Seven years ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo swore that the sweeping package of gun control bills known as the SAFE Act that he signed into law would lead to a safer state. Instead, homicides and shootings are skyrocketing in New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, and the state capital of Albany, where there’ve already been 98 victims of shootings this year.
Albany police confirm 98 people have been hurt or killed by guns this year, with only 35 percent of cases resulting in arrest or identification of suspects.
“I lost 18 of my friends in 2018, and they only figured out about six and it’s been going on for years. So at the end of the day, they go through all that training but then look what’s going on,” says one young man, self-identified as “JP”.
These neighbors say they don’t feel the support Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins always preach to the community.
“Mayor Kathy, you’re not nothing, you just be talking. The chief, sheriff, all of y’all. Y’all just be talking. Y’all don’t come in the neighborhoods,” says “JP”.
“How can you communicate or police a community when you don’t live there or even understand the social situation to make laws and regulations for that said community?” asks Reverend Victor Collier.
If city residents are angry at the mayor and the police chief, they should reserve some of their ire for the governor. After all, it was Gov. Cuomo who imposed the restrictive gun control laws and regulations on the community seven years ago, thanks to help from anti-gun Democrats in the state legislature. At the time, Cuomo promised that the laws would protect New Yorkers. Instead, shootings and homicides are more common than they were when the SAFE Act was signed.
Cuomo’s now proclaiming that local governments across the state need to “reinvent policing,” or else risk losing funding.
Monday, the governor said he planned to send letters to 500 jurisdictions in the state emphasizing the importance of the initiative.
“Talk to members of the community; they have real issues. Talk to the police department; they have real issues. They will tell you there are policies in place that frustrate their ability to do their job,” said Cuomo. “Talk to members of the community, they’ll say there are policies in place that they find repugnant. They’re real feelings on both sides, I understand that. Acknowledge them and then you have to move to resolve them. How? Form a collaborative. Put people at the table. We understand the issues. We understand the tensions. We understand the differences of opinion. Let’s design a public safety function, a police department, where the police say they can operate with these policies and the community says their reforms that they require necessary for social justice.”
Cuomo could start by repealing the SAFE Act, including the portion of the law that makes possession of a handgun without a permit a felony offense. In fact, he could get rid of the pistol permit laws entirely, as well as adopting a “shall issue” system for concealed carry licenses throughout the state. As we’ve noted here repeatedly, the felony crime of possessing a handgun without a license is primarily used in New York City against young black men who have no serious criminal history at all, but also have no way to legally carry a firearm for self-defense in New York City.
Rather than reimagining policing, Cuomo should rethink his stance on gun control. Trying to make gun ownership taboo hasn’t worked. Denying minority communities their right to keep and bear arms hasn’t worked. Throwing people in prison for non-violent possessory offenses hasn’t worked. It’s time for a different approach; one that respects and acknowledges the Second Amendment as a real right.
Quit putting up barriers between New Yorkers and their ability to lawfully and responsibly own a firearm. Bring firearms education training into urban areas, and start inculcating a culture of responsible gun ownership in places where New York government has destroyed lawful gun culture. Stop treating legal gun owners as the enemy, and focus the efforts of law enforcement like a laser on the relatively few number of violent offenders who are driving the shootings in cities like Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse.
Officers need to be on the ground and in these high-crime neighborhoods, and they need to develop working relationships with the good people in bad neighborhoods to ensure that they can get witnesses to provide information that can lead to arrests, as well as being willing to testify at trial. Resources need to be devoted towards stopping violent criminals, not law-abiding gun owners. We’ve seen what a dismal failure Gov. Cuomo’s anti-gun strategy has been, and it’s long past time that he and other anti-gun politicians change course. If Cuomo wants law enforcement to reimagine policing, he needs to reimagine and rethink his embrace of gun control.