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Queens lawmaker pushes mental health legislation to help end scourge of gun violence

State Senator James Sanders made note of the gun violence in southeast Queens in pushing for his mental health legislation before the June 10 summer break. (Photo courtesy of Sanders' office)

The state Senate is taking action to staunch the rise in gun violence that has plagued communities in recent months.

State Senator James Sanders and the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican Hispanic & Asian Legislators held a press event in Albany on June 1 to push his legislation (S7065) that would require a person who purchases any firearm, rifle or shotgun to submit to a mental health evaluation and provide the seller with his or her approval to purchase such a firearm.

“We have had many tragic shootings in my district covering southeast Queens, [and] throughout the state and nation, that shows the need to take stronger action to prevent gun violence,” Sanders said. “Mass shootings have become an epidemic in America. Tens of thousands of Americans are killed each year from gun violence.”

Many of the perpetrators of gun crimes have mental issues, Sanders explained, and this legislation is meant to help protect New Yorkers and prevent the death of innocent victims.

More specifically, before any sale, exchange or disposal of a firearm, rifle or shotgun at a gun show, by a federally licensed dealer or private sale — including when such sale, exchange or disposal in between family members — a purchaser of any firearm, rifle or shotgun must submit to a mental health evaluations and provide the seller with proof of his or her approval to purchase such a weapon.

Sanders’ legislation is among a number of bills introduced in the Senate to strengthen gun laws which are considered to be the strongest measure in the country. The legislative package comes as nearly a dozen mayors from across the state called on Albany to pass tough new gun laws before the end of the legislation session on June 10.

The mayors of Albany, White Plains, Sleepy Hollow, Glens Falls and Schenectady were among the signers of a letter supporting Sanders’ legislation.

“We are on the front lines of the gun violence epidemic. Our neighborhoods suffer the loss, both in human life and in steep financial impact,” the mayors wrote.

They noted that in New York, on average, over 3,400 people are shot and killed or wounded every year, with 55 percent of gun deaths and injuries reportedly the result of a gun homicide or gun assault. The letter also noted that Black people in New York are 15 times more likely to die by gun homicide than white people.

In their letter, the mayors wrote than gun violence ends up costing the state $5.9 billion each year, of which $321 million is paid by taxpayers.

“Gun violence in the U.S. reflects and intensifies this country’s long-standing racial inequities. Black Americans represent the majority of gun homicide and nonfatal shooting victims in the U.S., and are far more likely than white Americans to be victimized by and exposed to assaultive gun violence,” the mayors’ letter read. “Our cities need this tool, and in the face of federal inaction on the issue, it’s up to you, our state legislative leaders, to provide it.”

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