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Johns Hopkins University Summit on Reducing Gun Violence in America

Baltimore, MD

President Daniels, thank you very much. And thank you for the amazing work that goes on here at Johns Hopkins, including here at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. It’s always a great honor to be here, especially to be the warm-up act for Mayor Bloomberg, a proud alumnus. Very few have done quite so much for Johns Hopkins as Mayor Bloomberg. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also been a great friend to the City of Baltimore.  We were here together just this past April, in fact, to dedicate the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center – named in honor of his mother.  It is, I think, one of the most handsome new buildings in Baltimore.

A great American once said,…“No nation whose citizens fear to walk their own streets is healthy.”

And there is a sickness in our country. That sickness is gun violence. It’s fitting, we’re here at the Bloomberg School because gun violence is a public health issue.  It’s about the health of our cities and towns. It’s about the health of our neighborhoods. It’s about the health of our economy.  The health of our schools, and our schools children, and our communities.  The health of our neighbors.

Mayor Bloomberg is one of the most effective, results-oriented mayors ever to serve New York, or dare I say any city.  Creating jobs,… expanding opportunity,… improving city schools,… launching America’s largest and most innovative affordable housing initiative,… and fighting crime.

The people of New York have shown the people of Baltimore that it is possible to make a safer tomorrow. That we do not have to resign ourselves to the circumstances and the way things have always been,… or what we’ve never been able to do in the past. And that, in fact, we can save lives. And each life is precious. Each life is important. And if you save just one life, it is as if you have saved the entire world.

The people of America also recognize something else that’s very important to Mike Bloomberg, and that is that he is not primarily partisan. He is primarily about pulling people together to do practical things that actually work. Which is also the very thing that it takes to be an effective mayor. There is no Democratic or Republican way to fix a pothole, is there? Or any Democratic or Republican way to get the alleys clean, or get the trash picked up.  You see a problem. You bring people together. You fix it, and you then see measurable results. And in this case, the measurable results that we will see are lives that will be saved.

This has been Mayor Bloomberg’s driving argument when it comes to preventing gun violence.  Politically speaking, this is certainly not an easy issue for many elected figures.  But the Mayor courageously chose to step up again and again, bringing other like-minded mayors together, including our own courageous mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. And he did so consistently. And his leadership really matters now, because the tragedies that have happened across our country – in Colorado, in Wisconsin, and in Connecticut,… there is a wider envelope for accomplishing the art of the possible; for putting in place common sense things that can prevent the sort of gun violence that has taken too many lives from us.

All of us are here today because we agree that this issue is of paramount public safety importance. And there is no more important responsibility that any government has than protecting and safeguarding the public safety of its citizens.

Over a ten year period of time, two of the three major cities in America that have achieved the biggest reductions in driving down violent crime have been New York, and also just behind New York, has been Baltimore. New York was number two over a ten year period, Baltimore was number three.

So, preventing violent crime,… locking up the bad guys, keeping assault weapons from falling into the hands of disturbed people who are a danger to others – these are not barometric pressures. These are not weather forces. These are not conditions brought about by the Gulf Stream. These are human problems, and so too are their solutions.

Mayor, you will be pleased to hear that in Maryland, we are taking on this issue again in this year’s legislative session.  And I do believe that this year, we will have success. Later this week we’ll be introducing a comprehensive legislative package that looks, not only at the weapons and the licensing of weapons, and background checks, but also at schools – we’re joined here by Lillian Lowery, our Superintendent of Public Schools. We’ll also be looking at mental health – we’re joined here by Josh Sharfstein, of Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Also joined by Marcus Brown, our Superintendent of State Police. So, this will be a comprehensive legislative package to prevent gun violence. And it addresses not only the guns, but also mental health and school safety.

It will ban military-style assault weapons that have no place on the streets of Baltimore or in any other neighborhood in our State.  And it will also limit the size of magazines to make it harder for criminals to gun down in succession police officers or school children.

Secondly, it will have a common-sense licensing requirements for handguns that respect the traditions of hunters and sportsmen and women.

Third, it will contain real and substantive reforms to improve mental health services.  Reforms like more timely data-sharing,… investments in better treatment,… and the creation of a new Center for Excellence on Early Intervention for Serious Mental Illness, so that we’re able to utilize more effective early intervention strategies.

And finally, it will invest in our schools to improve the safety of their facilities.  So many of us that have visited our schools know that the primary mission, being the education mission, that there is a wide spectrum when it comes to the safeguards in place – simple things like the doors being locked, and visitors being checked in, and the like. So we will creating a fund within our capital schools budget – we are one of only about a dozen states to invest in school construction – and that fund will help us to bring schools up to higher standards. We will also be creating a Maryland Center for School Safety that will bring together law enforcement with school officials so that we have some better advice for school officials on the things we can do to better safeguard our campuses.

Conclusion, as I get to introduce our very honorable and accomplished guest. Neither Mayor Bloomberg nor any of us in Maryland are seeking to ban all guns.  At the same time, we know that it makes absolutely no sense, when you look at the level of carnage on our streets from guns, to blame every factor but guns.

If we’re going to have a comprehensive approach, well then let’s think comprehensively. Including comprehensively looking at the licensing requirements for guns. We need a comprehensive approach that puts the focus on the practical, common sense things that we can do together to save lives. Perhaps there is no way to completely prevent the next Newtown tragedy. But then again, perhaps there is. None of us can predict the future. None of us can properly assess the value of preventive programs that keep another tragedy from happening. And yet, we know every life is valuable. But that cannot be an excuse that keeps us from doing common sense things.

This isn’t about ideology – it’s about human dignity. The dignity of every individual life. The dignity of every one of those little kids. The dignity of every child and every person in the United States of America.

So, it is with great honor that I introduce to you a man of effectiveness, a man of great political courage — Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of the great City of New York.

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