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Peralta: 'It's time to stand up to the NRA'

Gun control debate continues in wake of high-profile shootings

August 06, 2012
The Republican-led State Senate should reconvene in Albany and pass gun control legislation, say a variety of New York City and state-level Democrats. Recent weeks have seen high profile shootings of Bronx children, coming with a concern that unacceptable gun violence has spread into formerly safe neighborhoods.

"Microstamping has the support of law enforcement and mayors throughout the state for good reason — because it would help put the most violent and dangerous criminals behind bars," said State Senator José Peralta, D-East Elmhurst, who sponsors the microstamping bill (S.675-c) currently stymied in the Senate. The legislation would require guns sold in New York state to incorporate tracing technology to label bullets as they are fired. Dealers ignoring the regulation could face three months to one year of incarceration.

Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms suggests about a third of New York gun crimes are committed with weapons originating in New York state.

"Senate Republicans owe it to the countless victims of gun violence to pass this legislation as soon as possible," said Peralta. "It's time to stand up to the NRA." In a telephone interview last week, Peralta added: "The NRA is very concerned and very worried that if gun control passes here in New York, that other states will follow. They've invested a lot of time, energy, and money to try and block this legislation."

Peralta wants bipartisan gun legislation beyond simple microstamping, beginning with the passage of three "commonsense" bills he introduced. Bill S.670 would take guns away from people with serious psychological problems. "Even the NRA is in agreement with me on this one," he said. Bill S.725 would require that firearms licenses in New York be renewed every five years because "it gives the opportunity to give us a look at what's going on, like with driver's licenses," Peralta said. A just drafted bill would mandate a background check for purchasers of ammunition. "A red flag should go up if you order so much ammo," said the senator.

Microstamping legislation is sponsored by Michelle Schimel, D-Great Neck, and cosponsored by Naomi Rivera, D-Bronx, in the Assembly. The bill (A.1157-b) passed the Assembly in June by a vote of 85-60.

In light of recent gun violence in New York City, and the high-profile shooting by James Holmes in an Aurora, Col. movie theater, state lawmakers of all political stripes offered their views on microstamping and other gun control measures this week.

"Each and every morning, I'm sickened by the news of another mother, father, or child falling victim to gun violence," said Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx. "New microstamping laws are an effective step we can take to keep guns out of criminal hands and out of our neighborhoods. I will do everything I can to see that microstamping legislation is adopted by the Senate. With the passage of microstamping, and other measures, I know that we can curb the alarming rise of gun violence in the Bronx, New York City, and the rest of our nation."

"The rise in gun violence in our communities over the last several weeks is totally unacceptable, and the State Legislature must move the microstamping legislation as soon as possible," said James Vacca, a New York City council member for Bronx.

State Republicans have argued in the past that microstamping would kill jobs, encourage companies like Remington Arms in Herkimer County to leave the state, and make owning a firearm more expensive, while having little effect on solving crimes, as the vast majority of criminal shootings are committed with a stolen weapon. Some of these arguments were reiterated and expanded by Assemblyman Robert Castelli, R-Golden's Bridge, who voted against microstamping in June.

Castelli, a former professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a 22-year veteran of the New York State Police, noted that the COBIS ballistics tracking system program, which required state officers to collect shell casings, was abandoned this year as a waste of money. Similarly, Castelli said "Microstamping is ineffective; it is a process that is easily defeated with the use of a file."

Castelli asserted that the police's role is fundamentally reactive — responding to crime, rather than proactive — attacking crime before it begins. He suggests looking to the social preceptors of crime, like high urban density and limited economic opportunity, might be the way to make real progress in reducing gun violence.

While Castelli thinks "mandatory sentencing for gun crimes and stronger sentences for the possession or use of illegal firearms" are examples of smarter lawmaking than microstamping, he added "we have some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the United States of America in the state of New York," and "a tougher gun law will not eliminate gun crime because the issues are mutually exclusive." He repeated a common mantra—enforcing the laws already on the books is more important than making new ones—and noted the circularity of the microstamping debate.

"Every year this comes up, every year this passes in one house, ever year this dies in the next house," said Castelli. "To every hammer, every problem is a nail, to every legislature, every problem is solved by a law."

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, a recreational shooter from the Adirondacks whose family explores American Indian heritage through hunting, voted nay on the June microstamping bill because she feels a common sense approach to gun control would be more effective. "As a gun owner, I have a responsibility to make sure that my guns are locked up, my ammunition is locked up ... taking people's rights away from them is not going to fix what's happening in America and what's happening in the world today."

A handful of Democrats also voted against the June microstamping bill when it passed the State Assembly. Robert Reilly, D-Latham, said: "In the most conceptual way ... I am for the right to bear arms, and I find that various legislators and other people try to take that away from us." Reilly noted his personal connection to the issue. "As a sportsman, I like to have my guns for hunting; I believe that microstamping is just a step for those people who would like to do away with all gun ownership in the U.S."

Reilly is empathetic to those plagued by gun violence in New York City, but also asserted microstamping's practical uselessness. "If I were a criminal with some degree of intelligence I would purposely leave a casing with somebody else's gun."

Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson, is more succinct. "A real criminal will find a way to remove [microstamping from a shell] so it couldn't be identified, and it's just putting another burden on legal gun owners."

Assemblywoman Rivera has trouble with these arguments. Noting that more than 270 Americans are killed or injured each day with a gun, she stands firmly with her allies. "That is why we are here today [July 27] to say to the Senate 'pass the bill and let's get as many guns off the streets as our laws will allow."

