Velazquez Bill Seeks to Reduce Gun Violence
Measure Would Tax Guns, Clamp Down on Missing, Stolen Weapons
New York, NY –Flanked by other elected officials, advocacy groups and families impacted by gun violence, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) today unveiled new legislation aimed at reducing the number of guns in circulation, bolstering anti-violence and mental health programs and addressing the issue of lost and stolen firearms.
Her legislation, being introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives, has garnered endorsements from Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca, NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and a wide range of other community organizations.
"Gun violence is a plague on our city that shatters lives and tears families apart," Velázquez said. "This bill will take meaningful steps to address the issue, reducing the flow of guns on the street, empowering law enforcement to better track missing weapons, while investing in community anti-violence programs."
The "Reducing Gun Violence in Our Neighborhoods Act" would take several steps to address the spiraling issue of gun violence in the United States and New York. Across the U.S., almost 600,000 guns are stolen each year from private homes. New York streets are often a destination for guns lost or stolen in states with more permissive gun laws. Accordingly, the bill would strengthen federal reporting requirements for stolen or lost guns, establish a national database for missing firearms and utilize technology so that the origin of recovered weapons can be identified, assisting law enforcement investigations.
"Too many New Yorkers have lost their lives due to the 'Iron Pipeline' that illegally funnels guns from southern states into our City," Velázquez noted. "By better harnessing technology, requiring gun owners to report missing firearms and establishing a national database for lost guns, we can assist law enforcement and encourage owners to be more responsible in safeguarding their weapons."
The bill would also seek to reduce the sale of new weapons through a federal tax levied on the retail sale of firearms. Revenue from the $100 per-weapon tax would be designated for Department of Justice grants that go to innovative, community-based anti-violence programs and for locally oriented mental health services.
"If making guns more expensive means fewer end up in commerce, I'm happy with that result," Velázquez noted. "However, if guns are going to be sold, then those purchasing and selling them should pay for programs that can reduce the incidence of gun violence in our local communities."
Velázquez's bill drew wide support from New York City elected officials, the Brooklyn and Queens District Attorneys, local gun control organizations and various community groups.
"We are in the midst of a gun violence epidemic in America that has spiraled completely out of control," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). "It is time to put public safety over blind allegiance to the gun culture. This bill is a strong step in the right direction with respect to protecting the public, and I commend Congresswoman Velázquez for her tremendous leadership."
"As a 22-year member of the New York City Police Department, I know intimately the impact of gun violence on our streets," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. "Gun violence wreaks havoc in many of our communities and will do so until we take great action at the federal level. Until we close the 'iron pipeline,' we will be unable to tackle the scourge of gun violence in its entirety. The Reducing Gun Violence in Our Neighborhoods Act of 2015 is an important piece of legislation that will go a long way towards comprehensively addressing the issue of gun violence in the United States. I thank Representative Velázquez for her leadership on this critical issue of public safety."
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said, "We, in Brooklyn, are aggressively prosecuting gun traffickers and have taken hundreds of firearms, including assault weapons, off the streets in the course of several investigations with the NYPD. But we need to attack this problem on multiple fronts to stop guns from getting into the hands of criminals who use them to shoot innocent people and kill our police officers. Congresswoman Velázquez's proposed legislation respects the rights of lawful gun owners and gun dealers while seeking to prevent the senseless gun violence, bloodshed and carnage that's occurring every day in communities all across our country due to the easy access to guns and that's why I support it."
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, "Reducing gun violence is one of the great challenges of our time. For too long, gun violence has cut short promising young lives and torn families and communities apart. The legislation proposed by Congresswoman Velázquez seeks to meet that challenge with creative new solutions. The bill's major provisions - using technology to identify lost or stolen weapons, creating a national database of missing firearms, and funding community based anti-violence programs and mental health services – will aid law enforcement and enhance community access to critical treatment and service programs."
"New York State has enacted some of the strongest gun violence legislation in the nation," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., co-chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. "But this interstate crisis demands a national solution. More than 8,500 firearms were recovered and traced in New York in 2013. Nearly 70 percent of them came from out of state. I thank Congresswoman Velázquez for her work on this important bill that will help reclaim communities from the bloodshed wrought by illegal guns."
"New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, but we remain vulnerable to dangerous weapons in the wrong hands when they so easily cross state lines," said Public Advocate Letitia James. "That's why we need federal protections to crack down on illegal firearms and discourage the purchase of guns nationwide. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez is an incredible fighter for us in Washington, and I commend her for leadership to help end the senseless gun violence on our streets."
"We are proud to stand here today in support of Congresswoman Velazquez's bill," said Leah Gunn Barrett, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "Gun violence takes more than 33,000 lives and injures over 84,000 Americans, costing the US economy $127 billion each year. Congresswoman Velázquez's bill would provide much needed funding for mental health programs, something the NRA and the corporate gun lobby should wholeheartedly support based on their rhetoric. Her bill would also establish a much needed national database of lost and stolen firearms so that law enforcement can more easily trace crime guns back to the source. The FBI estimates that more than half a million firearms are stolen each year from homes, businesses and motor vehicles. New York has a lost and stolen firearm reporting law and we are advocating for a statewide firearm safe storage law that would help not only help prevent gun thefts, but also unintentional shootings and suicides. Gun violence in America is a public health crisis and reasonable gun regulations designed to keep guns out the wrong hands save lives. New York State has the 3rd lowest gun death rate in the nation because of our gun laws. We demand that Congress stop its shameful pandering to the NRA and the gun industry it serves and start protecting the health and welfare of all Americans."
The legislation is being officially introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to the groups above, it has been formally endorsed by: NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca; NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer; New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; Violence Policy Center; Brooklyn Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Mother's Against Gangs; Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow; Puerto Rican Bar Association; Mixteca Organization; Community Service Society; Red Hook East Resident Association; Red Hook West Resident Association; Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation; Highland Park Community Development Corporation; North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence; Marcy Houses Tenant Association; Gowanus Houses Resident Association; Wyckoff Gardens Resident Association; Public Housing Communities Inc.; and Boricua Festival Committee, Inc.
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