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Gun control group to visit Iowa City today

BY KATIE HEINE | MARCH 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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A national campaign petitioning for increased background checks on gun owners will make a stop on campus today, and local officials said the movement is a step toward creating more consistent gun laws.

The National Drive to Fix Gun Checks, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, will set up in Hubbard Park today. The University Democrats are hosting the event, which encourages students to sign a petition calling for Congress to re-evaluate and standardize the varied background-check systems among states.

“My guess is they’re going to find Iowa City is very cooperative,” Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said of the group.

Three members of the traveling project met with Hargadine Thursday evening to learn more about the area. Mayor Matt Hayek said he wants to gather more information about the coalition’s goals and consult the city manager before determining the city’s stance.

The national representatives were interested in Iowa because of the recent changes in gun-permit restrictions, Hargadine said.

Iowa City, Johnson County, and other nearby entities recently passed resolutions banning guns from their property following a Jan. 1 “shall issue” law, which loosened gun-permit regulations.

The national group noted Iowa City’s quick action following the gun-permit changes. The Iowa City City Council voted in February to ban guns in city buildings, city-owned property around the buildings, and city parks.

“They see Iowa City as being a frontliner,” Hargadine said.

According to the campaign’s latest release, organizers are “looking forward to meeting with some of the great people across the state.”

Cofounded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Mayors Against Illegal Guns is a coalition of 550 American mayors who want stronger restrictions on who can carry guns.

In mid-Feburary, Bloomberg launched the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks, which will stop in 25 states to meet with city officials, law enforcement, and the public.

Created in response to the Arizona shooting in January, the truck features a mobile billboard with a running tally of the number of Americans murdered by guns since the shootings — more than 1,800 as of Thursday night.

Their petition identifies two main steps: requiring a background check in every gun sale in America and maintaining a more comprehensive list of people who shouldn’t own guns.

Only two Iowa mayors have signed the petition to date — from Davenport and Des Moines — but Hargadine said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Iowa City getting involved with the coalition.

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek will meet with members of the organization today.

He said he was pleased the organization is recognizing the “inconsistency” of gun laws across the nation. He also said he was glad students will be involved.

“Students may not stay up to date on the news based on academic demands, and this is something of a current event that will likely have ramifications when the next elections come about,” he said.

UI sophomore Margaret Murphy, the president of the University Democrats, said she thought the group would be an opportunity for students to be more informed about gun laws.

“Everyone can agree this is an important issue,” the 19-year-old said.


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