Rivera's Legislative Director Guillermo Martinez said microstamping would stand as a deterrent. Gun violence "statistics are overwhelming," and something must be done.

Senator Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria, feels he and his colleagues' push to get the Senate to reconvene for passing microstamping has a good chance of failure, but the greater point is to raise awareness about the usefulness of gun control.

"There's no argument for standing in the way of sensible gun laws, but unfortunately Senate Republicans are committed to the extreme right wing of their party." Gianaris went even stronger: "Senate Republicans make their decisions based on politics, not policy. Every law enforcement agency in the state would say that microstamping is a useful crime fighting tool."

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence say more than 80 police departments across New York state support microstamping legislation.

Peralta, who sits on the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction and the Mental Health and Development Disabilities committees has a simple response to those who argue microstamping would not be effective.

"If someone has a better idea about stopping violence on the New York City street, let's hear it," said Peralta. He cited a study asserting microstamping produced a workable code almost 60 percent of the time.

Peralta agrees with Gianaris that the State Senate will probably not reconvene for the sake of gun control, but hopes that the issue is high in the public consciousness the next time the Senate does get together. Noting the recent violence in the Bronx, a borough his district neighbors, Peralta argued "If these shootings were occurring in Long Island or in upstate, there would be an uproar on something to be done. We need to put politics aside, because this is a matter of life and death now."

"Microstamping will help identify the first purchaser of a gun and make shell casing identifiable," said Jackie Hilly, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "We call on the New York State Senate to enact this important legislation to help save lives."

"I make a plea to [Senate Majority Leader] Dean Skelos and [Deputy Majority Leader] Tom Libous," said Peralta. "If we're not going to have a special session on this, when we do come back, let's discuss gun measures, let's make it happen. Let's eliminate party lines right now. [Gun violence] is not just affecting New York City, it affects New York state. [Let's] bring up reasonable gun legislation so that we can debate it, discuss it. This is bigger than me, bigger than Democrats, bigger than Republicans. This is about saving lives."

  1. print email
    Standing up to the NRA
    August 06, 2012 | 08:41 PM

    I won a college debate 30 yrs. ago on the need for stricter gun control. Nothing has been done because of skewed Constitutional interpretation, powerful gun lobby (second only to Philip Morris/Altria Corp. in ruthless corporate greed at the expense and safety of humankind), and right wing nuts who would rather trade their wife and kids than their guns. We live in a crazy, scary, ruthless Country which is destined to only get worse with global economic uncertainty.

    Kate Tippett-Bowles
  2. print email
    Repeating a lie over and over doesnt make it true for you anti's
    August 07, 2012 | 08:37 AM

    You won a college debate because the professor was moron or you were major in Cracker Jack Box.

    This perpetual pathological lie that gun control reduces violence needs to stop as all it does is waste the time, resources, and energies that could actually be directed at solving the root causes of violence.

    This needs to change now, rather than your childish frightened of the mythical boogeyman targeting of the innocent 80 mil law abiding gun owners.

    The only thing you anti's have to offer besides the millions spent to sponsor gun control by George Soros and his cabal of billionaires, without which, the anti gun movement would crumble, is fear, demands, control, lies, and more lies that gun control is safety.

    We have tried it your way, we see how it has not reduced violence anywhere, so pardon us when we politely flip you the bird and tell you to stick it where the sun dont shine liar.

  3. print email
    it's time for José Peralta to BUY A CLUE!
    August 07, 2012 | 09:29 AM

    The ballistic databases in New York and Maryland have cost millions and have not solved a single crime.

    Microstamping is even easier to defeat than ballistics comparisons. It can be done in minutes with a nail file.

    His proposed limitation on ammunition buying is BS for two reasons: 1) No one has ever used more than the equivalent of a dozen boxes of ammunition in a mass shooting. 2) The fact that someone buys thousands of rounds of ammunition is not a predictor of criminal activity.

    Using José Peralta's "logic", if Holmes had bought a dozen pair of tennis shoes, ten gallons of milk or 50 gallons of gas, we'd be running background checks on anyone who buys 3 pairs of shoes, 2 gallons of milk or 5 gallons of gas...

    ... which makes more sense than José Peralta's proposals because the highest body count in a mass murder by an individual didn't involve guns, resulted in 87 dead. The Happy Land fire was started... with a gallon of gas.

  4. print email
    Standing up to the NRA
    August 07, 2012 | 01:38 PM

    Gun Control like prohabition will not work. Criminals will find another device to use on their victims. Control criminals is the only solution. Criminals do not obey the law, hence any and all laws will not EVER work.

    Tim Brower
  5. print email
    August 07, 2012 | 07:49 PM

    Yeah. That's it.

    Do MORE of what doesn't work.

  6. print email
    Using California as Gun Law Example
    August 09, 2012 | 03:56 PM

    Unfortunately, the balance of NYS is not going to allow itself to become the sixth borough.

    Senators Gianaris and Peralta want to use California Law as a model. I lived in CA for 18 years (and complied with their gun laws) before moving back. A few (very few) aspects of it are sensible to some extent, to be true. However, there is also no license requirement for handgun possession in one's home or business nor is one required to transport handguns (for lawful purposes) in locked containers. NYS should first repeal the Sullivan Act along with PL Sections 265 and 400 and pass State Premption before it considers a Gun Control overhaul to emulate California and score added points with the Brady Campaign.

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