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Police say they seized 500 illegal guns this year

 Boston police Commissioner Edward F. Davis pointed to an assault rifle similar to the one used in the Newtown, Conn. shootings, held by Deputy Superintendent William Gross. Davis said the weapons “have no place in our communities.”

BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF

Boston police Commissioner Edward F. Davis pointed to an assault rifle similar to the one used in the Newtown, Conn. shootings, held by Deputy Superintendent William Gross. Davis said the weapons “have no place in our communities.”

On the same day President Obama disclosed plans to submit gun control recommendations to Congress early next year, Boston police announced the seizure of 500 illegal guns in the city, and the city’s mayor and police commissioner ­demanded aggressive federal action to curb gun violence and crack down on the illegal trade of firearms.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, cochairmen of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, called for Obama to lead reforms to the nation’s gun laws.

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“As mayors, we are charged with keeping our communities safe. But too many of us have sat with mothers and fathers of children killed with guns,” the mayors in the coalition wrote in a letter addressed to the president.

“Together we urge you to put forward an agenda that is rooted in common sense and that will make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns and easier for police and prosecutors to crack down on them,” read the letter, which was signed by 750 mayors.

The letter makes many suggestions, including requiring every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check, banning assault weapons and high-
capacity magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

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A spokeswoman for Menino said the mayor was not available to discuss the letter. ­Instead, the mayor’s office provided a 35-second voice recording of Menino’s thoughts.

“I’m proud the president has stepped up today in moving forward with a plan on guns,” Menino said in the recording ­e-mailed to reporters. “In ­Boston, we continue to take military-style guns off our streets, preventing violence and tragedies, but we can’t do it alone.”

Boston police said they have seized more than 500 illegal guns from the city’s streets so far this year, including several that are similar to those used in recent mass shootings, including the Newtown, Conn., school massacre on Friday.

At a press conference at ­police headquarters, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis stood beside 10 firearms and made the case for a ban on some weapons, including the type believed to have been used by Adam Lanza in last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in western Connecticut.

“These types of weapons have only one purpose: to kill a large number of people quickly,’’ said Davis. “They have no place in our communities.”

Davis said that more states should have a thorough background check for potential gun owners.

“People have a right to own weapons; I’ve had a license to own a firearm since I was 16 years old,’’ Davis said.

Davis also argued that police need increased capacity to check the mental health ­records of those seeking a gun permit. As it stands, Davis said, police who must vet applicants can only know whether a person has been institutionalized.

Davis said he hoped to pursue that effort without infringing on patient privacy. “I don’t want mental health histories,” he said. “I don’t think police should be in possession of that information. But I think there should be a central database.

“When someone comes into my office and says, ‘I want a ­license to carry a firearm,’ I think that, as part of a common-­sense response to that, they should allow us look into their background,” he said. “And if their background ­included serious medication for mental illness, that has to be taken into consideration.”

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@globe.com.
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@martinepowers
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