Gun control issues take center stage

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.

Closer to home, hosted a candlelight vigil to end gun violence at P.S. 102 in Bay Ridge on Saturday, December 15.

Most elected officials representing southwest 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.

Assemblymembers Alec Brook-Krasny, Felix Ortiz and Bill Colton are co-sponsors of the microstamping legislation.

Assemblymember Peter Abbate strongly supports microstamping, as well as a federal ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. “It’s common sense,” he said. “I come from a family of hunters and there is no reason that you need an automatic weapon to go hunting. You don’t need more than 10 clips.”

Colton concurred. “The laws we have passed close loopholes in New York State’s Assault Weapons Ban, empower courts to revoke firearms licenses and seize weapons from individuals deemed mentally incapacitated, ban the sale of large 50-caliber weapons, ban explosive ammunition, and establish liability for gun owners who improperly store their firearms,” he said. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in the fight against gun violence in our communities, and I call on my colleagues in the State Senate to do the same.”

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.”

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 Amendmentrights. 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.

State Senator Marty Golden declined to comment, but said that he is examining the issue and will be speaking about it in the near future.

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.”

Congressmember Michael Grimm said that it was too early to comment on the issue, but that he “would look at” any legislation banning assault weapons.

He added that there should also be a focus on “the rise of violence in young people. It can’t just be about guns, but about what causes young people to do this.”

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