Gun control issues take center stage after Newtown


In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre that shook the nation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and elected officials across the city are calling for stricter gun control laws.

On the morning of Friday, December 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, with assault weapons licensed in her name and then murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before turning the gun on himself. The children were only six and seven years old.

“Words alone cannot heal our nation; only actions can do that,” Bloomberg said, adding, “We are the only industrialized country who has this problem” with weapons.

On December 19, President Obama asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort that includes members of the cabinet and outside organizations to try to reduce gun violence.

Many elected officials in Brooklyn on the state and federal levels said they were in favor of stricter legislation.

Microstamping is the big issue on the state level. The Assembly approved a bill in May that would require all weapons to be microstamped, meaning the firing pin of each gun would be inscribed with a code signifying its make and model that, when fired, is transferred to the shell casing, often the only evidence left at a crime scene. Supporters contend that microstamping would make it easier for law enforcement to track the weapon and identify a suspect.

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, who represents Greenpoint and Williamsburg and is the sponsor of the legislation in the Assembly, said that he supports “finding as many innovative solutions to preventing crimes as possible.”

“Microstamping is a common sense solution that I believe is an essential criminal deterrant,” Lentol explained. “We must take steps to stop shootings and microstamping provides another defense against these horrific crimes.”

Brooklyn Assemblymembers Alec Brook-Krasny, Bill Colton, and Felix Ortiz are co-sponsors of the microstamping legislation. Assemblymember Peter Abbate, who comes from a family of hunters, also supports the effort, calling it “common sense” to have a federal ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

The microstamping measure also has support in the State Senate, with Brooklyn State Senator Daniel Squadron serving as a co-sponsor.

This legislation is part of a package of gun control bills introduced this fall that also includes the Squadron-Rosenthal bill, which would expand the definition of “assault weapon” to include a number of military-style guns, a bill to limit the number of guns an individual can purchase to one-per-month, and measures to close loopholes in background checks.

“Enough is enough. New Yorkers are crying out for the common sense protections that will help keep our streets and our families safe from gun violence,” said Squadron. “This package will create the basic regulations we need to truly protect lives.”

State Senator Diane Savino agreed. “Congress must reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban. Weapons designed for war do not belong in the homes of average citizens, especially homes of those with mental health issues,” she said.

“This is not an infringement on our Second Amendment rights,” added Savino. “If you want to be in the militia, join the National Guard. If you want to go hunting, get a hunting rifle; you don’t need a Bushmaster [one of the guns Lanza used]. They are designed for one purpose, mass execution.”

Councilmember Brad Lander noted that as a parent of two elementary-school-aged children, his thoughts “raced first to my two kids, in their public schools and then to the parents of those beautiful, murdered children.

“It’s time for action on gun control, now, today,” Lander said. “”We can’t protect ourselves from madmen with automatic weapons, but there’s a lot we can do to keep them out of their hands.”

Councilmember Letitia James added that in addition to “the work that the NYPD has done to seize and remove illegal guns from the streets of New York… it is equally important that the NYPD re-evaluate the sale of weapon’s materials (such as shell casings) to other states and municipalities with far more lax gun laws.”

“In 2012, New York City sold more than 28,000 pounds of the NYPD’s spent gun shell casings to a Georgia ammunition store,” noted James. “As per the laws in the state of Georgia, no identification or registration is required to purchase these materials. This is a practice that needs to be re-evaluated if New York is to continue to be seen as one of the most regulated gun-control states in the nation.”

Support for an assault weapons ban crosses the political aisle as well.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who voted against microstamping in May, noted that New York has the fourth strictest gun laws in the nation, but “we still have gun problems because people go to other states.

“I would be inclined to support a ban [on assault weapons], but there should be a larger discussion,” she went on. “That being said, I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, but I don’t see the purpose of having assault weapons used in war on the streets.”

Of the area’s three members of Congress, both Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and Congressmember Nydia Velazquez have called for a re-examination of the nation’s gun laws in the wake of Newtown.

Noted Nadler, “If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is.  How many more Columbines and Newtowns must we live through?  I am challenging President Obama, the Congress, and the American public to act on our outrage and, finally, do something about this.”

Velazquez concurred. “In the wake of this unthinkable tragedy, it is time for a new national conversation about the role of guns in American life,” she said. “The president was correct in his assessment that we can no longer tolerate these tragedies and in calling for swift action on this issue.”

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