NEW YORK — Invoking the memories of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday urged Congress to make sure the system for background checks on firearms purchases includes the names of everyone prohibited from buying weapons and closes loopholes that allow some sales to take place without checks.
"We cannot wait any longer," said Bloomberg, an advocate for stronger gun control who helped create Mayors Against Illegal Guns. "We cannot turn our backs on this national calamity any longer."
Bloomberg was joined at City Hall by Martin Luther King III, as well as family and friends of those injured and killed in notorious shootings in Tucson, Ariz., at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School in Colorado. There also were people affected by killings that may have never made the news, like a host of New York parents who had lost children in shootings.
Federal law prohibits certain people, like convicted felons, drug abusers and the mentally ill, from being able to purchase firearms, and since 1993, a national background check system has been in place.
But that system is far from complete, Bloomberg said, because all the required records haven't been added to it, and Congress hasn't provided all the funding needed to make sure that happens. For example, he said 10 states haven't submitted any mental health records and 18 states have put in less than 100.
In addition, he said loopholes in the law exempt some gun buyers from undergoing background checks but requires it of others. For example, customers of licensed gun dealers must undergo background checks. But they're not required of those who buy from an "occasional" seller through places such as gun shows, or in private sales.
That creates an opportunity for people who might not pass a background check to still buy weapons.
Bloomberg called Congress should take action to fix those problems. He also said President Barack Obama should speak out on the issue at his State of the Union address this week.
"With our country still mourning the victims of Tucson, we believe it is an opportunity for our president to make a strong pledge to fix our gun laws and shore up our background check system because the state of our union includes the tragic reality that 34 Americans are murdered with guns every single day, and most of them are purchased or possessed illegally," he said.