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Ben Kirby: Illegal guns are not welcome in St. Pete

Though the firearm crime rate in America has steadily decreased since 1993, America remains awash in guns — legally purchased as well as illegally obtained. An estimated 6.6 million guns were transferred in 2012 without a federal background check.

The Internet has opened up a vast marketplace of weapons — some from licensed dealers, many not. Websites like Armslist.com have tens of thousands of guns for sale at a time, and buyers can choose between unlicensed and licensed sellers. In December 2012, more than 85 percent of listings on the Armslist site were placed by private sellers who are not required under federal law to conduct background checks on buyers.

About 30,000 Americans across the country are killed every year as a result of gun violence. Every day 33 Americans are murdered with guns.

In St. Petersburg, police confiscate about one gun per day.

The answer, in large part, is background checks, an idea supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans, including more than 1,000 mayors, major law enforcement organizations, domestic violence prevention advocates – and gun owners and NRA members. A poll conducted last year showed 91 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun sales. And in 2012 Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 82 percent of gun owners – including 74 percent of NRA members – support criminal background checks for all gun sales.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has said that one gun per day is one gun too many, which is why he signed the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Statement of Principles this week. He joins 44 other mayors across Florida, and many hundreds more throughout the nation in standing up for protecting our residents– especially our children.

Signing this statement means a stronger push to punish criminals who possess, use, and traffic in illegal guns. St. Petersburg will hold accountable irresponsible gun dealers who break the law when they knowingly sell guns to unqualified purchasers.

It also means working to develop and implement technologies that aid in the detection and tracing of illegal guns. A city like St. Petersburg, perfectly positioned to host innovative technology startup businesses, may be just the place to bring just such a tech firm.

Earlier this month, The New York Times ranked the City of St. Petersburg 49th among 52 places to visit across the globe. This week, the British news outlet The Independent offered a must-read write-up of the Sunshine City.

Visitors from around the world are welcome in St. Petersburg. Those who have illegal guns are not.

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Ben Kirby is the communications director for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

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