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Taking action nationally to bolster crime fighters on the local scene

This week, I traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to take part in a lecture hosted by the National Council of Jewish Women in partnership with Citizens for Safety. The lecture, titled "Where did the gun come from?" dealt with the important but often unasked question of how illegal guns fall into the hands of criminals.

As Mayor of Boston, this is an issue that has been a top priority of my administration, and in 2006, New York's Mayor Bloomberg and I founded the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) coalition to bring this issue to the forefront nationally. The Cleveland lecture was an opportunity to share ideas for combating illegal gun trafficking with a host of other local civic and community leaders.

Local government is on the front lines of this battle, and Boston's effort to address this problem is helping other cities and towns across the country. Cleveland has experienced a 56 percent rise in homicides between 2004 and 2007 and is now replicating some of Boston's initiatives, including community policing and a gun buy-back program. In Boston, we have used the principle of community policing to build trusting relationships between members of the police department and members of the community. Safe street teams, more walking beats, and officers on bicycles have helped to develop a personal relationship between the neighborhoods and their police officers, which is central to any successful anti-crime initiative.

Boston is working proactively with youth through Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) teams that address violence as a public health issue. Neighborhood peace councils have worked to understand the concerns and priorities of residents, and this past summer, the City partnered with Citizens for Safety to bring "Traffick Jam" workshops to four neighborhoods. These community workshops educated over 200 residents by illustrating how police track guns, where crime guns come from, and immediate actions that citizens can take to curb illegal gun trafficking in their neighborhood.

We want to use these principles to strengthen national action against illegal guns. In Cleveland, I welcomed 23 new Ohio mayors to the bipartisan MAIG coalition, which has grown from 15 mayors in 2006 to over 350 mayors, currently representing 55 million Americans. At the lecture, I spoke of the importance of the coalition's four point agenda to fix the broken background check system. As local leaders, we want the Congress to:

• Close the gun show loophole to require a background check of purchasers at gun shows.

• Require gun dealers to perform criminal background checks on all gun-handling employees.

• Close the fire sale loophole that allows dealers whose licenses have been revoked to continue to sell their inventory.

• Close the terror gap that leaves those on the terrorist no-fly list off the list of prohibited purchasers of firearms.

I am excited that President-elect Obama has endorsed closing the gun show loophole and repealing the Tiahrt Amendment to give police access to gun data. I look forward to working with the new administration on a sensible urban agenda.

Boston is not perfect, but I'm proud of our accomplishments. Through the end of August, we've seen a 22 percent decrease in homicides with a firearm versus the same time period in 2007. Urban, industrialized Massachusetts continues to have one of the lowest fire-arm fatality rates in the country, second only to Hawaii. Massachusetts has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, but 60 percent of guns used in Boston crime come from other states. That's why national cooperation is necessary.

Working together, we can make our cities safer and put an end to the violence caused by the proliferation of illegal guns. The sooner we act, the more lives we can save.