Mayors Take Aim at the Possible: Background Checks for Gun-Buyers

Photograph by Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

The King College Prep band plays as the hearse carrying the body of Hadiya Pendleton arrives at Cedar Park Cemetery in Riverdale, Illinois, on February 9, 2013.

The tragedy of the narrative is breathtaking.

The pragmatism of the political calculation is sobering:

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, performed with her Chicago high school band at President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration.

She was gunned down in Chicago a week later.

First Lady Michelle Obama attended the girl’s funeral.

The girl’s parents attended the president’s State of the Union address last week, seated alongside the first lady as the president closed with an appeal to the joint session of Congress to at least vote on the gun-safety measures before them — in honor of  Pendleton, the 20 children killed by a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and many other victims of gun violence.

Now Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, the girl’s mother, appears in a TV ad sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

The mother recalls her daughter’s inaugural parade appearance as “the happiest day of her life.”

As Congress debates the nation’s gun laws, she says in the mayors’ newest ad, Congress can start with background checks for all gun purchases “so no more innocent children are killed and no parent has to go through this heartbreak.”

Of course, universal gun background checks for legal gun purchases won’t ensure that no more innocent children are killed. Yet the additional measures that Congress could consider, such as a ban on assault-styled weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, appear mired in the politics of the Second Amendment and pressure of the gun lobby, lacking the votes needed in either chamber of Congress.

The mayors’ campaign, which includes as co-chairman New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent company of Bloomberg News, has focused on the families who have suffered — an earlier ad featuring the mother of a girl killed in the Tuscon shootings that seriously wounded Giffords, another featuring several parents saying, “Enough is enough.”

In pressing for background checks, the mayors may also be confronting the politics of the possible.

As Bloomberg’s Heidi Przybyla reported,  “a coalition of House Republicans is willing to thwart the National Rifle Association’s opposition to broadening background checks for U.S. gun purchases. That may be Obama’s best chance for advancing tougher gun regulations this year.”

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