To that end, when the opportunity came up three years ago to sign on as a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- a coalition dedicated to calling attention to the scourge of gun violence, fueled by illegal guns, across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and America -- the answer was yes.
The organization is unique because of its extremely narrow focus on illegal guns. The vast majority of crimes committed with guns are committed by people who are not legally allowed to possess firearms. They are either convicted felons, underage or for another reason deemed a danger to society and barred from possessing firearms. But still, each year, more than 1,200 Pennsylvanians are shot and killed -- including 18 Pennsylvania law enforcement officers in the last seven years alone.
In York, this epidemic of gun violence, which is most certainly interwoven with the illegal drug trade, has cost our city the lives of precious young people, disrupted neighborhoods and families, and has contributed to the growing concern about safety and the overall quality of life in our community.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns is also unique in its dedication to upholding the Second Amendment right to bear arms -- and its commitment to seek remedies to gun violence that do not infringe upon this crucial right. Every study indicates that the problem is not guns themselves, but the dangerous, prohibited persons who can readily gain access to them.
In the last several weeks, my office has received calls requesting I withdraw my membership to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, something I have no intention of doing. In fact, Mayors Against Illegal Guns is to be commended for the organized effort that is under way to deal with gun violence in our communities. Thanks to Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the leadership of local municipalities, 11 municipalities in the state, including the city of York, have passed ordinances or resolutions to rid our streets of illegal guns.
Also, misleading charges have been made regarding "the truth about Mayors Against Illegal Guns." The truth is this: Upholding the Second Amendment right to bear arms and apprehending those who traffic, possess, or use illegal guns are not mutually exclusive. And as a mayor, it is my duty to call attention to threats to our community.
In joining the coalition, I signed an explicit statement of principles:
---Punish criminals who possess, use, or traffic illegal guns.
---Hold accountable irresponsible gun dealers who knowingly sell to straw purchasers.
---Oppose federal efforts to restrict cities' access to trace data that is essential to effective enforcement, or to interfere with the ability of the ATF to combat illegal gun trafficking.
---Work to develop and use technologies that aid in detection and tracing of illegal guns.
---Support local, state and federal legislation targeting illegal guns.
The coalition has never deviated from that mission, and we never will. If this group were ever to support a policy that would violate my personal right to bear arms for any reason -- tradition, hunting or protection -- I'd be the first mayor to leave.
Until that moment, it is an honor to be one of more than 100 mayors in Pennsylvania who have the courage and fortitude to stand up for their convictions.
John Brenner is the Demo cratic mayor of York City.