The weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, and violence here in the Capital Region, are leading to discussion and soul-searching.
Democratic New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer took to Twitter Monday morning to appeal to President Trump to demand Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "put the bipartisan, House-passed universal background checks bill up for a vote."
Lawmakers are home for the August recess. President Trump addressed the nation from the White House, and said racism is unacceptable.
Not everyone thinks more gun control is the answer. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Executive Director Tom King argues gun laws do nothing but make legal gun owners more cognizant of what is going on and more likely to obey gun laws. "Criminals, by the very definition of the word 'criminal,' they're lawbreakers, so they're not going to obey any type of new gun laws. They didn't obey the old ones. My persepctive is that it's time that we looked at the core problems. It's too easy to pass an anti-gun law and politicians to all stand up at their podium and say 'we made you safer, this is what we've done, you're going to be safer.' It's not true. It's becoming more and more obvious as you look at things that are going on around the country. What we have to do is we have to look into, more into mental health, we have to look into poverty, we have to look into the lack of jobs. We have to look into the violence in the inner city, we have to look into the violence with drug gangs. Nobody wants to do that. The only person that I have heard say 'let's go after the gangs,' is President Trump."
Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins, at a recent anti-gun violence forum in Albany, said these are trying times for youth. "We have some young men and some women in this community, from the type of things that I've been seeing in terms of some of the activities — it appears that they don't have hope, it appears that they're in a place where they can't see a light, they don't see a pathway to success. And, some of those youth that are in that position, it appears that that may be a factor in them going down this path of crime and other quality of life issues. And so I would say to those who feel like they don't have hope, that there is so much that is offered in this community."
Albany has been plagued by summer after summer of gun-related crime and violence. Hawkins said the city has plenty of programs designed to give young people hope through offering job training and other solutions — and he urged them to seek out those alternatives. "We will take a very strong stance against crime and quality of life issues in this community, and we will not allow anyone to prey upon and to commit these acts of violence in the community. And we're gonna work dilligently, we're going to use every resource that is available to us, to find those who are committing these violent acts, to arrest them and to prosecute them. So there will be consequences in this community for any types of violent acts or quality of life issues."
Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, says the state and city are leading the way on the issue. "The governor just signed six new gun safety laws last week, and these are laws that we've been working on for a long time in addition to a red flag law that was signed ewarlier this year. This is of course in addition to the Safe Act which he signed and was passed by the legislature with bipartisan support after the Sandy Hook massacre. And there's a storng correllation with the fact that we have strong gun laws here in New York State and a low gun death and injury rate, one of the lowest gun death and inury rate sin the country. However, we do still have gun violence, like the Brownsville shooting in New York, because our federal laws and other state laws are so weak. And so illegal guns continue to be trafficked into our state particularly into underserved marginalized communities. What do we need to do about that? We need a comprehensive plan to address gun violence across the country, and certainly our federal government and other state legislatures need to support and enact strong gun safety laws that will protect our communities, like the universal background check system like New York already has, like an assault weapons ban like New York already has."
Capital Region Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko also tweeted Monday morning, urging Majority Leader McConnell to reconvene the Senate to take up new gun control bills.