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Mayors Make Plans For Dealing With Mass Shootings

Across the U.S., city leaders enter office with the knowledge that their towns — no matter how quiet — may at any time become the next scene of unspeakable violence. Being ready for that moment is as much a part of a mayor’s job as maintaining roads or crafting a budget, even if their city is lucky enough to be spared. There were 131 incidents classified as mass shootings in the first three months of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Federal policies have done little to insulate towns from this crisis. Democratic-led efforts to ban assault weapons and implement universal background checks have stalled amid a divided Congress, Politico reports. Improvements in mental health treatments and the proliferation of red flag laws, ideas embraced by some Republicans, aren’t stopping the violence. A Supreme Court decision last summer weakened states’ authority to set their own, tougher rules on gun ownership. The burden weighs heavily on mayors. Many feel it’s a matter of when, and not if, the violence will shatter their towns. Six mayors whose communities were affected by mass shootings talked about their experience facing tragedy — and how those moments changed them and their cities.

Jose Sanchez took over as mayor of Monterey Park, Ca., four days after the Lunar New Year shooting that killed 11 people and injured nine. The former city council member and longtime civics teacher had spent years studying firearm laws, helping his class of high school seniors craft gun-safety legislation that reached the House floor. Two days after a gunman opened fire in a ballroom dance studio, Sanchez was back in his classroom at Alhambra High School, trying to talk with students about what had happened without breaking down. “I remember at the end of that period, a student patted me on the shoulder and asked if I was OK,” he said. “It’s not that often that my students ask me how I’m doing.” His wife warned him that he was thinking about gun safety too much, and he wondered if she was right. That issue had consumed him since 2016, when he and a group of students visiting UCLA barricaded themselves in a women’s restroom after a professor was shot and killed. “I wish I didn’t have to think about this issue,” Sanchez said. “And now that it has happened, it makes you think, how could we have been better prepared? What can we do now to prevent another one?”


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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