New York’s homicide rate is down fourteen percent from last year. But even though the homicide rate is dropping, guns are still widely available in the city. That was the message from a panel convened by Al Sharpton today in Times Square. The panel included filmmaker Spike Lee and a mix of community activists and District Attorneys. They met to seek solutions to the ongoing problem of gun violence. Mike Elsen-Rooney reports.
Elsen-Rooney 1: Iesha Sekou is one of the panelists at the National Action Network this morning. She’s worked around gun violence for decades, and she has a message for the panel and audience.
Sekou 1: As we sit in this nice room, dressed up in our nice little outfits, our children are continuing to lose life.
Elsen-Rooney 2: Sekou’s groups is called Street Corner Resources, and they work with teenagers at risk of gun violence in Harlem. She says that, even though they’ve had success, there’s still one big roadblock in their work.
Sekou 3: So when we talk about the decrease in homicides, that’s great, that’s wonderful. But let’s talk about how there’s an increase in the influx of guns coming into our community and the accessibility of young people having guns in their homes, in their backpacks, in schools, you know, we have some work to do.
Elsen-Rooney 3: It’s hard to get exact numbers how many guns are in the city because so many come in illegally. But a recent gun bust in Brooklyn turned up 217 guns, all of which came from Virginia. Robert Disney is an anti-gun activist at the Brady campaign, and he says they story of that drug bust is common. He says people often ask him: if gun control works, why do states like New York with such strict laws end up flooded with guns?
Disney 1: Well, the reason is, is most of those guns are trafficked from states where it’s super easy to buy a gun, and there are dealers willing to look the other way and not think it’s odd that someone would buy 50 of the same type of gun, disappear for a week, then come back for another 50.
Elsen-Rooney 4: Disney says that guns made in Pennsylvania, Virginia, or the Carolinas travel up the iron pipeline, and find a home in New York City. Disney says New York has been a leader in tracing guns based on their serial number, and that information can help give policymakers a better idea of how to stop their flow. But he wants even more transparency.
Disney 2: What we would’ve liked to have seen is a report that gets into detail and names names. They tell us who are those bad apple gun dealers, because once that is out in the sunlight, once everyone knows who they are, we can focus on the task at hand, which is either we reform them or we shut them down.
Elsen-Rooney 5: Disney says that legislation is the most effective way to stem the flow of guns across state lines. But until then, community leaders will continue to try to tackle the problem where they can: on the streets.
Mike Elsen-Rooney, Columbia Radio News