Fort Wayne Mayor Speaks out on Guns at Beacon Heights Church

Photo by courtesy of Nancy Eikenberry
Fort Wayne (Ind.) mayor Tom Henry with members of a class on gun violence at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren. Henry is one of the mayors of American cities working against gun violence through the organization “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

Fort Wayne mayor Tom Henry recently spoke to an adult education class at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind. The class, led by Nancy Eikenberry and Kyla Zehr, has been studying the book “America and Its Guns, a Theological Exposé” by James E. Atwood.

Henry was there as a representative of “Mayors Against Illegal Guns,” a coalition of over 900 mayors in the US who are demanding an end to gun violence. Henry was the first mayor in Indiana to join the coalition. The  group works together to find innovative new ways to advance the following principles:

— Punish–to the maximum extent of the law–criminals who possess, use, and traffic in illegal guns.

— Target and hold accountable irresponsible gun dealers who break the law by knowingly selling guns to straw purchasers.

— Oppose all federal efforts to restrict cities’ right to access, use, and share trace data that is so essential to effective enforcement, or to interfere with the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to combat illegal gun trafficking.

— Keep lethal, military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines off our streets.

— Work to develop and use technologies that aid in the detection and tracing of illegal guns.

— Support all local state and federal legislation that targets illegal guns; coordinate legislative, enforcement, and litigation strategies; and share information and best practices.

— Invite other cities to join in this new national effort.

Mayor Henry indicated that there are 300 million registered guns in this country, and estimated that there are probably another 100 million that we do not know about. He was disappointed that Congress did not pass the recent Manchin-Toomey bill that would expand background checks to include sales of all guns. He feels this was the result of the NRA being a very powerful lobby, which contributes huge amounts of money to politicians’ campaigns.

He also spoke briefly about the recent rash of gun violence in Fort Wayne. He indicated that there are five major gangs here, with a total of about 250 members, mostly men. They are between the ages of 17 and 24, and  are usually armed with a 9 m.m. handgun, which is easy to conceal and is very powerful. With a population of 250,000, the gangs represent  about .1 of 1 percent of the population of Fort Wayne. They are mainly located in the east-central and southeast-central regions of the city. Most shootings are due to gang retaliation, the high street value of drugs, and some drug trafficking by the affluent population in the city.

When asked what individuals can do to advocate for stricter gun laws, he said that the best thing to do is to pressure lawmakers by telephone, e-mail, letters, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The event concluded with a brief question and answer session. Beacon Heights members expressed their appreciation for the mayor’s time and effort by presenting him with a copy of the book that the class has been studying.

— Nancy Eikenberry attends Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren and with Kyla Zehr has been leading the church’s adult education class on gun violence.

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