If the proposed Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCRA) becomes law, violence in New York City will climb to levels not seen since the 1990s, warns Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr.
“We are the most densely populated county in the biggest city in America,” Vance said Thursday. “The senator who votes for the CCRA from Texas, or from West Virginia, or from Arizona—they’re not going to have to pay the price for that.
“New York City is going to have to pay the price.”
The CCRA, which would force states to honor the concealed carry permits, or complete lack of permitting, of any other state, has already passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. If it becomes federal law, Vance predicted it would introduce tens of thousands of guns into New York each year brought by the 40 million annual domestic visitors to the city.
Speaking at a public forum on gun policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Vance said, “it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that’s a dangerous thing.”
Vance, who is also co-chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, said the potential presence of large numbers of concealed weapons in high-traffic environments like Times Square would strain the resources of police.
“They’re the ones who will be on the front lines,” he said. “They’re not going to know [who] has a concealed carry permit.”
Click here to watch the full event: New Yorkers Under the Gun (Courtesy City Limits)
His warning was echoed by Michael Palladino, president of the New York Police Department Detectives’ Endowment Association.
“If this bill does pass, it’s going to be a law enforcement nightmare,” Palladino said. “If just 10 percent of tourists bring their guns with them, we’re going to have a big problem.”
Palladino and Vance spoke at “New Yorkers Under the Gun,” a two-hour forum co-hosted by The Crime Report and City Limits magazine to discuss how New Yorkers will fare in the current gun policy environment.
The forum reviewed the impact of the national debate over tightening gun laws on New York City, whose gun laws are among the country’s strictest and which has experienced one of the nation’s steepest and most sustained drops in the crime rate over the past decades. It also explored some of the innovative practices underway to address still-worrying numbers of firearm deaths in some New York neighborhoods.
Vance and Palladino were joined by Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York; Nicholas Suplina, director of Criminal Justice Policy and Enforcement at Everytown for Gun Safety, a nationwide group that advocates stronger gun restrictions; Liz Glazer, director of the (NYC) Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; and Heidi Hynes, executive director of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, located in the Bronx.
In the first panel on the national and local climate, panelists said much of the energy for comprehensive reform of gun legislation was coming from the states, as federal laws such as stronger background checks and an assault weapon ban remained stalled in Congress.
Many states, in contrast, have moved faster, with bipartisan support, to develop stronger permit and licensing regulations and extreme risk protection orders, also called gun violence restraining orders—with a consequent reduction in gun deaths borne out by studies.
“You see much higher rates of gun violence on a per capita basis in states that have very weak gun control laws compared to states that have strong gun control laws,” said Aborn, who was instrumental in winning passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which mandated federal background checks on gun purchasers.
“This is not a matter of policy. It’s a matter of politics. And when this country begins to get determined about this again, you are going to see some change.”
Suplina, who helped create a gun crime tracing database to combat interstate gun trafficking for the New York State Attorney general, observed that the supposed “red-blue, republican-democrat divide shouldn’t be an issue.”
Added Vance: “It’s ironic that the individuals who are the most rabidly supportive of states’ rights on this issue of conceal and carry throw states’ rights out the window and believe that any state’s law should apply everywhere else.”
Aborn said grassroots advocacy was the key to long-term change.
“Most legislative bodies never act in a preventative way unless they’re forced to, and they can be forced to only by a well-organized population group that goes after them in a relentless way,” he said.
“The strength that gun control organizations and gun control advocates bring is the tenacity to go to Albany, and go to local town hall meetings, and go to the local editorial board, and go to the town hall chief, and make sure that those people are engaged with the local member of the senate.”
“If you get the grassroots inflamed, you will win these fights.”
The second panel weighed in on the unequal effects of gun violence around the city, and the efficacy of the “Cure Violence model” as a means to fix it.
Despite the overall reduction in New York’s crime rates, “if you look at the top ten neighborhoods and precincts that occupy the shooting roster in the early 1990’s and look at them last year, over half of them are the same,” noted Glazer.
If you overlap maps of the city showing neighborhoods with the highest rates of gun crime, unemployment, and low educational achievement, she said, they would be identical.
Both Glazer and Hynes were adamant that the problem cannot be solved by prosecution alone.
“You can’t arrest your way out of this,” said Hynes, who reported that her Bronx neighborhood was often the scene of shootings. “We tried that, and it doesn’t work.”
Instead, she said gun violence should be treated as an infectious disease—the approach taken by Cure Violence, under which trained “violence interrupters” and outreach workers build relationships within communities to mediate conflicts, make individuals less likely to commit violence, and organize community responses condemning violence when it occurs.
According to proponents of the model, which is being deployed in several US cities, these methods can result in a reduction in gun violence of up to 70 percent.
Glazer said Cure Violence’s results were a reason for optimism about reducing gun deaths around the country. Other innovative practices underway in the city and elsewhere, such as Gun Courts, where some first-time firearms offenders are diverted to counseling and community work instead of prison, also held promise, she said.
“How do you stop gun violence? You change behavior,” she said. “We’ve relied upon laws and handcuffs to change behavior, but there are a lot of other ways to do that.”
Elena Schwartz is a TCR news intern. She welcomes comments from readers.