The issue of gun violence prevention and gun rights is, to say the least, hotly contested nationally.On January 9, 2013, NY Governor Cuomo introduced a package of initiatives and legislation that would create the nation's strongest gun laws. (read more.) In densely-populated Brooklyn — and in New York City in general — the "gun control question" reverberates with multiple considerations. They include public and personal safety, crime control, civic life, and quality of life in the city. With millions of tourists bolstering New York's economy annually, maintaining the Big Apple's reputation as a safe destination is also of paramount economic importance, both to the borough of Brooklyn, and city-wide. New York's local gun violence statistics have decreased since the 1990s, when a crack cocaine epidemic, among other factors, created a dangerous spike in gun violence in Brooklyn and city wide. In 2006, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped create a network called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, numbering 600 mayors nationwide by 2011. Proposed national legislation to override strict New York laws regulating the carrying of concealed weapons could, however, change the landscape of gun ownership in Brooklyn.
Advocacy Organizations of Interest to Brooklyn ResidentsBrooklyn, with a population of more than two and a half million, is home to people with, predictably, a range of opinions on the issue of handgun ownership. In general, however, in New York City there's widespread support for handgun control measures.
Brooklyn residents who wish to get involved in getting guns off the street, or to learn more about this contentious public policy issue, might contact one of the following organizations. Each represents a slightly different approach. All welcome citizen participation.
- New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
- Silent March shoes campaign
- Brooklyn chapter, One Million Moms for Gun Control
- Mayors Against Illegal Guns
- Keep Guns Off Campus
- Legal Community Against Guns
(The above organizations represent the point of view that increased access to handgun ownership poses a risk to public safety and public health. The national lobbying organization, the National Rifle Association takes the opposite position.)
Illegal GunsFrom the long-gone days of the mob, illegal firearm possession has been a problem in New York, although recent initiatives have shown marked improvements. In the three years from 2008 to 2011 a total of 6,973 firearms were removed from New York City streets through gun-buy back church drives run in conjunction with the New York City Police Department, at which citizens could anonymously surrender firearms in exchange for $200 bank cards for working handguns and $20 for rifles or BB guns.(Read more below). However, Brooklyn is not an isolated island, and citywide, the influx of illegal guns from out of state has posed a problem in terms of criminal activity. According to advocacy group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, statistics show that "85% of NYC crime guns and approximately 40% of crime guns in upstate New York come from states with weak gun laws."
Cash for Guns Program in Brooklyn and City WideLocally-organized gun buy-back programs which offer cash for firearms indicate both the kind of firearms in circulation, and their prevalence. For instance, at the 13th Cash-for-Guns campaign at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville, over 70 illegally owned weapons were turned in, including a sawed-off shotgun, two 45-caliber semi automatics and a Tec-9 semi-automatic that was surrendered fully loaded with hollow point bullets, according to the NYPD. On an ongoing basis, New York City runs the Cash for Guns program, offering $100 to anyone who surrenders a gun. According to the NYPD, "This program is part of an ongoing effort to encourage New Yorkers who own guns to turn them in anonymously, no-questions-asked." "To turn in a gun for $100," the NYPD instructs, "take it to your local police precinct. You do not have to identify yourself and you will not be asked any questions." The NYPD requests that when bringing a gun to a police precinct, they "must be put in a plastic or paper bag or in a shoe box."
Legally Owned GunsIt is difficult, but not impossible, to obtain a gun license in New York City. Brooklyn has its fair share of legal gun owners and enthusiasts. There are sporting enthusiasts who enjoy use of gun and rod clubs in Brooklyn. The two most prominent are the Bay Ridge Rod & Gun Club on Fort Hamilton Parkway, and the Metropolitan Rod & Gun Club tucked away in Cobble Hill. And, in terms of simple numbers of handguns on the streets, of course there's a substantial police presence in Brooklyn. (In a rare twist, in 2011 a group of NYC police were charged with selling firearms illegally - read more.) NYC has had strict laws regarding carrying concealed weapons into public places. In 2011, the proposed National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, under review in the US Congress could, if passed, substantially change the landscape of legally guns owned, carried, and possibly used, in Brooklyn and New York City.