New Year’s Resolution: Rid Streets of Illegal Guns

By Thomas Tracy

When it comes to area politics, it seems that everyone’s New Year’s resolution is rid the streets of illegal guns – all in the memory of a fallen Flatbush cop. From Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s second inaugural speech on January 1 and the state legislature’s apparent compromise to bolster gun laws without having to vote in a new death penalty, it seems that guns will be the focus of 2006, according to officials. “This year, we will be able to give our law enforcement officials the tools they need to get more illegal guns off the streets and ensure that those who injure or kill our police officers face much tougher penalties,” said Governor George Pataki in a statement made before Christmas, after both the Senate and Assembly approved bills that would toughen current laws against those caught in possession of illegal firearms as well as increase penalties for those who injure or kill police officers. Calls for reform came just a few weeks earlier, when Police Officer Dillon Stewart of the 70th Precinct in Flatbush was gunned down trying to apprehend a speeder. A week later, a second cop was killed in the Bronx. Cops also determined that the gunman who took Stewart’s life was on the lam for shooting an off-duty cop during a robbery in Crown Heights. The officer managed to get away with his life. The man accused of killing Stewart and wounding the off-duty officer, 27-year-old Allan Cameron, is currently sitting in a jail cell, charged with murder in the first degree. Following public outcry and sobering statistics which show that more police officers were shot in New York this year than any year since 1997, Pataki called for the Assembly and Senate to get together and take a stand. Historically, the Senate and Assembly have been at odds over anti-gun legislation. The end result was giving the laws against gun traffickers some teeth, said officials. Now, those who are charged with selling even one illegal firearm will be charged with committing a “violent felony offense” punishable by seven years in prison. The new law also ensures that those caught with possessing as little as three illegal firearms, which had been considered a misdemeanor, will be facing two years in prison. Gun sellers caught with 10 illegal guns or more could face up to 25 years in prison. “I have no doubt that this is going to dramatically reduce the number of illegal guns that people possess in this state and the number of illegal guns that are sold and make their way onto the streets where they too often pose a threat to the people of New York,” Pataki told reporters. Increasing the penalties against those who do harm to a police or corrections officer was also part of the package. Under the new law, those arrested for the murder of a police officer are guaranteed life without parole. Current law stipulates that the defendant gets a minimum of 20 years unless the sentencing judge says otherwise. Penalties have also been increased for the charge of attempted murder of a police officer. When once one could face only 15 to 25 years, the new law will demand a sentence of 20 to 40 years, officials said. Bay Ridge State Senator Marty Golden, who was initially pushing for the reinstatement of the death penalty, said that the new law was a “good Chanukah and Christmas present to the officers of this state.” “The presence of illegal guns on our streets endangers all law enforcement officers and threatens the progress that has helped New York State become a safe place to live, work and raise a family,” Golden said. The new legislation, he said, sends a strong message that “we are committed to protecting our law enforcement officers and that we are dedicated to keeping crime down and keep our streets safe of gun violence.” In New York City, the tone was set on the first of the year, when Bloomberg promised that his administration “will not rest until we secure all of the tools we need to protect New Yorkers from the scourge of illegal guns.” “Public safety is the foundation of our city’s prosperity,” he said in his inaugural speech. “Without it, our quality of life, our economy, our efforts to reform the schools would surely falter.” “Far too many illegal guns make their way to the streets of Brooklyn,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz in a statement. “It should not have taken the public outrage over the recent murder of two police officers to get our elected officials to set aside their differences and get this done.”

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