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Miami mayor joins gun control movement

In the company of police, pastors and a parent whose son was gunned down with an assault rifle while lost in Liberty City two years ago, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado called on Congress Monday to establish tougher gun control laws.

Regalado, participating in a coordinated, national campaign by advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, demanded universal criminal background checks on all gun purchases, federal punishment for gun traffickers, and a re-enactment of the federal assault weapon ban. The position was echoed Monday by mayors in other cities, including New York mayor and organization front man Michael Bloomberg during a summit at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

President Barack Obama also touched on the looming gun control debate in Congress during his own news conference Monday.

“It’s important that we send this message,” Regalado said.

Locally, Regalado said that Miami officials are hiring more police officers, hosting gun buy-backs and working with the Department of Children and Families to expand gun awareness and education seminars for youngsters.

Regalado said he plans to use the number of guns purchased in Miami’s buy-backs this month as a means to urge Congress to pass gun reforms.

Miami officials, including Regalado’s predecessor Manny Diaz, have unsuccessfully urged Congress in the past to pass gun control measures.

But Monday’s coordinated news conferences fell on the one-month anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children, six adults and then himself. The town is now debating whether to tear down the school.

Regalado said the December tragedy should serve as a “wake up call.”

Carol Gardner, whose 27-year-old son Herbert Gross III was shot dead two years ago with an AK-47 while driving to a friend’s home near Liberty Square, said Congress is more likely to consider gun control measures after the school shooting.

“Hopefully it will make them move,” Gardner said while fighting tears outside City Hall.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns makes the same case in a television commercial released Monday. Bloomberg also released a report that alleges the gun lobby has “kept the country in the dark about gun violence.”

Monday’s media blitz comes amid a two-week period in which a number of South Florida officials have participated in different round-table conversations and news conferences aimed at curbing gun violence, particularly among youth.

On Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho are hosting their own discussion in which they have invited all of the county’s chiefs of police.

Gimenez, leaving Miami City Hall early Monday morning, said he will push the recommendations that come from the Friday gathering in Tallahassee and Washington.

“This area, southeast Florida, needs to wield its political muscle,” he said.