Mayors and Police Chiefs Call for Control of Guns
HOUSTON — MAYORS and police chiefs joined Saturday to call for a national effort against violence in the wake of the Los Angeles riots, including new federal gun controls and local crackdowns on excessive force by police.
"Violence is a national issue," said New York City Police Commissioner Lee Brown. "We recognize violence is something that can happen in any city, large and small."
Mr. Brown led a meeting with mayors from large- and medium-sized cities and a half-dozen chiefs of police on ways to control potential unrest this summer and longer-term methods to reverse increasingly violent urban crime.
The mayors and chiefs emerged from their closed-door meeting, held during the annual United States Conference of Mayors summer gathering, saying they were in full agreement on anti-violence efforts.
"Is there going to be a hot summer?" Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson asked rhetorically. "I think there was a consensus around the table that the answer is probably no, if we succeed in the strategies we have outlined - anticipating the problem, working hard at prevention ... although no one has a guarantee."
The mayors and chiefs said they support enactment of the federal Brady Bill, which calls for a five-day waiting period before the purchase of a handgun. They also urged a complete ban on the sale, importation, and possession of automatic or semiautomatic assault weapons.
Mayor Jackson went further and demanded a 15-day waiting period for the purchase of guns. He called the five-day period now in the bill before Congress "a joke."
Brown, who formerly was police chief in Houston, the meeting's host city, said the police executives agreed with mayors that each community must take its own steps to prevent excessive force by police officers.
It was the force that Los Angeles police officers used against motorist Rodney King, whose beating was captured on videotape, that riveted the nation and triggered outrage that led to rioting when the officers were acquitted of most charges.
"Excessive force is unacceptable," Brown said. "Police are not in business to use excessive force. It's illegal. Therefore our agreement, our understanding, is police forces must do that which is necessary to ensure that police officers do not overstep their authority and use excessive force on the citizens.
"It's unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," he said.
Brown said the chiefs supported calls by mayors for increased federal spending to combat social problems, including joblessness and hopelessness, in inner cities. Mayors and chiefs identified the economic problems as an underlying cause of violence and crime.
"It was the chiefs of police, not the mayors, who started talking about the root causes of crime," said Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston, S.C.