One year after Newtown, Congress has failed to enact a single reform that would make children safer from gun violence. This is a tragedy in every sense of the word -- for those who perished. And, for the living. It's also a tragedy for those who believe in public service because on all levels, Newtown, and indeed all mass gun violence, is the clear failure of government to protect the innocent among us.
We face an unacceptable situation and one that sadly seems unlikely to be altered anytime soon in Washington. Instead, change regarding guns must come on the local level. Incremental though it may be, it is a start and clearly we can no longer wait on Washington to change national policy.
That's why Jersey City will help start to transform the thinking about guns. Police departments are huge buyers of guns and ammunition but have not taken advantage of their power in the marketplace to demand change from gun manufacturers. This has been a missed opportunity that must be -- and will be -- reversed.
The Jersey City Department of Public Safety is issuing a bid specification to purchase new weaponry. It will also be what we believe is a first-of-its-kind policy statement for our expectations of what gun manufacturers owe the American people when it comes to their safety and the safety of their loved ones.
Jersey City will be asking all bidders the following six socially responsible questions:
- What do you do to combat illegal gun trafficking and illegal gun crime?
- Do you manufacturer and sell assault weapons for civilian use?
- Do you agree not to sell certain models of firearms for civilian use?
- Are you requiring your dealers to conduct background checks?
- Do you fund research related to gun violence and smart gun technology?
- Will you commit to prohibiting your brand name from being used in violent video games?
Gun makers are going to complain that Jersey City is overstepping its bounds and interfering with gun owners' rights. Unfortunately that's the typical response from an industry which has fiercely fought to protect its right to manufacture and sell guns and bullets yet shows almost no regard for what happens after they are purchased.
We have ever more security features in our streets, homes, offices and even toys. Yet, gun makers have resisted virtually all change intended to not only ensure their products more accountable but so are the people who use them.
Keep in mind, Cerberus Capital Management, the owner of Freedom Group whose Bushmaster rifle was used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shooting, has been pressured by its investors since then to sell the gun maker but so far has been unable to find any buyers. It's a clear indication that gun makers should embrace corporate social responsibility like so many other American companies or face the wrath of shareholders.
When it comes to gun reform and protecting ordinary citizens, the failure of Washington to act is horrific. But that doesn't mean we give up. Today, American cities are the laboratory of change. It's famously said that there isn't a Democratic or Republican way to plow snow or pick up garbage -- just to get it cleared off the streets and sidewalks. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right when he declared "The difference between my level of government and other levels of government is that action takes place n the city level."
Jersey City, NJ is going to play it forward. By making this stand today on gun reform, our City will become a little safer. Then other cities will follow. Soon maybe state governments and perhaps in a few years our national leaders will boldly step forward and bring about gun reform that a vast majority of Americans want.
Steven Fulop is the Mayor of Jersey City, NJ.