Background Checks Will Reduce Gun Violence

Letter, Daily Local News, 9/12/15, from Mayor Carolyn Comitta

Many thanks to Andy Hachadorian for his recent thought-provoking article titled, “What’s the Answer to Gun Violence?” Andy ended his article with a question to readers: “What are we going to do? I’m all ears.” I am a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, part of Everytown for Gun Safety. We’re united in the conviction that support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers and people with severe mental illness. I am happy to share a simple answer to Andy’s question: close the loopholes in our background check system.

My first reaction to Andy’s column was that he sets an impossible bar: “We are kidding ourselves if we think we can prevent all gun violence by those mentally unstable or mentally ill.” I don’t know anyone who thinks we can prevent all gun violence.

Do home security systems prevent all burglaries? Of course not, and no one claims they do or expects them to. Home security systems reduce burglaries. By requiring background checks for every gun sale, we make obtaining a gun harder for people who are prohibited from buying guns because of mental illness, and thereby reduce gun violence. Reducing gun violence is also the goal of those of us, including me, who agree that increased access to mental health treatment is part of the solution. Other developed countries have similar rates of mental illness, but they don’t have anywhere near the level of gun violence.

Federal law requires background checks for gun sales at licensed firearm dealers, but not for private, unlicensed sales, many of which now occur online. Pennsylvania goes a step further by requiring background checks for private handgun sales, but leaves the loophole open for unlicensed sales of rifles, shotguns and military style assault rifles.

In states like Pennsylvania that require background checks on all handgun sales, 46% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, 48% fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns and there is 48% less illegal gun trafficking. After Missouri repealed background checks on private gun sales, gun homicides went up 25%, and gun trafficking rose too. Continue reading

‘No More Silence’ means it’s time for common sense gun laws

By CAROLYN COMITTA guest columnist, Daily Local News, 12/14/13

Guest Columnist

One year ago, our nation was shocked by a tragedy that still affects us today. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting opened America’s eyes to the daily tragedy of gun violence, the lives lost and the weaknesses in our laws intended to prevent it.

One of the first actions I took as a mayor-elect four years ago, was to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns. I am very aware of gun violence across the country and in our community, and committed my efforts to raise awareness and take action to improve gun safety while protecting Second Amendment rights.

Today we observe a moment of “No More Silence” to honor the victims at Sandy Hook and the many victims who lose their lives to gun violence every day. The time for moments of silence has passed. We cannot sit silently as our leaders fail to act.

In the past year our movement has grown, and the cry for our children’s safety has grown louder. Millions of Americans have joined with us, and in Southeast Pennsylvania, grassroots groups dedicated to preventing gun violence have swelled in size. In Chester, Delaware, Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties, a diverse coalition of mayors, moms, religious leaders, law enforcement, survivors and their families are more committed than ever to saving lives.

This year we called on our federal government to act, and most of our senators, including Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, voted for sensible expansion of background checks. Quinnipiac polls in April and June showed that most Pennsylvanians viewed Sen. Toomey more favorably because of his leadership on preventing gun violence. But 46 senators were able to block his common sense proposal.

Thanks to Pennsylvania’s state police and attorney general, we have made progress this year keeping guns out of the hands of people with severe mental illness problems and affirming Pennsylvania law enforcement’s right to decide who may carry loaded, concealed guns on our streets.

States all around Pennsylvania – New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Maryland – strengthened their own gun laws this year, and there is legislation proposed in Harrisburg that would save lives without curtailing gun rights.

But legislative leaders in Harrisburg won’t even allow a vote. …

keep reading the column by Mayor Comitta at Daily Local News

Mayor Comitta quoted on NPR

excerpt from “Gun-control group tries to pressure Pa. congressmen with poll numbers” by Emma Jacobs, Newsworks, NPR, March 6, 2013 (also broadcast this morning)

Mandatory background checks for gun buyers seem to be the one thing the public can agree to support.

And supporters of mandatory background checks for gun buyers are citing overwhelming public support to push legislators to act.

The latest numbers come from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that conducted polls in congressional districts across the country, including four moderate Republican districts in Southeast Pennsylvania.

In West Chester, the borough council unanimously passed a resolution in support of gun-control laws. Mayor Carolyn Comitta says, however, that’s just eight people. A member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, she says these numbers should pack a bigger punch.

“When you have 96 percent in one district in support of something, in this case, background checks, that is very important information for an elected official to know,” Comitta said Wednesday.

Her borough falls in U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach’s district….

The offices of U.S. Reps. Jim Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick did not return calls seeking comment….

