Marek Warszawski

Hundreds of mayors urge Senate to stiffen background checks on guns. Where’s Mayor Brand?

Nearly 250 U.S. mayors, both Democrat and Republican, have signed a letter demanding the Senate take up legislation that would strengthen background checks on anyone wishing to buy a gun.

Perusing the list on the United States Conference of Mayors website, I see the names of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs along with dozens of others throughout California.

Guess whose name isn’t there? That of Fresno Mayor Lee Brand. In fact, I don’t see the names of Clovis Mayor Bob Whalen, Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen, Hanford Mayor Sue Sorensen or the mayors of any other central San Joaquin Valley burg.

What gives?

Because Fresno is California’s fifth-largest city and experiences more than its share of gun violence, Brand’s name is conspicuous by its absence.


I inquired why Brand didn’t sign the letter. Here’s the email reply from city spokesman Mark Standriff:

“The USCOM sent their email on Wednesday and gave mayors a deadline of Sept. 2 to respond to their request,” Standriff wrote. “Mayor Brand felt it was important to do his due diligence in examining the legislation before making his decision.”

Not about taking away guns

Nothing wrong with due diligence. But I find it odd that 249 of Brand’s fellow mayors didn’t need to go through that process – or at least did so more quickly.

To me, America’s gun violence problem requires urgent attention. But rather than criticize Brand for not adding his name, consider this a gentle prodding.

Remember, the letter doesn’t say anything about taking away anyone’s guns or banning assault rifles. It simply implores Senate leadership to reconvene from its August recess and ratify two bills the House of Representatives passed earlier this year with bipartisan support.

One of those bills (H.R. 8) would require NICS background checks for all firearm purchases. The other (H.R. 1112) would extend the background check review period from three to 10 days.

Both bills stalled in the Senate because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring up either for a vote.

“Already in 2019, there have been over 250 mass shootings,” the letter states. “The tragic events in El Paso and Dayton (last) weekend are just the latest reminders that our nation can no longer wait for our federal government to take the actions necessary to prevent people who should not have access to firearms from being able to purchase them.”

Mayor Lee Brand announces he will not seek re-election, May 20, 2019, outside the KMJ studios where Brand made an appearance on the Ray Appleton Show. JOHN WALKER Fresno Bee file

Brand can act with his conscience

Again, this is not full-scale gun control. These two bills only help keep legally purchased guns out of the hands of those who can’t pass a background check or allow them to skirt loopholes in existing laws.

Brand is not running for reelection and claims to have no further political ambitions. Which means he would not face any blowback from gun zealots whose entire knowledge of the Constitution begins and ends with the Second Amendment.

There’s no reason for Brand not to sign the letter. Unless, of course, he doesn’t want to make it harder for dangerous individuals to purchase guns.

I sure hope that isn’t the case.

Brand’s track record in this area could use some burnishing. He did recently veto a $200,000 line item in the $1.1 billion city budget for a program that tackles gang-related gun violence in a new and radical way.

But this isn’t a fiscal matter, or even a political one. Brand is free and clear to act with his conscience. Sign the letter, Mayor. Add our voices to the millions of others fed up with the ducking and heel-dragging in Washington, D.C.

Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.