Downtown Politicians Call for Gun Reform

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By Nora Bosworth "We are here today with a very clear message. There's too much gun violence in New York, there's too much gun violence in this country, and we have to go back to Albany to do something about it," state Sen. Daniel Squadron told a cluster of people in Alphabet City on Friday, Oct. 5. Squadron gathered with community leaders and elected officials to call for an urgent legislative meeting to address gun control statewide. General statewide legislation is held in Albany from January through June, so Squadron's call for a special meeting would mean the bills be looked at before January. Although the session itself would take place in Albany, Squadron made his announcement at Campos Plaza, a public housing project on East 13th Street and Avenue C, and the site of a shooting earlier this month. According to New York City Police Department reports, there have already been 1,329 shootings in the city this year, and this summer shootings reportedly increased by 5.2 percent compared to 2011. "Before one more innocent life is lost, it's time for the legislature to pass these critical bills," Squadron said. The gun control bills that Squadron is proposing include a limit on how many guns one can buy per month, more thorough background checks, and a broadening of the definition of assault weapons to encompass various military-style guns. "I can think of no legitimate reason that an individual would need a military-style assault weapon with the capacity to fire hundreds of rounds in seconds," Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said at the conference. The package of laws would also require the microstamping of shell casings. Microstamping is a new technology, in which a laser stamps a specific number onto the shell casing, so that when a bullet is fired it can-theoretically-be traced back to the person who purchased the weapon. Gun rights activists have come out strongly against microstamping, saying it is ineffective, costly to gun companies, and affects legal gun owners more than criminals, since most shootings involve illegal guns. "It will make firearms much more expensive to purchase," said Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle Association, in a telephone interview. He cited California, where a microstamping law has already been upheld but is not yet enacted, saying a few gun companies had stopped shipping to the state in reaction to the bill. But, he added, the real problem with microstamping is "it just doesn't work." He pointed to a study conducted at UC Davis, a branch of the University of California, to defend the technology's ineffectuality. King added that anyone could dismantle the stamping mechanism in a matter of minutes. King maintains that there are better ways to stop violent crimes than gun control. Asked what he would propose, he replied, "putting people who commit the crimes in jail, and keeping them there for a while." Dereese Huff, the Campos Plaza Tenant Association President who also spoke at Squadron's conference, is of a different mind. "We are a community that has been fired upon," she told the crowd, as neighbors nodded emphatically. "I support efforts to control the rampant spread of guns in our neighborhoods. We all deserve the right to live a long and secure life, and not to be killed by a stray bullet." Next to Huff stood Aida Salgado, 42, a mother whose 17-year-old son was fatally shot in October 2011, just three blocks from Campos Plaza. Donovan Salgado was a senior at Washington Irving High School when another youth fired at him while attempting to rob him. Donovan was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was declared dead. After her loss, Aida founded "Mothers in Arms", a parental organization dedicated to protecting children's safety. Salgado believes the New York Police Department does not have gun violence under control, and is either in denial or simply does not care. She says she does her best to keep her other teenage son close nowadays, and inside her apartment as much as possible, for fear he will get hurt in the street. "I hope that lawmakers hear our voices, our chorus of pain, and act quickly," Huff urged, as councilmen and fellow tenants murmured in agreement. Whether or not the governor will agree to review these bills before January remains to be seen.

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