Bergson in D.C. on illegal gun issue
Mayor Herb Bergson said he was in Washington, D.C., this week doing his part to keep illegally purchased and possessed guns off the street. "Mayors from all over the country came together here to strategize on methods to stop the growth of illega...
Mayor Herb Bergson said he was in Washington, D.C., this week doing his part to keep illegally purchased and possessed guns off the street.
"Mayors from all over the country came together here to strategize on methods to stop the growth of illegal guns on the street," Bergson wrote in a brief e-mail to the News Tribune on Tuesday. "Yes, there are illegal guns owned in Duluth. We are talking about ways of making gun sales easier to track."
The 2007 Mayors Against Illegal Guns National Summit attracted more than 50 U.S. mayors to day-long meetings on Capitol Hill. Bergson, a retired police officer, said this is not to be confused with gun control or efforts to further restrict access to guns by law-abiding folks.
According to the group's Web site, members' efforts focus on maintaining or extending current laws aimed at stopping illegal gun sales and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' ability to track all gun sales.
One illegal practice they would like to target is called "straw sales," where someone with a clean record purchases a gun for a felon. The coalition was careful to say that only 1 percent of registered gun dealers knowingly participate in such practices.
The National Rifle Association reacted by calling the summit little more than an elaborate photo opportunity. Mayors should instead be applying pressure to their own local police and prosecutors to enforce the laws that already exist, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at its annual meeting last spring.
The coalition endorses several lawsuits and pieces of legislation. It claims that Congress has passed a series of laws since 2003 that have eroded the ATF's ability to do its job. Organizers said they want to increase penalties for those who illegally possess guns, including weapons that are modified to become automatic.
The mayors of New York City and Boston created the initiative a year ago. The mayors of St. Paul, Minneapolis and Chaska, Minn., also are members of the group.
The city of Duluth paid about $550 in travel expenses for the mayor from Monday through today, Bergson said.
He said he also is using the trip to touch base with U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, DFL-Chisholm. He said he met with the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to discuss Duluth issues, including passenger rail service to the Twin Cities, the future of the Northwest Airlines maintenance facility, water quality and increased funding for improvements to storm-water runoff systems and Interstate 35.
CHRIS HAMILTON covers the Duluth community and city government. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5502 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .