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Last updated: Tue. Jan. 15, 2013 - 05:09 pm EDT

2 area mayors join push to tighten gun laws

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FORT WAYNE — Mayor Tom Henry joined in the call for more control over guns and who has them Monday in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Henry was joined by Angola Mayor Richard Hickman on Monday calling for background checks for all gun sales, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and tougher laws on gun trafficking. Both mayors are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as are the mayors of Gary, Bloomington and Muncie. Mayors Against Guns is co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has put the group on the national stage and vowed to use his personal wealth to back the effort.

“We saw the terrible cost of our broken-down laws in Newtown, Conn.,” Henry said. “Mayors know all too well the toll of gun violence.”

Both Henry and Hickman stressed their belief in the individual gun rights enshrined in the Second Amendment.

“We believe that support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill individuals,” Henry said.

“Our concerns are not about legal gun ownership,” Hickman said. “We don’t want to impede a person’s rights to protect themselves and their families … All I am against is the illegal possession of guns and the need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness that should not possess guns.”

As for the call for background checks for every gun sale, Henry said the idea makes so much sense that 82 percent of gun owners support it, including 74 percent of National Rifle Association members. But also lacking, Henry said, are simple, tough laws on those who buy and sell guns illegally.

“The current law carries the same punishment as trafficking in chickens or livestock,” Henry said.

Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York said it’s clear the firearms used in homicides within the city “are in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” but there is little in the law to prevent that.

Henry said the changes Mayors Against Illegal Guns want are common-sense restrictions.

“For 10 years there was a ban on assault weapons,” Henry said. “It’s nothing new to have a ban on assault rifles. All we’re asking is to have that ban reinstated.”

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