GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Tuesday, Mayor George Heartwell issued the following statement on gun violence to FOX 17. In it, he addresses concerns about an uptick in gun violence nationwide, a citizen who open carries at commission meetings, as well as “lax and irresponsible gun laws.” Read the following:
STATEMENT ON GUN VIOLENCE
Mayor George Heartwell
January 28, 2014
Since last we met as a City Commission – according to the on-line resource Wikipedia – there have been nine school shootings, and at least one movie theatre and one mall shooting in the United States. If that pace continues it will outstrip last year’s 31 school shootings. Since the January 1, 2000, there have been a reported 119 school shootings in the US. How could we forget the 6 year old boy in Flint who brought his uncle’s gun to school and killed his little 6 year old classmate, because, as he said, “I don’t like her.”
In Grand Rapids there have been 23 reports of gunshots and 3 shooting victims since January 1.
There have been uncounted numbers of suicides by gun in the country since last we met but, if averages hold up, then 1,119 people have turned their guns on themselves and taken their lives in the last three weeks. Just over half of all suicides are by gun.
There is estimated to be 310 million guns in this country. That is one gun for every man, woman, and child in the nation save 9,000,000. Many of those guns are owned by unstable people or are owned by others in the homes of unstable people in which guns are available. The Congress of the United States has failed its responsibility to protect us from those dangerous and mentally unstable people. Every American citizen is at risk today because of our lax and irresponsible gun laws. We even had an illustration in our neighboring community of [Ionia] of two licensed gun carriers drawing on each other after a road rage incident. Both are dead.
I sit in our City Commission meeting week after week anxious and frightened because a civilian with a gun in this chamber. I know that he can kill me, and probably others at this table or in these chambers, before the police officer in the rear of the room can react. Carrying a gun always represents the threat to use that gun to kill or maim one another. That, after all, is why these people carry their guns.
Now the gun advocates want to “desensitize” the community to open carry. The more guns we see, they say the less we will fear them or the people carrying them. Well, I will never be desensitized and God help us all if society accepts those bullying tactics as the norm.
I urge all citizens who feel as I do to take action. Arm yourselves with the righteousness of our position. If you see an armed person come into a store or restaurant, alert others and leave the establishment. If you see an armed person come in a shopping mall or movie theatre, alert security and leave the building. If you see an armed person approaching a school, call the police. You see we can ever know what that individual’s intention may be. We must always err on the side of public safety rather than regretting later, when people are dead, that we didn’t act.