National Press Club

Mayors Decry Silence Surrounding Murder Epidemic in Cities

September 26, 2013 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (left) and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter discuss their campaign to cut the nation’s murder rates, reduce gun violence and address other issues affecting urban communities.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (left) and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter discuss their campaign to cut the nation’s murder rates, reduce gun violence and address other issues affecting urban communities.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Americans need to stop being silent about the hundreds of murders each year, the majority of which are African-American young men killing other African-Americans, two urban Democratic mayors told a National Press Club Luncheon Sept. 26.

Civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Representative John Lewis, D-Ga., ``did not take a beating for this drumbeat of death and violence to become a way of life,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

In Philadelphia, 236 African-American males were murdered in 2012, said the mayor of that city, Michael Nutter.

“If the Ku Klux Klan came to Philadelphia and killed 236 black men, the city would be on lockdown,” Nutter said. “If 236 well-off white kids in the Philadelphia suburbs were killed, there would be hell to pay and if international terrorists killed 236 Philadelphians of any race, we would hunt them down for decades and bring them to justice no matter the cost, no matter the time. We would just do it.”

The mayors acknowledge that resources are scarce but Landrieu asked for a resumption of the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program begun under President Bill Clinton.

“We know that works,'' Landrieu said ``If you start doing something that works and you stop it and it goes back to where it was, it is a good message that you might want to try it again.”

Resources can also be better used if state, local and federal government officials work together, Nutter said. If the message “was delivered down the chain” that federal employees working in urban areas would be evaluated by how they coordinate and cooperate with state and local governments, then change would happen, he said.

City mayors have avoided “getting caught in the seemingly mind-numbing debate” surrounding gun control because it not just about guns, poverty or joblessness, Landrieu said.

“There are millions of people in America that are law-abiding gun owners that are not shooting people.” Landrieu said. “There are a lot of people that are poor that are not shooting people. Some people will say it is about joblessness but there are a lot of people that are unemployed that are not shooting people. It is a Molotov Cocktail of a number of things that have come together and one of the challenges has been to not to divert the attention onto issues that are not going to solve the immediate crisis that we have before us, which is to stop the shooting.“