One after another, they stepped to the microphone.  Some spoke strongly, some hesitatantly, some through tears, as they described, in two or three sentences each, how gun violence had affected them, their loved ones, and others. 

"I'm here today because my husband, 28 years old, my son 25, my niece 11, my nephew, my brother all died from gun violence.  If my support can keep one person alive and prevent the families from suffering the heartache we continue to go through, then you have my support."

A woman who's daughter, age 11, was killed by a stray bullet... a mother whose son, a law enforcement officer, was killed at a gas station in a robbery attempt ... someone whose two best friends died from gun violence  ... the brother of a young woman killed at Virginia Tech... a woman whose son was gunned down when leaving a bar ... a pastor who was robbed and shot in the stomach .. and more, including caregivers -- a doctor, a paramedic, a nurse.

"I attend a lot of funerals every year because of gun violence, and the coffins keep getting smaller and smaller," said Ald. Willie Wade.

Most spoke for about 60 seconds at a news conference at Red Arrow Park, where the backdrop was a truck that is traveling the country as part of a "Fix Gun Checks Tour" sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.  A huge sign on the truck, lighted like a mobile billboard, said 1,969 people in the US have been murdered by guns since the Tucson shooting rampage on Jan. 8, just two months ago.  As I write, the number is 1,985. Thirty-four people a day are murdered with guns.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, one of 550 mayors who are members of the group, said the campaign does not threaten Second Amendment protections or the right to own guns and bear arms.  The campaign's aim is "taking guns away from people who shouldn't have them," he said.

The mayors' campaign wants to close loopholes that allow dangerous people to slip through the federal background check system, by making sure that all records of felons, drug addicts, domestic violence offenders and the mentally ill are included in the federal data base used for background checks.  

The mayors also support requiring a background check for all gun sales, not just those by licensed dealers.  Many guns, perhaps half of all of the guns sold in the country, are sold by individuals who are not licensed dealers, at gun shows, through newspaper ads, online, or from the trunk of a car.  That is not illegal, although many of the people buying the guns would not pass a background check and may not legally own a gun.

After the event, participants took petitions supporting the changes, with more than 5,000 Wisconsin signers, to the office of Sen. Ron Johnson.  Polling has shown more than 80% of the people in the country, including gun owners, support the common sense provisions, but the National Rifle Assn. opposes them and has prevented passage.

The traveling campaign is in the state until Thursday.  Details about the route and the campaign at  You can sign the petition and join the campaign there, too.

WUWM Radio story.

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