Hogsett calls on nation’s mayors to seize potential for change

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As mayors of more than 200 U.S. cities meet in Indianapolis this weekend, the memory of the Orlando nightclub tragedy is not far from their minds or their conference agenda.

49 people were killed by a man armed with a semi-automatic weapon June 12.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will address the 84th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis Sunday.

“In Orlando we saw the devastation that can be caused by one man with a weapon of death,” said Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore mayor and conference president who called for congressional leadership in legislating safer firearms. “That partnership must include resources and training and it must promote common sense gun safety laws.”

Rawlings-Blake was preceded to the podium by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett who told attendees that, “We are all sitting today in the nation’s busiest intersection of ideas and we have the potential to change the face of our country.”

“Indiana, as you know, is a gun exporting state. We actually export more guns than any other state in the country and we have to recognize that here in Indiana,” Hogsett said later. “We need to start focusing on how one acquires those powerful weapons that serve no real sporting or recreational purpose, the kind of gun that was used in the nightclub in Orlando.”

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett told the mayors that criminal justice reforms endorsed by the Obama Administration and winding through Congress would serve to protect their citizens, cut spending and provide a fresh start to offenders.

“The goal here is to keep our communities safer,” she said. “We believe that the bills being considered will do so and also recognize the fact that in America we want to make sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to be law abiding citizens and that we not fill up our jails with people and our prisons with people who just need some help and a second chance and diversion.”

Jarrett asked why firearms manufacturers can’t develop a so-called smart gun that would restrict operation to intended owners.

“If you can put your thumb on your phone and only you can access it, why can’t you put your thumb on a trigger and only a law abiding person who was sold it legally can shoot the gun?” she said. “That’s just common sense to us.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu portrayed himself and fellow mayors as, “field generals,” on the front lines of the fight against crime while his conference president called for leadership unified by public safety, not politics.

“My hope is as a conference of mayors, a bipartisan organization that is committed to working across the aisle, that maybe this is the organization, this can be the catalyst for common sense reform and we can once again be the leaders that our nation needs,” said Rawlings-Blake, whose own city has been racked by unrest and reaction to the death of handcuffed prisoner Freddie Gray in the back of a jail wagon in 2015.

Hogsett called on Governor Mike Pence and challenger John Gregg for proposed solutions to Indiana’s violent crime dilemma during this year’s gubernatorial campaign.