New York Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) introduced a bill guaranteeing community access and notification requirement within the city’s gun offender registry on August 21, 2014. Council members Paul Vallone, Ritchie Torres and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. co-sponsored the bill.
According to this piece of legislation, if a person with a record of gun offence moves to a neighborhood, an email alert will be sent to residences of that community. The bill also proposes that the name of a gun offender will be expunged from the registry, if there is no repetition of such crimes for four years.
According to NY State Criminal Justice Services data, there has been 7,615 gun related felony arrests just in June 2014, being the most recent data available. Misdemeanor arrests involving guns were 18,422.
John Tolis, 27, a life-long resident of Astoria said, “This is great. Now I know whom to stay away from.” But not everyone shared the same enthusiasm. Gus Grigorio, 48, also a resident of Astoria said, “I can see the rationale behind this but it may make people with such records isolated from the society.”
In response, Nicholas Roloson, Chief of Staff for Council Member Constantinides said, “The records are only kept for four years. After that they will be expunged if crimes are not repeated. So, there is no reason for these individuals to be alienated.”
A similar bill was introduced by Councilman Vallone in 2013 but was voted down. However, last year it did not include the clause that the records will be expunged after four years. Since 2013, The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA) has been apprehensive of this bill. Last year, in a public statement, Tom King, the President of NYSRPA said that it singles out the gun offenders with a political motive from politicians.
The NYSRPA did not respond with a statement pertaining to the amended bill.
“This is not to single out gun offenders. Moving on, we may have similar protocols for other offenders as well. We are open to suggestions for the future,” said Roloson.
Leah Barrett, Executive Director of New York Against Gun Violence, an anti-gun advocacy group said, “We believe that New Yorkers have a right to know about individuals with gun offense records living in their midst.“ She pointed out a larger issue in this regard. “According to ATF trace data, 90% of recovered crime guns in New York originate from other states – Virginia, Florida, Georgia, and other states with weak gun laws,” she noted.
When it comes to trafficking, Roloson said, “I agree about the fact that a lot of guns are trafficked into New York but this issue is federal and above our pay grade. If Congress decides to take federal action, we are all for it.”
Presently, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Public Safety at the City Council. Upon recommendation, it will be brought to City Council for a vote. The officials could not specify a timeframe.