D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Thursday that the Newtown, Conn., school massacre has been a “real affirmation” of the District’s strict gun control laws, and he doubts a gunman could successfully accomplish a similar killing spree in the city.
“We don’t have a fool-proof system, but it’s hard for me to envision it happening in the District of Columbia given the constraints that people have, and would have to overcome, to be able to pull that off,” Gray (D) said in an interview.
Gray said the Newtown school tragedy and the subsequent debate over gun control has convinced him that he needs to become more active in touting the city’s efforts to combat the use of firearms.
In 1976, the District enacted a law banning handguns, automatic weapons and required the registration of hunting rifles. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law, reaffirming residents’ rights to keep firearms in their home.
The D.C. Council has since permitted residents to own pistols as long as they are registered and not taken outside the home.
In the coming weeks, Gray said he plans to speak out in favor of more gun control measures nationwide, tying the District’s declining homicide rate to its long-standing gun control efforts.
Gray said he plans to increase his activism in New York Mayor Michael A. Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. On Jan. 26, Gray is also scheduled to join some families of Newtown victims and other advocates in a march to support new gun control measures.
“Listening to the vice president today talk about background checks, talk about the ban on assault weapons, and these clips that will hold 20 and 30 rounds, are all those things we have already banned,” Gray said. “We need to make it harder for people to own guns.”
Gray noted that the District faced its own scare in August after a Virginia man showed up at the Family Research Council headquarters armed with a weapon. The suspect was wrestled to the ground by a security guard, who was shot during the scuffle.
“This was a case where it wasn’t someone who was from the city, who did not live in the city,” Gray said of the suspect, Floyd Lee Corkins II of Herndon. “He came from a place where there is a much more relaxed gun control laws.”
Gray’s confidence in the District’s gun control strategy overlooks the fact that, during the 1980s and part of the 1990s, the city had one of the highest homicide rates in the nation, even though it had one of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
But Gray said the District, which recorded fewer than 100 homicides last year for the first time since 1961, would not be making considerable strides in combating gun violence had it not been for gun control.
“It’s also community policing,” Gray said. “But having the capacity to keep the guns out of people’s hands, off the streets and make sure people who are irresponsible or mentally ill and people have a waiting period . …We make it hard to own a gun. …We are on the right path in the city.”
Yet, as first reported Thursday by the Washington Examiner, Gray said he’s open to hiring more armed police officers for security at District schools.
“Those are sworn officers, people who are trained,” Gray said.