AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Mayor Steve Adler joined the leaders of other major American cities that recently experienced mass shootings to call on federal lawmakers and the Biden administration to do more to prevent gun violence.
Adler and 26 other mayors signed on to a letter to President Joe Biden calling on him to put the full weight of his administration behind passing federal, universal background checks.
“There are just too many guns,” Adler said during the virtual press conference with the mayors of Chicago, Houston, Dayton and Savannah. “Most of the action that would be necessary to prevent the proliferation of guns is not something that can happen at the local level.”
Adler is included, because the city experienced a mass shooting early Saturday morning that killed one person and injured 13 others. Police recently announced the arrests of two suspects related to the deadly shooting downtown. One is a 17-year-old student from Killeen.
The respective mayors of Chicago and Savannah, Georgia also spoke, because their communities along with Cleveland had mass shootings this past weekend. The U.S. Conference of Mayors noted all of these shootings combined left at least 38 wounded and six people dead.
“For months, mayors have been urging the Senate to immediately consider two pieces of legislation that would strengthen America’s background check system: HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and HR 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act,” the news release stated. “However, Washington has failed to take meaningful action to address the rise in gun violence across the country. Mayors will urge President Biden to make gun violence prevention a priority for his Administration.”
Violent crime is up compared to last year in Austin, which has faced criticism for its decision last year to immediately cut $20 million from the police budget and move $120 million in services out of police oversight. But homicides are up in Dallas and Houston, too — cities that have increased funding for police in recent years.
Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, believes crime rates are increasing in part because of reduced staffing levels in police departments. But he warned of another challenge on the horizon: legislation allowing for the permitless carrying of handguns in Texas after Sept. 1.
Lawrence said law enforcement officers in states with similar laws in place warned violent crime hasn’t decreased and their jobs have become more difficult and more dangerous, because the public doesn’t understand the laws.
“That is what I expect to happen in Texas,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence has called on Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety to launch a public information campaign to educate the public about the permitless carry law before it takes effect.