New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu joined Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola in calling for systemic changes to address gun violence in both cities.
Landrieu spoke as part of a day-long community safety summit at Little Rock’s Heifer International Village and sponsored by the Clinton School of Public Service.
“This is not something that we can lose, because really and literally our lives and the lives of our children depend on it,” Landrieu said. “[I’m] hopeful that this time our country’s leaders are going to stand with the vast majority of Americans who agree with this very simple premise: not every American needs access to every kind of weapon at any time to do anything they want.”
Landrieu, the son of former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and brother of former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), praised Stodola’s efforts in addressing gun violence. Stodola’s LR for Life program, modeled after Landrieu’s NOLA FOR LIFE initiative, was launched in response to a shooting at the Power Ultra Lounge nightclub last July.
“The name is the same, but a lot of the components are different, but they’re all similar in nature in terms of knowing that while law enforcement is certainly one way to try and address this issue, it’s multifaceted,” Stodola said. “We know that the long-term issues are rooted in making our communities better, our neighborhoods better.”
Landrieu warned against a reactionary approach to addressing societal problems, saying mass shootings, while tragic in nature, aren’t representative of the majority of gun deaths in the United States.
“Focusing on mass tragedies alone is not going to be enough, and it’s not going to get us to the core of the neglect and the malfeasance that’s gotten us to this point in America,” Landrieu said.
Little Rock Vice Mayor Kathy Webb agreed with Landrieu’s assertion that a multi-faceted approach to gun control and government reform is needed.
“There’s not one thing that we have to do, I think there’s 30 things that we have to do. And the speakers this morning and Mayor Landrieu all kept going back to the word ‘hope’… there has to be hope,” Webb said.
Webb said Landrieu’s assertions for stricter background checks for gun buyers as well as criminal justice and mental health reform are all positive steps but that hope must ultimately come from the community.
“I think one of the biggest problems right now is that we have the tendency not to identify with people who might not look like us, and I think [Landrieu] really stressed that,” Webb said. “We’ve got to be able to identify with somebody who doesn’t look like us, and I think that’s one way we can find hope and can really solve the problems.”
Landrieu agreed that a more intersectional approach is needed to stem the death toll from gun violence.
“So if we’re going to survive as a people, we have to rip this Band-Aid off and talk about the stories that don’t get the same media attention: when the killing field is not a school or a movie theater, and the victims are not suburban and white,” Landrieu said.