Local initiatives to combat gun violence in New York City may not be enough to undo the harm that could be done if a policy proposal being pushed by the National Rifle Association to legalize carrying concealed firearms across state lines passes. That was the takeaway at a June 7 forum about whether the February shooting that killed 17 and wounded 17 more at a Parkland, Fl. high school may affect gun control.

Policymakers and advocates gathered at John Jay College in Manhattan for “New Yorkers Under the Gun,” which was co-hosted by City Limits and The Crime Report.

“For me, the biggest danger for New York is if the National Rifle Association achieves its number one legislative priority, which is to pass what’s called the concealed reciprocity act,” said Cy Vance, District Attorney of New York County, in the panel discussion.

The “concealed carry reciprocity” bill calls for allowing individuals to carry a concealed handgun into or possess a concealed handgun not only in the state where he or she got the gun permit, but across state lines. The bill, which has already passed in the House of Representatives, is awaiting consideration in the Senate.

Vance added that if that bill becomes law, “that’s going to increase violence in New York City. You can’t have hundreds of thousands of guns coming into Manhattan without having an increase in risk to public safety and an increase in the use of those firearms.”

In the city’s battle to reduce gun violence on the streets over the years, it has partnered with community organizations such as S.O.S. Bronx, a coalition that educates the community about gun prevention and seeks to end gun violence at the neighborhood level. A representative for S.O.S. Bronx said that the group sees gun violence as a disease that must be treated at the source of the problem. 

“One shooting is one too many. Like any disease, just by giving a vaccination and keeping under control, that it’s not just the solution,” said Save Our Street Bronx’s Community Engagement Coordinator James Rivera in a phone interview with the Herald/Express. “We’ve done good work. But we must continue to engage young people. Sometimes this violence spreads over to other communities but if we don’t take care of it in the right way, then there’s a chance of relapsing.”

Save Our Streets (S.O.S.) Bronx is one of four city groups run by Cure Violence, an anti-violence non-profit. In a recent independent evaluation, S.O.S. Bronx’s intervention in conflicts in the neighborhood helped decreased the levels of gun injuries by 37% and shooting victimization by 63%.

New York State has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, as evidenced by measures taken in 2013 when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a sweeping package of gun control measures, and signed a legislation to remove guns from domestic abusers in April of this year. In 2017, New York City experienced a historic drop in crimes and shooting incidents, which were lower than any year since 1990.

Liz Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, said while serving on the panel that although the number of shootings in the city as a whole have decreased significantly according to NYPD statistics. The problem persists in some neighborhoods, such as Mott Haven, where the 40th Precinct still rates among the city’s top 10 in the number of shootings.

One way for New York to show progress, the panelists concluded, would be by passing the Extreme Risk Protection Order, which states that families that are aware that another family member has displayed violent behavior and has access to guns, they can move for the courts to remove the weapons.

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