|HUD No. 00-53|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||9:30 a.m. Wednesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||March 15, 2000|
CUOMO JOINS RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN INTERFAITH CALL SUPPORTING CLINTON ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVES TO END GUN VIOLENCE
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today joined with leaders of many of the nation's major religious organizations in an interfaith call to end gun violence, as the religious leaders released a letter supporting Clinton Administration initiatives to protect Americans from gun violence.
More than 100 religious organizations and leaders have signed the letter, which will be delivered to Congressional leaders. The letter states: "We support the present efforts of the Clinton Administration - and in particular the Department of Housing and Urban Development - to bring needed change to the gun industry. We urge the Administration and elected officials to continue to press the gun industry to make common-sense changes addressing the problem of gun violence."
The letter also states: "Our society faces a challenge. Gun violence brings tragedy to the lives of far too many people. More than 30,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries are caused by guns each year. The problem has reached epidemic proportions. As religious leaders, we have seen the results of these tragedies. It is imperative for us to do what we can to avoid these incidents…. the gun industry has the opportunity to reduce the tragedies and bloodshed. We call upon them to make changes that will increase safety, keep guns away from criminals and our children, and put safety devices in their products that will cut down on accidental and unintended deaths and injuries."
Cuomo said: "Let's remember the message Moses brought us from God: thou shalt not kill. Tragically, this commandment is violated every day, as innocent men, women and children are gunned down senselessly. How many more must die before we take reasonable steps to protect ourselves from the plague of gun violence?"
Cuomo joined Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rev. Jim Wallis, Editor-in-Chief of Sojouners Magazine and Convenor of the Call to Renewal; Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, Director of the Washington office of the Presbyterian Church USA; and Roman Catholic Bishops Richard Hanifen and Arthur Tafoya of Colorado at the interfaith gathering today.
Cuomo said HUD is working to get unwanted guns off the street through a gun buyback program that has provided $2.6 million in grants this year to enable police departments to buy an estimated 50,000 guns for $50 apiece, and will provide more grants in the future.
HUD's buyback is based on successful smaller gun buyback programs conducted in cities around the country. It is also similar to a $30 million federal gun buyback program proposed in 1994 by Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole, but never enacted.
HUD-funded buybacks have taken place so far in Louisville, KY and Watervliet, NY with the rest scheduled to take place in the next few weeks and months.
To reduce the availability of guns, all guns purchased with HUD funds will destroyed, unless it is determined that a gun was stolen or is needed for an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Stolen weapons will be returned to their lawful owners.
The gun buyback initiative is one of several actions the Clinton Administration is pursuing to reduce deaths and injuries caused by guns each year across the nation.
Other parts of the Clinton Administration's gun safety agenda include:
- A $30 million Community Gun Safety and Violence Reduction Initiative that President Clinton proposed in his Fiscal Year 2001 Budget. The initiative, which would be administered by HUD, would fund computerized mapping of gun violence to help law enforcement agencies better protect the public, education and outreach programs to promote responsible safety measures by gun owners, and innovative community activities to reduce both gun crimes and accidents. If Congress approves funding for the initiative, local governments, law enforcement agencies, public housing authorities, community organizations, and other groups would be eligible to compete for HUD grants to support gun violence reduction activities in the communities the Department serves.
- A $280 million national firearms enforcement initiative that is also part of the President's proposed budget. The initiative would hire 500 new ATF agents and inspectors to target gun criminals, hire more than 1,000 prosecutors at all levels of government, fund new gun tracing and ballistics testing systems to catch more gun criminals, fund local media campaigns to discourage gun violence, and expand the development of "smart gun" technologies.
- Negotiations between the Clinton Administration and gun manufacturers, designed to make changes in the design, distribution and marketing of guns. If negotiations fail, HUD could support a class-action lawsuit by the nation's public housing authorities against gun manufacturers.