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Violence by gun hits home

11wharton guns-600Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is among more than 750 mayors who have signed onto a letter to President Obama outlining approaches to addressing the issue of gun violence nationally.

The letter to the President came from Mayors Against Illegal Guns of which Wharton is a member. Wharton's decision to stand with the mayors' group comes as he unfolds what his office calls a "comprehensive approach to gun violence."

More details are promised in the coming weeks.

Vice President Biden is leading an effort to develop a new set of policies to reduce gun violence and prevent tragedies such as the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Wharton's office says the mayor has spoken with Biden and also has send the Vice President a letter on reducing gun violence.

"Although federal involvement in this most critical undertaking is essential, as a former criminal defense lawyer, Chief Public Defender, and now as Mayor in a three-state area, I recognize fully that this problem can and must be solved primarily at the local and regional level," Wharton wrote.

"As a defense lawyer I learned firsthand that there is heavy trafficking of guns in regional areas such as the Memphis, Tennessee, North Mississippi, and Northeast Arkansas region. Because of that, in order for any initiative to be successful, a regional approach is essential. Accordingly, I would respectfully suggest we place a premium on those plans that are formulated collectively on a regional basis."

Otherwise, Wharton noted, "we will exacerbate the situation by encouraging the nomadic nature of the individuals who are engaged in gun trafficking at the local level."

On Thursday, Biden met with victims' groups and gun safety organizations at the White House. Following those meetings, the Vice President held conference calls with governors of both parties, and state and local elected leaders from across the United States.

According to the White House, Biden "listened to the unique perspectives of all the participants, and solicited their ideas and input on how to curb gun violence in this country. During the call, Mr. Biden reiterated the Administration's commitment to this urgent issue and stressed that the problem requires immediate action.

In the letter the mayors group sent to the White House, President Obama was urged to "put forward an agenda that is rooted in common sense and that will make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns, and easier for police and prosecutors to crack down on them."

The letter recommended that the agenda should:

Require every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check.

Get high capacity rifles and ammunition magazines off our streets.

Make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Appoint an ATF director. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the federal agency responsible for enforcing our gun laws, has gone without a confirmed director for more than six years.

Prosecute prohibited purchasers who attempt to buy firearms, ammunition or high-capacity magazines.

Require federal agencies to report records to NICS.

Repeal remaining Tiahrt restrictions – riders to the federal budget that restrict access to federal gun data.

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