NY mayor urges Obama gun crackdown
New York - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined gun violence victims on Monday calling on President Barack Obama to urge tighter controls on firearms during his State of the Union address.
The mayor, a prominent voice in the national debate over guns, said Obama's speech on Tuesday is a chance to act in the aftermath of this month's wounding of congressperson Gabrielle Giffords and killing of six others in Arizona.
"We believe it is an opportunity for our president to make a strong pledge to fix our gun laws and shore up our background check system," Bloomberg said.
The mayor, flanked by gun violence victims and the son of slain black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, said "loophole-free" checks to prevent criminals and mentally unstable people from purchasing guns were essential.
"Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns - and most of them are purchased or possessed illegally," Bloomberg said at City Hall, where he was also joined by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
The 34 victims attending the event - their number chosen to mirror the country's daily toll - echoed Bloomberg.
A mother pleaded for "President Obama to start taking action. We are having a horrible, horrible war of our own here toady. We are here not as victims but as victorious voices to stand up to gun manufacturers."
Obama is under pressure from his Democratic party to tighten gun laws, but the issue is a political minefield in a country where huge numbers of voters own weapons and gun-ownership is deeply embedded in the culture.
While massacres like the Arizona shootings spark widespread outrage, attempts to follow up with tougher controls are usually swiftly overcome by opposition from Republicans and gun advocates such as the National Rifle Association.
Given the political landscape, gun control proponents are focusing mostly on pushing Obama to do no more than call for banning the kind of oversize ammunition clips that allow a shooter - like the Arizona gunman - to spray bullets.
"Mr Obama ought to tell that to Congress and the public in his State of the Union address this week," the Democrat-leaning New York Times said in an editorial.
"We are still waiting for President Obama to fulfil his promises."
Adding weight to Bloomberg's appeal was Martin Luther King III, who said he too was a "victim".
"For decades we have tolerated senseless gun violence, which has struck down too many of our fellow citizens, particularly our young people," King said.
The small crowd of gunshot victims and relatives of people murdered took turns to come to the podium and deliver their own poignant messages.
"We need to take a stand because it's ridiculous. I'm angry. I'm very angry right now because the person who murdered my daughter has still never been found," one distraught parent said.
Another woman held up a picture of her dead son in his school graduation robes.
He was "murdered in front of my home by strangers in a chance encounter with a stolen gun," she said.
"Something has got to change. Enough is enough."