On Thursday, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court struck down New York’s gun permit requirement, a centuries-old common-sense safety measure that keeps guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to our city. It is a dangerous and unjustified decision, but unfortunately it is not surprising.
I know what it’s like to get the news that a family friend was murdered a block away, or that your teenage neighbor was shot two floors below you. Gun violence is personal to me, as it is to so many people in New York and across the country.
From Buffalo to Uvalde and from Sunset Park to Campos Plaza on the Lower East Side, gun violence has ripped apart families and devastated entire communities. It is, sadly, a uniquely American ritual that has become a daily attack, and we cannot afford to remain insensitive to the epidemic of gun violence. Crises like these demand action. Survivors and victims of violence deserve real change. We all have the right to be and feel safe.
That’s why I started working to introduce legislation in the City Council for a citywide gun buyback initiative, so we can reduce the number of guns in circulation and save the lives of as many New Yorkers as possible.
Gun buybacks have been shown to work and are successfully carried out by local anti-violence organizations and religious institutions. Previous gun buybacks have been supported by Attorney General Letitia James, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and the City Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. In light of the current state of affairs around gun violence, the Supreme Court’s reckless rollback of New York’s current gun restrictions, and Republican obstruction of even basic gun violence prevention laws, it is now time for New York City to use the tools and resources at its disposal. Get as many guns off our streets as possible through a community-led buyback strategy.
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At a time when crime is on the rise (shootings in New York are up 64% compared to the same period three years ago), we must do everything in our power to keep guns off our streets before we take another life or harm another community. But the Supreme Court decision, led by the vast conservative majority, has the potential to open the floodgates, making it easier for anyone to carry a gun in New York and turning nonviolent confrontations into violent ones or innocent accidents into deadly encounters.
A strong gun buyback program will not only reduce the number of firearms circulating in New York, it will also advance other gun violence reduction strategies. Gun buybacks are one part of a comprehensive approach to working toward true public safety and should be complemented by universal background checks, red flag laws, liability insurance reform, gun registration, as well as increased gun limits. age and waiting periods for the purchase of weapons.
The City Council has full authority to authorize and fund a citywide gun buyback program, as we did in 2013 to the tune of $300,000. Today, as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, we need to renew our efforts on a larger scale.
While Washington takes measured steps to curb the gun crisis, held back by radical conservatives who refuse to heed the calls of the vast majority of Americans who want bold, national gun safety measures, we must step up locally. . If elected to Congress, for which I am currently running, I will co-sponsor existing legislation to create a national gun buyback program and sponsor new legislation if needed. The Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buyback Act of 2021 is currently co-sponsored by New York City Representatives Grace Meng and Adriano Espaillat, and I would join their efforts on my first day in office.
The Supreme Court’s decision opens the door to relax or repeal gun control measures across the country. The force opposing that effort must be as strong as it is pragmatic and effective. That means it’s more important than ever that lawmakers do everything they can to prevent tragedies like the ones that just happened in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the dozens of daily shootings, most of them in communities that had been dealing with violence. Navy entrenched for years before the recent spike, that’s hardly news.
We must treat gun violence like the public health crisis that it is and fight to end this epidemic by addressing its roots, and that means getting guns off our streets.
Rivera is a member of the New York City Council and a candidate for Congress in New York’s 10th Congressional District.