Guest op-ed: Ending Gun Violence in Our City

February 2, 2022 Justin Brannan
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It is no secret that our city, state, and country have a serious gun violence epidemic on our hands. We have watched as the COVID-19 pandemic – and the ensuing economic and social collapse – have sparked a surge in gun violence across the nation. Most recently, our city stood united in sadness and horror at the tragic deaths of 22 year-old police officer Jason Rivera and 27 year-old police officer Wilbert Mora, both murdered as they responded together to a domestic dispute 911 call in Harlem.

While there are no silver bullets to ending gun violence, we know one thing for certain: there are too many illegal guns in the hands of those who feel emboldened to use them. For example, the gun that was used to kill officers Rivera and Mora was illegal. The high-capacity ammunition “drum” magazine was illegal, too. The way the gun was acquired by the killer and the way the gun was transported across state lines? Also illegal. Clearly, the laws we have on the books are not enough. We need to do more. 

Mayor Eric Adams has started a serious conversation around public safety by releasing his blueprint to fight gun violence on all fronts. In his holistic “Blueprint to End Gun Violence”, the mayor emphasizes and refines the role of the NYPD, but also clearly addresses the need for significant investments in anti-violence programs, mental health care, and early intervention youth programs. He sharply demands strong gun control and anti-trafficking action from Washington, and he calls on every city agency to hire a dedicated staffer to examine how their actions, policies, and programming can fit into helping prevent gun violence.

Under the de Blasio administration, a raft of issues – from street homelessness to unchecked mental illness – were seemingly met with an unspoken policy of benign neglect. Under this approach, city agencies would avoid touching certain (often controversial or intractable) issues in the name of not making things worse. But we know that looking the other way, especially when it comes to our biggest problems, is not a solution at all. Thankfully, the era of benign neglect is over. People of different ideologies and lived experiences will disagree with elements of the mayor’s plan in a million different ways, but I hope we can all agree that the urgency and seriousness we see on display here is crucial and necessary.  At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: a safe and fair city. It’s just a matter of how we get there. 

I am incredibly proud that the neighborhoods I represent in the New York City Council remain some of the safest in the city, despite what some of our most dedicated local fear-mongers might tell you. Unfortunately, low crime will never mean no crime – and our community has certainly not been immune to violent crimes – but facts are facts: thanks to you, the NYPD, and our partnerships with our local non-profit groups doing the work, crime levels in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, and Bensonhurst are still at historic lows. That said, I know that so many of us are feeling on edge navigating through the pandemic and worried that gun violence will take root here. So while we should be proud, we must not be complacent. We must remain vigilant. 

Even in a time that has changed everything, the responsibility we have to keep each other safe has stayed the same. I’ve always believed in traditional Democratic values: safe neighborhoods, clean streets, good jobs, and strong schools. If you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve a fair shot and a chance to succeed. None of that is possible without a safe community and mutual trust between neighbors, law enforcement, first responders, and frontline workers across the board. I’m lucky to represent a diverse enclave of community-minded people who have great relationships with each other and our local precincts, and I’m confident that working together, we can keep our neighborhoods safe. When it comes to our neighbors, community leaders, and the 68 and 62 Precincts, I’m honored to play for the best home team in the five boroughs. 

I am hopeful that the mayor’s blueprint will be a crucial first step. There is no quick fix but making our city safer for all is a shared responsibility. The message has been received by everyone in government: the time for action against gun violence is now. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do my part to keep our city safe. 

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