By Jordy Yager - 01/18/13 05:58 PM EST
Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday pressed Congress to immediately pass a series of gun control measures and to avoid taking a “politically expedient or professionally safe” route.
Holder, speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C., stressed the need to require background checks for every gun sale in the country and eliminate gaps within the current record-sharing system, but he also pressed for the banning of high-capacity magazines, assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets.
“Some have said that these changes will require ‘tough’ votes by members of Congress. Public service is never easy, and there come times when those of us who are in elected or appointed positions must put the interests of those we are privileged to serve above that which might be politically expedient or professionally safe. This is one of those times.”
Holder, who has decided to stay on as the head of the Justice Department for President Obama’s second term, also said he was determined to give local and state law enforcement every tool possible to enforce more strict firearms regulations and prosecute gun-related violence.
“Within the Department of Justice, my colleagues and I will continue doing everything in our power to maximize enforcement efforts and implement new recommendations for keeping our people safe, and our cities, neighborhoods, and schools secure,” he said.
After Holder had completed his remarks and left the room, Mayor A.C. Wharton of Memphis, Tenn., said he had been in talks with the attorney general about suggestions for how best to sell the new set of gun control measures to more conservative areas of the country, such as his home city.
Wharton said it was important for the administration to empower local leaders to address the issue of gun control with their residents, so as to not make it seem as though the federal government is coming to take away their guns.
“If we could take the Washington focus off of it and push the solutions and resources down to our cities and counties — quite frankly nobody in Memphis expects their little 5-foot 8-inch grey haired mayor to take away their guns, [what they expect] is that this Washington force is going to come in and take their guns,” said Wharton.
“We, who are on the front lines are in a better position to convince our local bases that these plans can be implemented without this great fear of a Washington force.”
Holder attempted to address some of these constitutional concerns in his speech.
“Let me be very clear, not one of the executive orders — contrary to what a few have said — impinges upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights or is inconsistent with the historical use of executive power,” he said.
Another suggestion came from Mayor Tony Spitaleri of Sunnyvale, Calif., who said he was looking to pass local gun control ordinances that would have the same effect as the federal initiatives, but would be implemented more quickly and with less political trouble. Spitaleri said he couldn’t rely on Congress to get the job done speedily.