2007-07-19 / From The Mayor...

From The Mayor's Desk ...

A Simple Message: Illegal Guns = Prison

Last week's decision by the House Appropriations Committee to preserve the dreadful Tiahrt Amendment was yet one more indication that Congress doesn't have the stomach for the fight against illegal guns. With thousands of lives at stake and with law enforcement agencies calling for the tools they need to crack down on gun trafficking, these members of Congress caved in to the special interests instead of standing up for what's right for our country.

So it has been left to the cities to lead - and we are. The fight against the Tiahrt Amendment is just one part our effort to get illegal guns off the street. We've pursued a three-pronged strategy: Tougher enforcement, innovative litigation, and new legislation.

We've been making major strides in each area. Gun arrests are up 9 percent over the past two years, and murder is down 14 percent this year. But it's not enough to attack the demand for illegal guns. You also have to attack the supply. That's where our innovative litigation comes into play.

About 90 percent of guns recovered ib city street crimes were bought out-of-state, and so we targeted irresponsible out-of-state dealers who are disproportionately responsible for guns that end up on our streets. Currently, 12 of the 27 dealers that we sued for selling guns illegally have agreed to our terms - and now their sales practices are being monitored by a court-appointed special master.

Finally, we've made major strides in our third key area - tough new legislation - and today, we're here to make sure everyone knows about it. Last summer, I signed a package of legislation which prohibits multiple handgun purchases, prevents under-the-table gun sales, establishes a "gun offenders registry" and bans real guns from being painted to look like toy guns.

This week, I was joined by several of our city's District Attorneys to unveil an advertising campaign - sponsored by the Citizens Crime Commission - which is going to help us really hammer home our point. The images these ads use are both creative and hard-hitting - and they all carry the same message: "Guns = Prison." The message is simple - because the law is simple: If you get caught carrying an illegal gun, we're going to throw you in prison for a very long time.

There's a good reason why the penalties are so severe: Despite the fact that we have reduced crime in the city by 27 percent over the past six years, driving it down to a 40-year low, more than 300 New Yorkers were killed last year by guns - and nearly all of them were illegal.

Illegal guns are responsible for so much fear, so much grief, and so much pain - as we've just seen with the murder of Police Officer Russel Timosh-enko, who was a 23 - in the prime of his life. But last week, after barely a year and a half on the force, he was shot twice in the head with illegal guns by three ex-cons during a traffic stop. Russel fought for almost a week in intensive care at Kings County Medical Center to stay alive, as his mother and father held a bedside vigil. But he finally succumbed to injuries last Saturday. His was a life with so much promise - ended by a trio of career criminals who never should have had access to these kinds of weapons in the first place. The gun lobby likes to argue that all you need to do to prevent crimes like this is to strictly enforce the law against illegal possession. And despite last week's vote in Congress, we will continue to work with our leaders in Washington, the members of our Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and law enforcement to develop nationwide strategies and solutions to this deadly problem.

It's absolutely critical that we give our police officers the tools they need to do their jobs, to keep our streets safe, and to ensure that they can return home safely to their families at the end of each day.

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