By Bill Parry
Just days after 23 people were shot across the city in one weekend, two of them fatally, City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) took to the steps of City Hall to introduce legislation that would allow public access to the city’s gun offender registry.
Individuals would be able to sign up for free automatic e-mail notifications when an offender moves into a geographic their neighborhood.
“This online gun offender registry bill will promote public safety,” Constantinides said. “Gun violence is a public policy challenge which requires a multitude of solutions. Protecting the public’s right to know their neighbor is an essential building block to fostering stronger community relations. The Gun Offender Registry bill will better equip our city in the effort to combat and eradicate gun violence.”
The NYPD said that as of June 22, 576 people have been shot so far this year, an increase of 11.8 percent over the same time period last year. Saturday night a 24-year-old woman was shot in the ankle in Ridgewood and early Sunday morning, a man was shot in Jamaica. Another man was shot less than an hour-and-a-half later in Long Island City.
The bill was originally introduced last year by the previous Astoria councilman, Peter Vallone Jr., but it stalled in session with little support.
“We took that bill and tweaked it, making a provision that if you’ve been a good actor for four years, with no further arrests or other issues, your name will be removed from the registry. It’s a common-sense change,” Constantinides said.
The legislation has several co-sponsors, including Vallone’s brother Paul who, like Constantinides, is a first-year councilman, representing Bayside.
“Spreading awareness and information is a great step towards tackling the issue of gun violence in the neighborhoods,” he said.
The NYPD has had its gun offender database since 2006, but its information is available only to law enforcement personnel.
“This is something that already exists and we want to make it available to the community to enhance public safety and give law enforcement additional eyes on the street,” Constantinides said. “People in our community should have the right to know if a person who committed a violent crime with a gun has moved in next door.”
The councilman added that he is not expecting pushback from the National Rifle Association on the legislation.
“The NRA has consistently said they are worried about law-abiding citizens with legal guns,” he said. “We’re addressing crimes committed with illegal guns, so if they do pushback on that basis it’s not very sound.”
The registry will be updated monthly and will include the offender’s name, the block on which they live, a physical description, the crime the offender was convicted of and the sentence imposed.
“One thing the database won’t have is the actual street address,” Constantinides said. “We wouldn’t want to open the door to harassment,”
The bill has the support of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence whose director, Leah Barrett, said, “Because we lack strong federal gun laws, New Yorkers suffer from illegal guns that flow into our communities from states with lax gun laws. As a result, our citizens are killed and maimed and public safety is compromised. Keeping the spotlight on these individuals after they return to the community may help reduce the chances they will re-offend, and it raises public awareness about the problem of illegal guns.”
Constantinides hopes that the bill will get a hearing in the coming weeks.
“We’re working very hard towards that,” he said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.