Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates signed a letter to President Obama Wednesday as part of a group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, calling for tighter gun control laws and other steps -- notably appointing an official to fill a top enforcement post that has been vacant for six years.
The letter Bates signed noted that "the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the federal agency responsible for enforcing our gun laws, has gone without a confirmed director for more than six years."
Bates' group sent out its note on the same day that the U.S. Conference of Mayors wrote to the President and Congress with a similar agenda that called for three specific actions:
- Enact legislation to ban assault weapons and other high-capacity magazines being prepared by Senator Dianne Feinstein and others;
- Strengthen the national background check system and eliminate loopholes in it; and
- Strengthen the penalties for straw purchases of guns.
The letter comes less than a week after a . It goes on to say that Congress should increase funding for mental health care and establish a commission to look at violence in the country as a whole.
"We know that preventing gun violence – whether it is a mass shooting in a school or a murder on a street corner – will take much more than strengthening our gun laws," the letter says. "We need to reverse the culture of violence in our nation so that a violent act isn’t the first response to settling a difference or compensating for a wrong."
But gun control laws shouldn't wait for other improvements to happen first, the letter says.