Read the full article at Newsworks

West Chester councilwoman speaks on gun violence

by Jeremy Gerrard, Daily Local News, 2/18/13

Affected by gun violence in her life, West Chester Borough Council Vice President Cassandra Jones took to Washington D.C. last week to speak to legislators on the current high profile topic of gun legislation.
Courtesy photo West Chester Borough Council Vice President Cassandra Jones meets with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Jones was one of 120 people, all victims of gun violence, who were invited to the White House Tuesday as part of an effort organized by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

“It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Jones said. “It was phenomenal.”

Attendees included victims of the Aurora Colo. shooting, the Newtown Conn. Shooting and Arizona shooting.

When Jones was six years old, her mother was shot. While she survived, Jones said the shooting handicapped her mother and came with complications that contributed to her early death at 43.

Until recently Jones said she was unable to remember or deal with the memory of her mother being shot.

But through the tool of writing, Jones has opened up that chapter of her past. Jones said she has been in the process of writing an autobiography for a number of years now and recently added to it which included her story of the shooting. Jones said she is writing the book as a tribute to her mother.

“I’m really very passionate about this issue because I’m the survivor,” Jones said.

In January, Borough Council responded to the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn. by passing a resolution that calls for new gun legislation.

The 3-page resolution, brought to council by Mayor Carolyn Comitta, highlights three areas of action: the passage of the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would require a background check for every gun sale and ensure that all criminals and other dangerous people who are prohibited from buying a gun are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; passage of legislation that would keep military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets; and legislation that would make gun trafficking a federal crime. …

read more at Daily Local News

photo supplied by Cassandra Jones:

CJones :MObama

Cassandra with FLOTUS (Michelle Obama!)

“I had the most amazing experiences last week in DC. Mayors Against Illegal Guns was invited to a congressional hearing, to a White House briefing and then to a watch party for the Presidents’ State of the Union speech.

So fulfilling to be a part of these national conversations on violence among our youth in this country. God will give you the desires of your heart!”

Cassandra Jones

  • West Chester Borough Democratic Committee
    Committeeperson, Ward 2
  • Member of West Chester Borough Council



West Chester officials call for gun legislation

by Jeremy Gerrard, Daily Local News, 1/21/13

WEST CHESTER – Responding to the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn., borough officials have taken aim at current gun laws by passing a resolution calling for new legislation.

The 3-page resolution, brought to council by Mayor Carolyn Comitta, highlights three areas of action: the passage of the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would require a background check for every gun sale and ensure that all criminals and other dangerous people who are prohibited from buying a gun are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; passage of legislation that would keep military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets; and legislation that would make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Comitta and council supported the resolution because of its balanced approach to gun legislation.

“This is not a fanatical viewpoint. It’s a balanced common sense viewpoint,” Comitta said. “I can assure you if it was fanatical, I would not have anything to do with it or if it trampled on anyone’s constitutional rights, I would have nothing to do with it.”

The resolution was passed unanimously by council at Wednesday’s monthly meeting.

Councilman Jordan Norley said many of the points stated in the resolution deal with problems West Chester has faced in the past and will bring about positive change.

“I think it makes a lot of sense,” Norley said. …

read more at Daily Local News

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Dear Neighbors:

I am a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. We have been working for years to promote common sense gun laws. West Chester is out front on this issue. We can be proud that in 2010 our West Chester Borough Council passed a resolution urging PA lawmakers to pass a “lost and stolen gun” law.  Perhaps now, our country is ready to find common ground surrounding gun laws make some common sense changes.

As we remember the precious children killed in Newtown, indeed our precious children across the country who every day are caught in the crossfire, we must move forward and take action to change the laws of the land to better protect our children and all innocent victims of gun violence.

Please see the information below, from MAIG. For action steps you can take go to

Best regards,

Carolyn T. Comitta
Mayor of West Chester

From: Mark Glaze, Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:30 PM
Subject: In just minutes

It took only a few minutes for the shooter in Newtown, CT to kill a classroom of school children. And it will only take a few minutes for you to make your voice heard.

Call your members of Congress RIGHT NOW and Demand A Plan to end gun violence.

Yesterday, President Obama announced a new task force headed by Vice President Biden to address the epidemic of gun violence in America. He committed to delivering a set of concrete proposals no later than January that will be turned into law as fast as possible.

But, as he said, he can’t do this alone.

That’s why you and I need to step up. We need to let our representatives in Congress know — in no uncertain terms — that it’s time to act.

Legislation is going to take shape very quickly, and there are three common sense principals that must be included in any comprehensive plan:

   1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America.

   2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that enable mass killing.

   3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime, with stiff penalties for those who arm criminals.

We will never be able to stop all gun violence, but these steps will go a long way to preventing the next mass shooting and saving the lives of the 34 Americans who are murdered with guns every day.

Join me in making sure your elected officials know how important this issue is to you and your family.

Make the call right now and demand a comprehensive plan to end gun violence from your members of Congress.

Thank you for speaking up at this crucial moment!

Mark Glaze
Director, Mayors Against Illegal Guns