Guest Op-Ed: With runaway gun violence, improving gun safety is common sense

December 12, 2013 Editorial Staff
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Without question, New Yorkers have a constitutional right to own firearms, and many do. However, in light of the increase in mass shootings, and the devastating gun violence we see every day in our cities, changes are needed. That’s why I helped pass the NY SAFE Act to crack down on gun violence.

Countries where mental health issues and violent video games are similar to the United States manage largely to avoid the rampant shooting massacres and gun-related deaths we see here. In large part, this can be attributed to differences in the regulation of gun ownership.

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For example, in the U.K. – where machine guns, semi-automatic and pump-action rifles are prohibited – the rate of private gun ownership is 6.7 firearms per 100 people, while the rate in the U.S. is an astronomical 101.5 firearms per 100 people. Unsurprisingly, in 2011, the U.K. had just 0.23 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, while the U.S. had over 44 times that amount.

Following a 1996 shooting spree that left 35 Australians dead, the government there embarked on a massive experiment in gun regulation. One-third of the nation’s private arsenal was replaced with new, less lethal firearms. Today, gun-related homicide in Australia is 50 to 60 percent lower and the nation has yet to see another mass shooting.

By limiting access to the most dangerous weapons and imposing harsher punishments for the unlawful use of firearms, the NY SAFE Act is a step in the right direction.

This law toughens New York’s existing assault weapons ban by prohibiting military-style weapons made to increase lethality, and barring high-capacity magazines. Additionally, the NY SAFE Act strengthens Kendra’s Law to help ensure that individuals with serious mental illnesses receive the treatment they need.

We’re also working to protect domestic violence victims. Under federal and state law, a person convicted of most domestic violence misdemeanors is prohibited from purchasing a firearm. To tighten this law, I supported legislation that adds to the list of crimes considered serious offenses, to keep guns out of the hands of all domestic violence perpetrators.

Assault weapons don’t belong on our streets, in the hands of our kids or especially in the hands of criminals. The NY SAFE Act was passed to protect the right to safety, not to infringe on freedoms. These gun-safety initiatives will assist law enforcement in prosecuting gun-related crimes and will make Brooklyn a safer place.


Assemblymember Alan Maisel represents the 59th A.D.

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