BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS
Our country recently experienced the worst mass shooting in its history on Oct. 1, when Stephen Paddock sprayed bullets from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel room in Las Vegas to a country concert below. As of the time of the writing this article, there were 59 dead and 527 injured, most shot, some trampled.
Our country is no stranger to first-person shooter violence – Columbine, Newtown, the Pulse Night Club in Florida, Virginia Tech – the list goes on and on. In addition, every time one of these horrific incidents takes place we raise the same questions – How could this have been prevented? Do we need stricter gun laws? What was the motive? Is it an act of terror? What security measures need to be in place where large crowds gather? In addition, of course, we look to the president to see how he will lead us through these tragedies.
Las Vegas was yet another opportunity for the “Tweeter-in-Chief” to take to his favorite social media platform and say something substantial, meaningful and overall comforting to the victims and their families. Instead, we got a bland pre-packaged message without much emotional or kind-hearted sentiment. Trump tweeted: “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”
Over the last 80 years, federal laws have become stricter regarding the purchase and use of automatic weapons, so usually with these types of first person shooter events, the perpetrator uses a semi-automatic weapon, which fires slower than an automatic, but can still cause a lot of harm in a very short period of time.
In the Las Vegas incident, Paddock reportedly had 23 guns in his hotel room and two bump stocks. These modifiers can convert a semi-automatic weapon to a fully automatic one that can fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute. When initially asked by reporters about strengthening gun laws, Trump said it was a topic for the near future but not right now.
Maybe that is because Trump has reasons to support the interests of the National Rifle Association (NRA). In an April 2016 speech, he reportedly told the organization “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.” The NRA donated $21 million to Trump’s presidential campaign, according to NBC and spent $36.6 million on the election in total.
Although Trump has also said that as a billionaire businessman, he does not need to depend on anyone for money, could the NRA be the exception? If so, it is an unhealthy relationship that must end because it potentially jeopardizes the future safety of our nation.
In 2010, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declared that a bump stock is considered a gun part and so it did not need to be regulated as a weapon. Clearly, this needs to be re-considered.
Two of my Democratic colleagues, Senators Brad Hoylman and John Brooks, have introduced legislation that would make it a D felony for possession, sale, or transport of bump stocks. This is something I support and plan to co-sponsor.
I will also continue to fight for additional legislation to protect New Yorkers from gun violence. The bills I have been advancing include limiting the sale of guns to one per 30-days; creating a comprehensive 10-day waiting period; allowing families victimized by gun violence to sue manufacturers.
The 10th Senatorial district, which includes Southeast Queens and most of the Rockaways is no stranger to gun violence, but fortunately it has not experienced a mass scale shooting. Nevertheless, we must send a clear message that these acts will not be tolerated no matter what the motivation.
When it comes to these types of mass shootings and other catastrophic incidents we need a president that will be firm and act swiftly on the behalf of the safety and protection our nation.