Velázquez introduces gun bill that would tax sales, fund anti-violence and mental health programs
Firearms flooding into NYC via ‘Iron Pipeline’
Just hours before the latest tragic shooting death of a teen in Brooklyn on Monday, U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez unveiled a bill aimed at quashing the flow of guns into big cities and reducing gun violence.
The “Reducing Gun Violence in Our Neighborhoods Act” would levy a $100 tax on every gun sale to civilians. The money raised – between one and two billion dollars — would fund anti-violence programs and local mental health services.
The bill would also require that gun owners report stolen or lost firearms within 48 hours, establish a database for missing firearms and require new technology be embedded in guns so they can be traced. Those who don’t report stolen weapons would be slapped with a $10,000 fine. (Currently, many weapons traced to out-of-state owners are classified as stolen.)
While New York City has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, it suffers because of lax, “almost non-existent” gun control laws in other states and cities, such as Georgia, Velázquez said.
“Too many New Yorkers have lost their lives due to the ‘Iron Pipeline’ that illegally funnels guns from southern states into our city,” she said.
“There are from 270 to 310 million guns in the United States, close to one firearm for every man, woman and child,” she said. Almost 600,000 of them are stolen every year, according to Velazquez – though exact numbers are hard to nail down.
Velázquez said it was “heartbreaking” to get up every morning, turn on the radio or TV and hear about the consequences of gun violence.
Five hours after her announcement, a teen was gunned down in busy Downtown Brooklyn, just before 6 p.m. at the intersection of Dekalb Avenue and Flatbush Avenue Extension.
The shooting was just one of a number of highly publicized incidents related to guns that have shocked New Yorkers.
Police told Associated Press that 16-year-old Armani Hankins of Queens was shot in the head and taken to Brooklyn Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An 18-year-old male was also shot in the left ankle. He’s in stable condition at New York Methodist, according to the Daily News.
The News reported that the gunplay was sparked as a group brawled in front of an Applebee’s restaurant, across the street from Long Island University and near Junior’s restaurant.
Velázquez’s bill is sure to draw the ire of Republicans backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), said Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
Over the past several years, the NRA has sued several municipalities in Pennsylvania that passed laws requiring gun owners to report stolen handguns within a certain time period.
“Guns are like cockroaches,” Barrett said. “It doesn’t matter if we’ve exterminated them in our state, because they come in from places like Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia.”
Barrett was one of many supporters of the bill, including officials, district attorneys and organizations, who attended Velázquez’s press conference on the steps of City Hall on Monday.
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, is the bill’s co-sponsor.
“This is a leadership moment in America, and Nydia Velázquez has stepped into a vacuum that needed to be filled. We are in the midst of a gun violence epidemic in this country that should shock the conscience of every decent American,” he told reporters.
Velázquez and Jeffries said that the measure would protect people’s right to own guns while still protecting the public.
“We need some people in America to wake up from their Second Amendment slumber addiction and realize that there are reasonable things that can be done to balance the rights of both public safety and gun ownership in America,” Jeffries said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson voiced his support, saying his office was aggressively persecuting gun traffickers and has taken thousands of firearms, including assault weapons, off the streets.
Two weeks ago Thompson and Police Commissioner William Bratton announced a major takedown of eight gun dealers who bought guns in Georgia and Pennsylvania and resold them on the streets of Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police officer, also backed the measure.
“Until we close the ‘Iron Pipeline,’ we will be unable to tackle the scourge of gun violence,” he said.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that gun manufactures were purposely making too many guns, and the bill would “fight fire with fire.”
Brooklyn Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (AD 52) agreed. “This is about merchandising,” she said.
Public Advocate Letitia James commended Velázquez, saying that despite the city’s tough gun laws, it remains vulnerable because of lax laws in other states.
Other supporters of the bill who spoke at the press conference included the parents of children killed by guns.
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