WASHINGTON — Frustrated by the failure of Congress to act against gun violence, a group of clergy from New York and New Jersey is trying a new lobbying tactic — in Europe.
In a novel approach, the religious leaders fly across the Atlantic on Sunday to push European gun manufacturers, who have a roughly 25% share of the U.S. market, to apply some of the more stringent standards they already follow in their own countries to the weapons they sell in the U.S.
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They want the European gunmakers, for example, to refuse to allow their weapons to be sold through unlicensed gun dealers. They also want the manufacturers to renounce political meddling in the U.S. through contributions to lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association.
Their mission is the work of the Metro Industrial Arts Foundation, better known as Metro IAF, the highly effective grass-roots organizing group that is legendary in New York for building thousands of units of affordable housing.
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The outreach, timed just before the one-year anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, comes after the realization that the lobbying Congress is ineffective and only one option, said Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, of Temple Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, N.J.
“Is the congressional approach the only one that can have an impact, and are we going to put our hopes on one of the most dysfunctional organizations in America?” said Mosbacher, whose work on gun violence also has a personal dimension — his father was shot dead in a 1999 robbery attempt.
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The clergy members are seeking meetings with Austria’s Glock, Germany’s SIG Sauer and Italy’s Berretta, which dominate gun sales to police departments and government agencies in the U.S. Glock alone claims 60% of the handgun sales to U.S. police departments.
None so far has agreed to a meeting. But the group plans meetings with European Union officials, religious leaders and press to put pressure on the gunmakers.