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Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer On His Vision For Gun Control


Ahead of today's trip to Louisville, Ky., President Trump received a letter. It began with the line - when you visit our great city this coming Wednesday, I would appreciate the opportunity to meet. That letter came from the mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer. Mayor Fischer has some ideas for the president about the kinds of gun safety bills that could make Americans safer and how the country's mayors can help with that.

President Trump was not able to meet with Mayor Fischer today, so we invited him to join us here. Welcome.

GREG FISCHER: Hey, Ailsa. Thanks for having me.

CHANG: Thank you for making the time. So if you had gotten a meeting with President Trump today, tell me what you would've said to him.

FISCHER: Well, the first message is, be not afraid. This is a mainstream issue right now. All of America is looking for - practically all of America is looking for common sense gun safety reform, whether it be background checks, whether it be assault weapons. So the people are behind you. And these are not radical ideas in terms of gun safety. What's radical is that nothing is being done right now.

So it's a time in our history where - when a statesperson steps up and does something, they will be remembered forever for changing this tide. Americans, Louisvillians, are just tired. You know, when you think you can go to a shopping center...

CHANG: Well, let me ask you, though...

FISCHER: ...To a ballgame and you're worried about being gunned down - and unfortunately, we know it's going to happen in another city sometime soon. So something has to be done. A leader must step up.

CHANG: On what can be done - I read your letter - you advocate for expanding background checks, passing red flag laws, a ban on assault weapons and on high-capacity magazines. I just want to get real with you. Do you actually see a Republican-led Senate passing all of that, even an assault weapons ban?

FISCHER: It's possible. Look. As I said, these aren't radical ideas. And not only is this the platform of the United States Conference of Mayors, it's also the platform of the Major Cities Police Chiefs. So think about this. This is law enforcement saying this. This is the people that are closest to their citizens - the mayors - saying this is what your citizens are demanding. So if people can abandon this as a partisan issue and embrace it as a human issue, as an American issue, to say, this is so far out of whack that this is not normal.

This morning, I talked to a grandma that said - she said, I'm thinking about buying my granddaughter a bulletproof backpack that comes with a bulletproof vest. I didn't even know those things existed. They shouldn't exist. This is where we've gotten to as a country right now. And I would just hope anybody that's elected would say this has gone too far. This is not a party issue. We've got to get on the same page here.

CHANG: Now, we've seen President Trump appear receptive to expanding background checks in the past, but we've also seen him step that back. Do you see an opening with this president this time around that maybe you didn't see in the past?

FISCHER: I think we have to keep calling the question. When you remember Sandy Hook, it was never again. Dayton now is do something. The president sees that, and I believe he knows this is the right thing to do. Advocates that are, you know, high-paid lobbyists somehow seem to overwhelm the voice of the American people. So I think this is a moment where a true statesperson will look over that and say enough is enough. This is what we're going to do.

And it can't just stop with background checks. I mean, the minimum thing is for the president to give the green light to the Senate - for Senator Mitch McConnell to call the vote so people can be accounted for. Young people are coming out like never before. We saw a great program put out by our young leaders in Parkland today. Young people are going to be voting on this issue as well.

CHANG: But you do seem to think that this time feels different. Do you feel like we've reached a tipping point?

FISCHER: It has to. Moms are not going away. Students aren't going away. Mayors aren't going away. This issue needs to stay front and center. It's not just the mass shootings that make the headlines. It's the daily drumbeat of deaths that we see in our country - suicide by gun.

CHANG: Now, let me ask you - your letter mainly focused on what lawmakers in Washington can do, what the president can do. But I'm wondering, you know, because you mentioned Louisville itself is seeing a spike in gun violence right now, what can mayors do about gun safety?

FISCHER: Well, believe it or not, there's common sense things that just don't happen all the time. Some of these weapons that we're finding that are involved with local shootings have been stolen from people that leave their cars open. So imagine that - somebody has a gun, they leave it on the front seat of their car, and then it's gone and then used in a crime. Kentucky, unfortunately, has very loose gun safety laws here. So we are preempted from the state from doing anything, but we can certainly...

CHANG: Right. I understand state law bars any local action on guns. So what can you do as mayor?

FISCHER: Well, as I said, encourage people to practice safe gun practices. Lock your car. You shouldn't even have a gun in your car. Lock your gun up at home. How many times have we heard about the young boy or girl that's taken their life because of a gun being out there? Use gun locks. These are just super-common-sense things.

CHANG: As we move forward, though, and as you see President Trump continue to backtrack on his comments on background checks, in the last 30 seconds we have, what would you like to tell him to stay on the message that you would like him to stay on?

FISCHER: Listen to the American people. We're a democracy. That's what we're supposed to be doing. There can be special interests that are whispering in his ear. They represent the past. What the future is are the kids in our elementary schools or high schools that practice a mass shooting drill during the first couple days of school. That's not the United States of America.

CHANG: Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, thank you very much.

FISCHER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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