Mayor Mike Bloomberg is firmly on the record with his belief in gun control: as a founder of the coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns he’s ridiculed existing gun laws and even suggested that police departments go on strike in protest until the laws are toughened. So why not just get it over with and ban them already? While violent crime is largely on the decline in New York — murder is down more than 20% since 2001 — firearms still accounted for 61% of homicides in the Big Apple in 2010.
We realize that politically and practically this isn’t the easiest thing to do: any attempt at a gun ban is going to run smack into the NRA and the Second Amendment. And in New York, it’s already pretty hard to acquire a firearm legally: gun owners must have a specific license for each type of weapon they own, and for each license must submit to an in-person interview and pay a hefty fee. But such tight restrictions never stopped those who want a gun from getting one. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says 90% of guns used in crimes in New York City come from outside the state and find their way in through illegal means.
This, depressingly, results in tragedies like the Brownsville, Brooklyn mom who was shot to death by a sniper while trying to shield her children and several others last October, or a shooting in July that left five people injured at Harlem’s shrine to blacktop basketball, Rucker Park.
Bloomberg, and New York City Police Chief Ray Kelly have gone through several attempts to curb the violence, including scrutinizing gun dealers in other states with looser gun laws whose wares find their way into New York City. But in the wake of the recent Empire State Building shooting, in which the shooter owned the weapon legally but used it maliciously, it might be time to consider declaring Gotham a firearm-free zone. As Bloomberg said at a press conference in the wake of that tragedy, “Once again: there’s a lot of guns out there.”