Mayors across US, including St. Pete and Tampa, sign letter urging Congress to act on gun laws

Image 1 of 5

The leaders of the Bay Area's two largest cities joined a growing list of mayors across the country calling on Congress to return to Washington to take immediate action on gun safety legislation in the wake of the double mass-shootings this past weekend.

At the end of February, the House of Representatives passed two bills that would beef-up the gun background check system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to bring the legislation up for a vote, although Thursday he signaled a shift, saying he will consider the bills when they come back from their summer break.

“It is unconscionable that they won’t take action,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist. “They need to go back to Washington now, and they need to stop this, I mean there's no excuse for it."

Nearly 230 mayors from across the country have signed a letter to McConnell and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer that says in part, "We urge you to call senate back to session now to take up and pass these bills to help reduce gun violence and the terrible toll it takes in our cities and our nation."

Sixteen mayors from Florida are on that list. Including Mayor Rick Kriseman in St. Pete.

"Why, why, why, must our elected leaders in Washington and Tallahassee make it so easy for people to kill?" he asked the crowd at a vigil for the shooting victims in El Paso and Dayton Monday night.

Tampa's mayor, Jane Castor also signed on.

“It appears that we’re going to leave it up to the mayors to get things done when it comes to firearms,” she said at the vigil.

The two bills highlighted would extend the period for firearm background checks from three to 10-days.  The other would close loopholes for gun shows and person-to-person sales.

The letter goes on to say, "Quick passage of these bills is a critical step to reducing gun violence in our country."

"It is especially scary when the people in power in Washington and Tallahassee have little or no desire to correct this course that we are on," Kriseman said.

The mayors argue both proposed laws are bipartisan, writing "...sensible gun safety bills that would make our cities and our people safer, and would in no way compromise gun owner's rights."

"We have an epidemic of this in America and it must stop,” Crist said. “And leaders in, not only Washington, but throughout the country have to be held accountable and do what’s right.  We've done that in the House, the Senate needs to act and send it to the president."

The United States Conference of Mayors organized the letter. Summer break started last Friday and Congress isn't due back to Washington until September 9.