Durham, N.C. — The mayors of Chapel Hill, Durham and Morrisville unveiled a national television ad against gun violence Monday and called on President Obama and Congress to enact gun-law reforms.
The elected leaders are members of a bipartisan coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which formed in 2006 and includes about 800 mayors nationwide. The local mayors joined others across the country who also spoke out Monday, which marks the one-month anniversary of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am that we even need to be here this morning, but this is the right time to have this discussion," Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe said during a brief news conference at Durham City Hall.
Holcombe, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt advocated what the coalition terms a"common-sense approach" to reducing gun violence. They want reforms that include requiring gun purchasers to pass a criminal background check, removing high-capacity weapons and ammunition from the streets and making gun trafficking a federal crime.
"The mayors agree, gun owners agree, Americans agree that now is the time for Washington to create a plan to address gun violence in America," Kleinschmidt said.
He cited a statistic that 33 Americans are shot to death each day.
"This is a tragedy that must be addressed," Kleinschmidt said. "We all know Newtown is just the latest in a long line of small towns and large cities touched by unspeakable violence."
Also in attendance Monday was Uma Loganathan, whose father died in the April 16, 2007, mass shooting at Virginia Tech. G.V. Loganathan was a civil engineering professor who taught class that day even though he was sick, she said.
"You think you understand what heartbreak is when you feel it, but it's even more heartbreaking to watch your family suffer and meet even more people who have experienced it and watch them suffer," said Loganathan, who is featured in the television ad.
Since losing her father, Loganathan has met with survivors from the mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July and at Columbine High School in 1999.
"I think we, as Americans, are better than this," Loganathan said. "It's not any kind of political issue. It's about gun-safety rights. I can't see how anybody would be opposed to taking a little bit of responsibility when it comes to a firearm."
Still, the talk of gun control and gun safety has triggered a jump in gun sales, both locally and nationwide.
At Fuquay Gun & Gold in Fuquay-Varina, owner Clay Ausley says, customers have been lining up outside before the shop even opens. The AR-15 – one of three weapons found inside Sandy Hook after the massacre – is one of the most popular items.
Gun enthusiasts, Ausley says, fear they might lose their right to purchase such guns.
"Most of the gun community takes it as an assault on our Second Amendment rights," he said. "This will be just the beginning of what could be the end of firearm ownership, period, in the United States."
Mayors Against Illegal Guns is co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and has about 900,000 supporters, according to its website.