'It can happen here': After Sandy Hook, mayors join Bloomberg's gun control group
In the aftermath of the horrific shootings that killed 28 people in Newtown, Connecticut, 50 mayors have joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg's coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Among them are the mayors of Tucson, Malibu, Muncie, Raleigh, Carson City, Garrett Park and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a gunman recently murdered six people at a Sikh temple.
"I felt that this was a time when in fact we might be able to accomplish something," said Peter Benjamin, the mayor of Garrett Park, an upper-middle-class, liberal, 1,000-person enclave outside Washington D.C.
"I’ve always had my doubts about why people need to own weapons that are designed for mass killing and why that ammunition has to be for sale," he added.
Muncie, Indiana doesn't, on the face of it, have much in common with Garrett Park.
The city of 65,000 has a relatively high rate of gun ownership and sees its share of gun shows, where, at the present, people can buy guns without a background check, something the coalition would like to see changed.
"Every so many weeks, they’ll have a gun show at the local fairgrounds and they’ll be a huge turnout for it," said Muncie mayor Dennis Tyler.
It's not the gun shows, per se, that bother him.
"My concern is the same as our coalition, getting these illegal guns and these military-style weapons and these high-capacity magazines off our streets," he said.
Back when Tyler was a member of Indiana's general assembly, he had a high rating from the N.R.A. and he says, "Most of the N.R.A. members that I know in my area, I think they probably agree with me."
Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2006. It began with 15 members and now has nearly 800.
The addition of 50 mayors means the coalition has acquired 6 percent of its membership in less than a week.
Other gun violence of national notoriety has sparked similar spurts in membership, though though none this big, according to John McCarthy, a spokesman for Bloomberg.
The nature of last week's killing and the age of the victims seems to have had a particularly galvanizing effect.
"If it can happen in a town like [Newtown], it can happen here," said Malibu mayor Lou La Monte, an East Coast native, former Connecticut resident, and self-described nonpartisan. "And that began to concern me, obviously."
La Monte has already heard some complaints about his joining the coalition from residents concerned about gun rights.
"This is the right thing to do," he said. "I’ll deal with whatever consequences come with doing it."