with the police department evidence rooms, where guns were stolen, guns were allowed to rust, and $200,000 in cash was stolen.
- Mayor Bill White's administration has been embarrassed by an ongoing scandal involving guns stolen from the Houston Police Department's evidence room. In January 2009, the Houston Chronicle reported: "For months, maybe years, people with criminal backgrounds had access to secure areas of the police station, including a property room from which 30 guns disappeared within six months, according to internal police documents. The documents, obtained by the Houston Chronicle, indicated that lax security created an environment ripe for theft. No one has been charged in the gun thefts, although police suspected telephone repairmen who admitted stealing other items, and a temporary employee who had access to the property room while awaiting trial on aggravated robbery charges."
Resignations from the coalition
Twelve mayors that had been members have withdrawn from the organization, claiming either that they were misled about the group's anti-gun platform, or that they were enrolled in the coalition without their knowledge. They are:
- Carmel, Indiana Mayor James Brainard
In her resignation letter, Mayor Patricia Shontz of Madeira Beach, Florida wrote, “I am withdrawing because I believe the MAIG is attempting to erode all gun ownership, not just illegal guns. Additionally, I have learned that the MAIG may be working on issues which conflict with legal gun ownership.” She added, “It appears the MAIG has misrepresented itself to the Mayors of America and its citizens. This is gun control, not crime prevention.”
In his resignation letter to Bloomberg, Mayor Harry Moore stated: "It is simply unconscionable that this coalition, under your leadership, would call for a repeal of the Shelby /Tiahrt amendment that helps to safeguard criminal investigations and the lives of law enforcement officers, witnesses and others by restricting access to firearms trace data solely to law enforcement. How anyone, least of all a public official, could be willing to sacrifice such a law enforcement lifeline in order to gain an edge in suing an industry they have political differences with is repugnant to me. The fact that your campaign against this protective language consisted of overheated rhetoric, deception and falsehoods is disturbing."
The resignations of Kevin Jackson and Jared Fuhriman left the state of Idaho completely unrepresented in the organization, and Alaska with just one representative mayor. Since Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City left office, it has also left Utah unrepresented. Mayor Kathy Taylor of Tulsa, Oklahoma has announced that she will not seek re-election, and as of September, 2009, her name has been removed from the coalition's roster. This also leaves Oklahoma unrepresented. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors there are 1,201 cities in the US with a population of 30,000 or more that are headed by mayors. Several of the mayors in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition represent even smaller towns and cities—particularly in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which are disproportionately represented.
With the stated goal of reducing the number of straw purchase of guns, the coalition has favored new legislation to require mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns. As of September, 2009, seven states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing failure to report lost and stolen guns to law enforcement. Several other states and local governments are working to pass similar laws. Critics counter that straw purchases are already illegal, and hence mandatory theft and loss reporting laws are redundant.
Former prosecuting attorney C.D. Michel analyzed mandatory reporting laws, using one in Ventura County, California as an example: "Ironically, the ordinance cannot be used against the real bad guys. No law can compel lawbreakers to report themselves. So a straw purchaser who legally buys a gun cannot be compelled to report that he resold it illegally. And since it wasn't actually lost or stolen, he hasn't violated the ordinance. Similarly, if a felon prohibited from possessing a gun illegally possesses one anyway, and it is lost or stolen, he can be prosecuted for having the gun in the first place, but cannot be prosecuted for failing to incriminate himself by reporting the loss. Enforcement of these ordinances places prosecutors in a precarious legal and ethical position. Say a straw-purchaser's gun is recovered at a crime scene and traced back to him. If he lies to police claiming his gun was "stolen" when he really sold it on the black market, will we nonetheless prosecute him for something he did not do (fail to report the "stolen" gun—which wasn't actually stolen) but to which he "confessed"? Ethics and legality aside, securing a misdemeanor conviction for failing to report a theft (that never occurred) likely prohibits prosecuting the straw purchaser for the more serious felony black market sale or for making a false statement to police. Perhaps worse, gun owners who truly are burglary victims must now hesitate to speak with police if their stolen gun is recovered at a crime scene. If the gun owner failed to report the loss at all, or on time, she faces possible criminal prosecution if she cooperates with police investigating the recovered gun. She should remain silent, get a lawyer and seek immunity first. Legal representation may also be appropriate when a gun is first discovered missing. The owner can be prosecuted if the theft is not reported within 48 hours of when the owner "should have known" the gun was missing. Proponents have made clear they believe "responsible" gun owners should know where their gun is at every single moment and "should know" a gun is gone immediately. And the fear of prosecution will encourage those who miss the 48-hour window not to report the loss at all. Effectively, these ordinances place the legitimate gun owner in jeopardy of prosecution for becoming a victim of a crime. In light of these liabilities, gun-rights groups and the criminal-defense bar have begun advising gun owners—who would ordinarily be happy to assist police with their investigation—that they need a lawyer if they are contacted by police."
- Bloomberg Anti-Gun "Soul-Mate" Kilpatrick Now a Cellmate; Should Resign, Says CCRKBA - MarketWatch
- Copy of indictment, via the Birmingham News
- USA vs Larry P Langford, William B Blount, Blount Parrish & Co. Inc, and Albert W Lapierre
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- "Statement By Mayor Eddie Perez", The Hartford Courant, 2009-01-27. Retrieved on 2009-01-29.
- Houston Chronicle, "Room for Doubt", January 22, 2009
- Mayor Withdraws from anti-gun coalition, The Indianapolis Star, June 27, 2007 By: Tania E. Lopez http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070627/LOCAL0101/706270329/1015/LOCAL01
- Letter to the Editor, Anchorage Daily News, February 4, 2007 by Mayor Mark Begich http://www.adn.com/opinion/letters/story/8614932p-8507468c.html
- An Idaho Mayor Withdraws From Bloomberg's Gun Group, The New York Sun, January 17, 2007 By: Bradley Hope https://www.nysun.com/article/46799
- National Shooting Sports Foundation: Firearms Industry Hails New Jersey Mayor Following Resignation from Bloomberg Coalition
- AmmoLand.Com - Gun Owners Call Mayors Out On Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Retrieved on 2009-09-12.