Many U.S. mayors skeptical Charleston will inspire gun law changes

Many U.S. mayors skeptical Charleston will inspire gun law changes

© Handout . / Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Many U.S. mayors said this week's deadly church shooting in South Carolina should lead to more restrictions on gun ownership, but few believe the violence that killed nine people will propel legislators to enact stricter gun laws.

"Among ourselves, it has been coming up," said Bill Harrison, mayor of Fremont, California, during the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this weekend in San Francisco. "But how many of these events does it take to get action?"

Harrison said on Saturday the 2012 school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, where 20 children died, represented a personal turning point, but also made him skeptical about political change.

"I'm not giving up, but if Newton couldn't get people together, I don't know what will," he said.

As Wednesday night's shooting at the historic African-American church in Charleston gripped the country, prosecutors on Friday wrapped up their case against James Holmes, on trial for killing 12 and wounding 70 in a shooting rampage in a movie theater in 2012.

That violence, followed by the Newton shooting, inspired activism and a push from President Barack Obama for gun control measures that subsequently fizzled.

Guns are chiefly regulated at the state and federal level, with possession protected by the U.S. Constitution, and local governments have limited authority.

"Our state has made some steps forward but what we do on the ground is with our policing power and our close relationship with the community," New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said on CNN on Saturday.

"Every time you turn around in this city and there's gun violence, that gun came from a state where it was just easy, just plain easy, to get a gun and send it up the East Coast to New York City. We need national legislation to change this."

The bipartisan group Mayors Against Illegal Guns expects high attendance at its meeting during the mayors' convention, with every state represented, said Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls, Rhode Island on Saturday.

"This happens every time there is a situation: gun control comes to the front burner. But the problem is the political will is lacking." said Mayor Mary Casillas Salas of Chula Vista, California. "It's a problem with the state legislature."

Obama on Friday told the conference he does not expect Congress to enact new gun laws soon.

For Jesus Ruiz, mayor of Socorro, Texas, gun control is a federal issue split along party lines.

"With the Republicans controlling Congress, we are limited," he said.

(Reporting by Robin Respaut; Additional reporting and writing by Lisa Lambert in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang)