Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 was a fourth grader in April of 1999 when the Columbine High School shooting stunned the nation. Myrick recalled being told that the “grown-ups were going to keep us safe,” and that they would do “whatever it took to make sure that nothing like this ever happened again.”
In the aftermath of the recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, Gilroy, Calif. and El Paso, Texas, Myrick told The Sun on Thursday that, “we’re grown-ups now and we’re not going to wait anymore.” Myrick plans to use economic leverage to pressure gun manufacturers into incorporating gun safety measures.
On Monday, Myrick tweeted that Ithaca would seek a “return on our investment” –– a move that would employ the $62,000 the City of Ithaca spends annually on guns and ammunition towards incentivizing gun manufacturers into incorporating gun safety measures. Myrick has pledged to shift this investment to companies he calls more responsible manufacturers.
Manufacturers are judged based on criteria including distribution practices, cooperation with law enforcement, and safety mechanisms.
Myrick is helping to lead a coalition, hashtagged #localgovs4gunsafety, of municipalities in purchasing ammunition and guns from responsible manufacturers who fulfill their criteria. Other cities on board include Baltimore and Stockton, Calif. and state governments, including Nebraska and Colorado.
“We are all buying guns and ammunition. Maybe the gun manufacturers will listen to us as consumers,” Myrick told The Sun.
The coalition is questioning companies on their practices, including their standards for working with dealers.
At the local level, elected officials are limited in their capacity to enact gun reform, largely in the jurisdiction of the federal government, Myrick said.
“When you don’t have direct authority, but you still want to make an impact, you’ve got to think about where you have leverage,” Myrick said. “We figured we have leverage as consumers.”
State and local governments do have some authority. New York State is one of only seven states without state statutes preventing local governments from enacting firearms and ammunition regulations. Local municipalities in New York State, according to the Giffords Law Center, have some authority to regulate firearms and ammunitions.
In 1999, Rochester’s banning of the sale and possession of assault weapons with large capacity ammunition magazines was upheld by the New York State appellate court in People v. Stagnitto.
On Monday, Myrick posted on Facebook a list of questions he sent to major gun manufacturers, inquiring about a number of measures to “improve gun safety and assist law enforcement.”
Myrick acknowledged that many of these measures will do little to reduce the possibility that guns already purchased will be used in violence. He deferred to the federal government’s responsibility to enact gun control measures such as red flag laws and required background checks, he said.
Red flag laws — currently under debate on a national level — allow a person’s firearms to be legally removed under fears they may hurt themselves or others.
If gun manufacturers do not respond to the letter, “we’re going to show up at their share-holder meetings,” Myrick said.
Myrick said that the group has sent the letter twice over several months, but did not receive a response either time.
According to Gun Violence Archive, 255 mass shootings have occurred in the United States this year. On Wednesday, Amnesty International issued a travel warning to the US, stating in a press release that gun violence is “so prevalent in the United States that it amounts to a human rights crisis.”
“Any amount of gun violence is too much,” Myrick said. “The fact that this is the only country where this regularly happens means that these could be prevented … and I feel like one half of our political establishment has decided that it’s not worth stopping all this mayhem and,” he paused. “Death.”