This week, my colleagues and I stood up against the criminal use of firearms by calling on the Assembly majority to bring to vote legislation increasing the penalties for a conviction of the Class B violent felony offense of criminal use of a firearm in the first degree. Despite our efforts, the motion to discharge the legislation from committee was voted down.
Due to many previous measures initiated by my Assembly minority colleagues, and myself New York is now the safest large state in the nation. I have worked hard to ensure that law enforcement has the best tools available to keep our communities safe. But more can and needs to be done.
Violent gun crimes were once thought to be only urban crimes. However, in recent years, incidents of violent crimes involving guns have increased in suburban and rural areas, as evidenced earlier this week by the horrific and tragic shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech. In fact, here in New York State, violent crimes outside of New York City that are firearm related have increased more than 20 percent since 1999. Specifically, the State Department of Criminal Justice reports that during 2005, 50 percent of murders reported outside of New York City involved a firearm and 32 percent of robberies involved firearms. Additionally, nearly 13 percent of all reported assaults involved a firearm in 2005 – another increase from prior years.
With statistics like this, it is obvious that more needs to be done to protect our children and families from gun-related crimes. That is why I am standing behind this legislation which would close a loophole in current gun laws so that both first-time as well as repeat violent felony offenders receive an additional five-year prison sentence for an underlying crime committed with a firearm.
While there are many law-abiding citizens who own guns legally, this is a right that the criminals in our state continue to abuse. This legislation would not impose upon law-abiding gun owners.
I believe we cannot compromise with violent criminals when it comes to guns, especially since often times guns used in the act of committing a crime are obtained and possessed illegally. We must take a stance against these criminals and ensure they are kept out of our neighborhoods and away from our loved ones. I will continue advocating for passage of this measure and others to safeguard our communities.