A town hall meeting last week at the Museum of the Moving Image gave both sides in the debate over gun legislation a chance to air their feelings about how this legislation will affect Queens.
Echoing a sentiment embraced by the gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association, one man who identified himself as a registered Democrat asked, “How are restrictions on law-abiding citizens going to affect criminals?”
The answer is rather simple. The state and federal legislation requiring universal gun registration is not designed to keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. It is designed to make it harder for criminals, including gang members and the mentally ill, to purchase guns.
The way it works now, guns are being purchased legally in other states and then brought into New York and sold on the street. The new legislation will make it possible to trace every gun sold.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris said the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.; a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.; and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., made it clear that reforms were needed to help keep guns out of the hands of people intent on doing harm.
“There is no slippery slope concern to me,” he said, “I don’t believe the government’s going to try and come to your house, knock your door down and steal your guns if you’re entitled to have them.”
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas added that “every illegal gun was once a legal gun, and that’s what we have to think about.”
Despite the hysteria whipped up by the NRA, which is funded primarily by gun manufacturers, not its membership, we don’t believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo or President Barack Obama are out to abolish the Second Amendment.
Neither are we, but we want to make it harder for gang members in Queens to get their hands on guns, and we want mental health providers to assist in keeping guns out of the homes where any mentally ill person lives.
The federal and state legislation are not a magic cure that will end gun violence, but they are a step in the right direction. At the same time, hunters and sportsmen don’t need to fear that someone is coming to take their guns.