BAY AREA -- Eleven current and former Bay Area mayors chimed in on the firearm debate this week, signing a letter that calls on President Barack Obama to push reforms to strengthen federal gun trafficking laws and require criminal background checks for every gun sale.

The mayors, all part of the national bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, also asked the president to review the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and draft new legislation to "get high capacity rifles and ammunition magazines off our streets," like the one used by Adam Lanza during last Friday's killing spree at a Connecticut elementary school. Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary -- 20 of them children -- using, among other guns, a Bushmaster .223 rifle equipped with 30-round magazines reportedly purchased by his mother, whom he shot and killed before going to the school.

Obama said Tuesday he would support re-enacting the assault weapons ban and a survey of California's upcoming congressional delegation by Bay Area News Group and Los Angeles News Group published Wednesday found a similar tenor among the state lawmakers. Thirty-two House Democrats said they'd support re-enacting some version of the ban; the sole Republican respondent opposed it and the remaining 20 House lawmakers didn't respond.

In the letter released Wednesday, the 750-plus mayor coalition also asked the president to appoint a director to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, a position that has gone without a confirmed director for six years, and urged prosecution of prohibited purchasers who attempt to buy firearms, ammunition and high-capacity magazines.


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"As mayors, we are charged with keeping our communities safe. But too many of us have sat with mothers and fathers of children killed with guns," the letter states. "We urge you to put forward an agenda that is rooted in common sense and that will make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns, and easier for police and prosecutors to crack down on them."

Among the local mayors to sign the letter was San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who said the issue is one of national and local importance.

Oakland, Calif. Mayor Jean Quan, right, speaks to the media at a press conference to discuss the results of a gun buyback program conducted by Oakland and
Oakland, Calif. Mayor Jean Quan, right, speaks to the media at a press conference to discuss the results of a gun buyback program conducted by Oakland and San Francisco over the weekend, at police headquarters in Oakland, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Through a private donation, police bought back nearly 600 guns. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

"Gun violence and easy access by civilians to weapons designed for use by soldiers on the battlefield are pressing issues nationwide and in the East Bay. I support legislation at the federal and state level to prohibit the sale of military-style, assault rifles and other measures to reduce gun violence," Cassidy said in a statement.

Gus Morrison, former mayor of Fremont, also signed the letter. Fremont's newly elected mayor, Bill Harrison, said even though his name is absent from the letter, he too supports tightening firearm possession laws.

Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder, also signed the letter. "I'm not an avid gun enthusiast, I'm not an anti-gun person, but I think there ought to be limits on assault-type weapons, so using my position as mayor, I thought it was the right thing to do," said Schroder, who owns three guns, including a rifle his grandfather gave him, though they are locked up and he doesn't use them.

Another signer, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said she is a longtime advocate of stricter gun control. "It's a no-brainer for me that in order to get peaceful cities and a more peaceful country, we need to get guns off the streets, and that means stricter regulations," she said.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg serve as co-chairmen of the coalition.

Staff writers Chris DeBenedetti, Lisa P. White and Robert Rogers contributed to this report.

11 CURRENT AND FORMER Mayors Calling for gun control
Marie Gilmore, Alameda
Tom Bates, Berkeley
Jennifer West, Emeryville (former mayor)
Gus Morrison, Fremont (former mayor)
Rob Schroder, Martinez
Michael Kasperzak Jr., Mountain View
Jean Quan, Oakland
Gayle McLaughlin, Richmond
Ed Lee, San Francisco
Chuck Reed, San Jose
Stephen Cassidy, San Leandro