From The Mayor’s Desk...
From The Mayor’s Desk...
The following letter was sent to State Senator Joseph L. Bruno and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on March 18.
Dear Senator Bruno:
On behalf of the City of New York, I write today to urge the Senate and Assembly leadership to come to an agreement to strengthen State law against illegal gun sales. Specifically, I am asking for legislation that would lower the threshold number of guns required for felony convictions and for legislation that would permit prosecutors to aggregate the number of illegal guns sold in multiple transactions within a one-year time period.
Nothing poses a greater threat to the safety of all New Yorkers than gun violence. Even in a climate of historic drops in crime, guns still do far more damage than they should. Last year in New York City, more than 1,800 people were injured by gun-related violence. Three hundred-eighty of those people died, accounting for more than 60% of the City’s homicides.
Today, I had the sad honor of dedicating a plaque to two of those victims — Detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin — who were murdered in the line of duty a year ago trying to get illegal guns off our streets. We must pass tougher gun laws that accurately reflect the human cost of these crimes and which reduce the risk to the members of the law enforcement community going into these very dangerous transactions.
There are currently proposals in both the Senate and the Assembly that would go a long way toward keeping all New Yorkers safe from gun violence. Both contain provisions that would lower the number of gun sales required to charge defendants with the top-level felony for gun sales. Under current law, a defendant cannot be charged with a C felony unless he sells ten guns.
To support a B felony charge, which carries a harsher penalty, the threshold is twenty. These numbers are unreasonably high and, at the very least, should be cut in half. The illegal sale of ten or even five guns is serious enough to warrant the highest charges.
Current law determines the severity of a penalty based on a single transaction. This loophole allows criminals to avoid harsher penalties by simply breaking up their sales and selling smaller numbers of guns over a longer period of time. There is no reason why selling two guns on five different occasions should be considered any less serious than selling ten guns all at once. The law should reflect that common sense notion. A provision to accomplish this is contained only in the Senate proposal, the Governor’s Program bill. Today, we urge both Houses of the Legislature to put partisan differences aside and pass a law that will give us both of these tools so that we can put sellers of illegal guns behind bars.
From the beginning of this administration, we have made the fight against gun violence a top priority. In January of 2003, we launched Operation Impact. By flooding high-crime neighborhoods with police, we’ve removed hundreds of guns from the hands of criminals. And our new Gun Courts have made sure that we make the most of these cases. Since its inception in April of 2003, the Brooklyn Gun Court has quadrupled median jail sentences for felony gun offenders and virtually eliminated straight probationary sentences. The early returns have been so promising that we recently opened new Gun Courts in the Bronx and Queens. But, unfortunately, tougher enforcement is simply not enough. Ending the scourge of gun violence in our city requires tougher state laws.
The tragedy that occurred a year ago in Staten Island is a painful reminder to us all of the high cost of gun violence. Guns tear at the fabric of law and order in our city and our state. They destroy lives, young and old, and the lives of the families who lose them. Our laws should take those costs into account. If people like Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin are willing to put their lives on the line, the least we can do is create laws that give meaning to their sacrifice. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I strongly urge you to do just that.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg