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Gillibrand: End the Trafficking of Illegal Guns

WAMC Photo by Pat Bradley

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was joined in Manhattan Sunday by community advocates and the New York Police Department as she announced bipartisan legislation aimed at cracking down on the daily flow of illegal guns on the nation’s streets. The legislation would make gun trafficking a federal crime.

According to the NYPD, 90 percent of the guns used in New York City gun crimes come from out of state. Gillibrand's bill would provide tools to law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets, away from criminal networks and street gangs, and to prosecute those who traffic firearms.  "Weapons in the hands of criminals are illegally being smuggled up the so-called "iron pipeline" and they are trafficked into the city by people intent on selling them to gang members or other dangerous people who aren't eligible to buy guns on their own.  It doesn't make sense that despite a proliferation of illegally obtained guns being used in crime, there's no federal law to stop them from loading a truck with guns in Georgia, driving up I-95 and selling them in a parking lot in the Bronx. And the reason these laws do not exist is because Congress has failed to act. Conventional wisdom says that nothing can get done on gun safety in this current Republican-controlled Congress."

Just nine weeks ago, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the arrests of multiple members of an illegal gun smuggling ring. "Over the course of their six-month operation, they took 93 illegal guns off the streets, ranging from 22 caliber pistols, all the way to assault weapons. The guns they found were from out of state and were trafficked through the Bronx, and we know exactly how these guns were meant to be used. I can't say this strongly enough: we have to pass the bipartisan gun trafficking prevention act," Gillibrand noted.

Upstate, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple underlines the danger:  "We very rarely, let's say, if ever, will get a gun that's actually a registered handgun used in a crime. That just does not happen."

Gillibrand believes that for the law to be effective, there must be a stronger bill passed ensuring that every gun purchaser goes through a background check.

Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin has no problem with background checks, but wonders how much of a role Senator Gillibrand's political agenda is playing in her stance about guns in general, and if her ultimate goal is to impart a total ban on firearms.  "Given the fact that when she was a congresswoman representing upstate New York, she said she slept with a shotgun under her bed. So which was the truth, Senator Gillibrand, did you sleep with a shotgun under your bed or did you never have that situation and just claimed that because it was politically convenient at the time? Because she certainly has changed her tune once she got to the U.S. Senate."

In 2009, Gillibrand authored and first introduced The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act in the U.S. Senate. The measure was re-introduced in 2013, but never made it out of committee.

With historic Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress and the presidential election rising on the political horizon, the odds seem stacked against Gillibrand: "I'm actually optimistic. I think we can move this ball forward. We have to. For our families for our communities, for our children."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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