San Rafael mayor keeping flags at half-staff until there's gun control action

American flags, lowered to show respect and mourning for mass shooting victims, will remain at half-staff in San Rafael.  

"As a mayor you see it first hand," Mayor Gary Phillips told KTVU, "and I said, 'look I'm not putting this flag back up.'"

Phillips became San Rafael's mayor in 2012, the same year as the movie theatre massacre in Aurora Colorado: 12 people killed and 58 wounded.  

Later that year, came the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown Connecticut: Twenty first-graders and six adults murdered.

Then- and every time since- Phillips has ordered flags on city property lowered- but felt frustrated.  
"Is that all we're going to do, lower the flag, then a couple days later put it back up and everything's cool?", said Phillips. 

This time, watching new tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, it dawned on him: 
"I thought no, we're not going to do that. We're going to lower the flag as appropriate but I'm not putting it up until I see some action."  

Almost a dozen U.S. flags fly on city property, and all are remaining at half-staff indefinitely. 
Phillips says he's tired of watching Congress "flounder around" as he puts it. 

"I think it would be presumptuous to tell them exactly what needs to be done, but I don't think it's presumptuous to say 'get on it folks'". 

The mayor is hearing a lot of support for his decision.  

"I'd like to see every city in the country do it," said Perry Burr, walking past the flagpole at Fire Headquarters.

"I'm proud to be a San Rafaelite, and I think he did a great job and I almost wrote him a letter this morning!"  

"Other observers support the move, but doubt its impact: 

It feels symbolic, it feels small, but it's something," commented Osher Assouline of Calistoga, "but it's the most you can do as a mayor I guess."

Cities don't control gun laws, but Phillips notes, they deal with the aftermath of gun violence. 

And mayors- he suggests- feel like parents, responsible for safety. 

Phillips notes he's not anti-gun, in fact owns several shotguns. 

He's a licensed hunter, but points out, when he's shooting pheasant or duck, he's limited to three shells. 

"Now if I want to go out in El Paso and hunt people, I can have a hundred cartridges," said Phillips somberly, " so tell me how that makes sense." 

The twenty-year council member didn't launch his protest to start a trend, but if other cities follow, he welcomes it, and the conversation it brings. 

"I feel good about it, comfortable about it, and if there's some criticism, bring it on but it just feels like the right thing to do."

The mayor plans to revisit the issue at next month's city council meeting, Sept. 16, asking his elected colleagues if they want to continue with lowered flags or go back to normal. 

Of course he hopes by then, Congress will be taking action.