Hatboro Mayor Norm Hawkes “grew up with guns,” frequently went into the woods of his Hazelton area home to shoot his single-shot rifle and later spent eight years in the military.
Much has changed since then.
“I will not allow a gun in my house,” Hawkes said adamantly. “I guess I matured a little and realized all the problems.”
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Chief among them, Hawkes said, are the thousands of deaths – including last month’s movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. - that result from what he characterizes as gun control laws in serious need of tightening up.
“It’s just too easy to get a gun in this country,” said Hawkes, one of more than 700 members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.
And while the coalition supports the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, Hawkes said its purpose is to close “loopholes” surrounding how individuals obtain guns. James Holmes, for instance, the alleged gunman from the Colorado massacre that killed a dozen people and injured more than 50, purchased multiple guns within a short period of time and bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, which, according to Hawkes “should set off a red flag.”
But, what if those flags aren’t in place?
New York and New Jersey lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would prohibit people like Holmes from buying massive quantities of ammunition by mail or online, according to the Washington Post.
Hawkes, a Democrat among the 6-1 Republican-controlled governing body, said his position on firearms changed about 15 years ago when he realized how many people are murdered by guns each year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 25,423 firearm homicides and 34,235 firearm suicides occurred among U.S. residents during 2006-2007.
Each day 34 Americans die by gun-related violence, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Hawkes, a retired health and physical education teacher of 24 years, likened that number to “three Auroras every single day.”
Nationally, the coalition of which Hawkes is a part, is working on various initiatives aimed at strengthening existing gun control laws. In response to the Aurora tragedy, the bi-partisan coalition, along with survivors and family members of victims of the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz. called on President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney to devise a “plan of action to reduce gun violence,” according to the coalition’s Web site.
A petition has been created to show support of that effort.
Romney has said existing gun laws should not be changed, while Obama has indicated that some may need to be strengthened, according to interviews following last month's massacre.
Hawkes said he doesn’t expect either of the presidential candidates to really take a position through this election cycle.
“You have the wrath of the NRA. They’re a very powerful organization,” Hawkes said. “Any legislation that mentions guns the NRA is against.”
In his own locale, Hawkes, under Hatboro’s previous Democrat-controlled council, had faced opposition in his effort to put forth a lost and stolen gun ordinance.
The proposed legislation would have required anyone who had their handgun either lost or stolen to report it to police within 72 hours of that discovery, Hawkes said.
“It’s a common sense law,” Hawkes said. “The police need to know when there’s a stolen weapon out there.”
Hatboro Police Chief James Gardner agreed and said people “should immediately report the gun lost or stolen” regardless if an actual ordinance is in place.
Hatboro Borough Council President John Zygmont said “there has been no consideration given” to Hawkes’ ordinance since it was voted down in 2010.
“I do not see it coming up again,” Zygmont said.
Hawkes said he’s hopeful that better gun control can be realized on the federal level.
“I just hope and pray that whoever becomes our next president tightens up some of our gun laws,” Hawkes said.