Queens lawmaker, activists promote legislation to tackle gun violence in Queensbridge Houses

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney speaks about her package of bills to combat gun violence. (Photo by Julia Moro)

Queens leaders and activists joined together at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City on Thursday, Feb. 10, to express the dire need to get guns out of the neighborhood just one week after President Joe Biden visited the district to address the situation. 

During the press conference, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney spoke about a package of bills she introduced last year focused on gun safety. On Jan. 28, Maloney and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand re-introduced bills geared towards gun trafficking and purchasing illegal firearms. 

Maloney stressed that the time to act on this issue is now, with a president who is willing to sign off on drastic gun control legislation and a democratic majority in Congress. 

Maloney invited Stephanie Chauncey, a resident of the Queensbridge Houses and an activist, to speak about what she sees on the ground in the largest housing development in the country. 

“We cannot continue with this lawlessness,” Chauncey said. “This summer — it was scary. When we come out of our houses, you have no idea what we’re going to have to face— coming home from work and not knowing if you’re going to get home safe. It’s a crisis and we’re facing it as a community but we don’t know what to do. We want to be safe. The gun activity in this community has become outrageous.”

Gun violence has increased in the city, with 100 reported shootings in January alone and a 38.5% increase in nearly all major crimes. According to NYPD statistics, gun arrests have drastically increased from 2,952 arrests in 2018 to over 4,000 in 2020.

Many of the illegal firearms do not come from New York City or even the state. The “Iron Pipeline,” which many politicians have blamed for the gun violence crisis, describes the route guns take from corrupt sellers south of New York, along the I-95 corridor. According to the U.S. attorney general, about 70 percent of likely-trafficked guns recovered in New York originated in Iron Pipeline states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. 

Maloney’s set of bills would make trafficking guns a felony and impose stricter penalties for people who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own. 

“Trafficking and selling thousands of illegal guns should be a felony, not a slap on the wrist,” Maloney said. “I think it is a national scandal that we have so many gun deaths. We will be fighting and working very hard to bring it to the floor for a vote.”

Fred Guttenberg, who became an activist after his daughter was killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting, came to Queensbridge to speak about the national health emergency gun violence poses to the country. 

“Across America, gun violence is now the norm,” Guttenberg said. “We now have 400 million weapons on the streets of America— it is the reason why my daughter will forever be 14, why too many kids in this community are getting killed and it’s fixable.”

Another activist, Greg Jackson, the executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, said that he has personally been a victim of gun violence. 

Activist Greg Jackson speaks about his experience being shot and the desperate need for gun control in the country. (Photo by Julia Moro.)

“I don’t do this work by choice, I do this work by circumstance,” Jackson said. “In 2013, I was shot as an innocent bystander when someone mistook me for someone else. I ran and stumble and hid, I was seconds away from being finished off for something I knew nothing about. The trauma I live with every day is a reality for too many people in this country.”

Most recently, Mayor Eric Adams said he is reinstating the controversial plainclothes police unit, a special anti-crime force with officers on the ground in neighborhoods across the city dressed in modified uniforms. Adams announced in his press briefing Monday that four precincts in south Queens— 101, 103, 105 and 113 — will be getting plainclothes teams. The 114th Precinct in Astoria will also be utilizing the plainclothes unit.