We Need Tougher Gun Laws

by Alan Lubin, co-Chair, Business and Labor Coallition of New York

NEW YORK, NY (07/30/2012)(readMedia)-- It seems like every day brings more disturbing news about gun violence.

Twelve dead and 58 wounded in Aurora, Col. Four-year-old Lloyd Morgan gunned down in crossfire in a Bronx playground. Five shot at an annual basketball tournament in Harlem.

The list goes on.

Instead of outrage, the reaction of most of our elected officials in Albany, Washington and even New York City – other than Mayor Bloomberg and a few others – is muted as far as gun control goes.

This is wrong.

The responsibility for refusing to toughen gun laws lies at the feet of our elected officials in Washington -- and the NRA and its big bucks lobbyists who continue to proclaim that guns don't kill people.

Every day, 34 people are killed with guns across the country – almost 12,000 people a year.

The senseless murder of Lloyd Morgan, who was cut down in a crossfire last Sunday night, last Friday's massacre in Aurora, Col., and the July 25 shooting at the Holcombe Rucker Park court at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and W. 155th St., should be proof positive there are too many guns on the street and they are too easy to buy.

We at the Business and Labor Coalition of New York (BALCONY) urge our lawmakers in Washington and Albany to refuse to keep knuckling under to the NRA and the other gun nuts and to dramatically toughen the gun laws.

New York City has one of the toughest – if not the toughest – gun laws in the country. People who get caught with guns almost always go to jail. Just ask football star Plaxico Burress.

But New York is still awash in illegal guns because the weapons continue to come up here from the south via I-95 and from states like Ohio and Texas, from gun shows across the country and from online stores that sell unlimited rounds of ammunition to anyone with a credit card and a computer.

That – and the endless cycle of gun violence and murder -- will continue unabated until Washington and Albany enact tough gun control laws.

For starters, Congress should re-impose the ban on automatic weapons -- like the one James Holmes used in Aurora -- make it harder to buy guns and ammunition across the country and require immediate background checks for people who want to buy weapons at gun shows.

Then the President should sign such measures into law. President Obama campaigned on a promise to re-impose the ban on assault weapons while Republican challenger Mitt Romney continues to tow the NRA line.

This despite a recent poll that showed that 87% of gun owners favor universal background checks for gun sales. Amazingly, 40% of gun sales across the country happen without a federal background check. That has put guns into the hands of criminals and people with mental health problems. All countries have crazy people; we are the only one that arms them so easily.

Fortunately, more common sense has prevailed here in New York City, where most of our elected officials -- and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly -- continue to insist on tough gun laws.

Three years ago, Richard Aborn, head of the Citizens Crime Commission and former head of Handgun Control Inc. (now the Brady Campaign), ran for Manhattan District Attorney largely on the gun control issue. He proposed a regional tracking system to help identify the sources of illegal guns in New York as a way to reduce the flood of firearms into our city and state.

That was an idea that made sense then, and makes sense now.

Another idea that makes sense is requiring gun makers to use bullet microstamping technology so police can trace gun cartridges back to specific weapons. Republicans in the New York State Legislature have blocked a bill that would do just that – and the NRA opposes it as being too expensive. If this measure saves one life it is worth every penny.

New York can't go it alone. We at BALCONY implore our members to write to their lawmakers in Albany and Washington and demand tougher gun controls laws.

We also urge small business owners and workers to demand that President Obama move forward with his pledge to enact new gun laws as a way to safeguard our families and our neighborhoods.

Thousands of lives depend on it every year.