For Syracuse activists, Gillibrand’s new gun trafficking legislation is overdue

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When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., announced new federal gun trafficking legislation in Syracuse last week, Clifford Ryan said she was late.

Bill, which Gillibrand unveiled September 24 at the Seals Community Center on the Southside of Syracuse, would make it a federal crime to smuggle weapons across state lines. It would also create penalties for people “who knowingly ship, transport or transfer firearms to someone not legally authorized to own a firearm,” according to one. declaration published by Gillibrand’s office.

Ryan, who is an anti-gun violence activist and founder of OG’s Against Violence, said the introduction of the legislation was a welcome step forward, but he couldn’t believe how long it had taken to move a federal bill against firearms trafficking.

“I was surprised it took them this long to put federal law in place,” Ryan said. “All of these guns have been in the community for years, years and years. And they never had federal laws to deal with this problem.


Gillibrand’s legislation – titled Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act – would strengthen the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to crack down on those involved in gun trafficking across states.

About 60% of recovered weapons used in crimes in Syracuse came from out of state, according to a report from the New York attorney general’s office.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Town Council President Helen Hudson, among other community leaders, joined Gillibrand in the announcement.

Hudson said she has seen more than 500 of her neighbors lose their lives as a result of gun violence in the city, WRVO reported. She linked the constant flow of guns through the city to the “Iron Pipeline” – the underground trafficking network that moves illegal guns north along the I-95 corridor and into New York State. .

Stopping the movement of guns to Syracuse is key to reducing gun violence in the city, Ryan said, especially since few of the guns involved in shootings in the city originate from Syracuse.

Gillibrand expressed confidence the bill could pass, noting that the last time it was introduced in the Senate it received 58 of the 60 votes required to avoid obstruction. The bipartisan support, she said, will hopefully close the gap.

The announcement came as Syracuse is set to match or exceed the number of gunshot deaths it has seen in 2020. So far this year, 16 residents have been shot dead, up from 19 in 2020, according to data provided by the Syracuse Police Department.

Also in 2021, the city experienced 451 incidents of “gunfire” and 88 people with gunshot wounds.

This year, the recently disbanded SPD’s Gun Violence Suppression Detail recovered 36 illegal firearms and made 62 firearm-related arrests, said SPD spokesman Sgt. Matthew Malinowski said in an email to Daily Orange. In 2020, the unit, which was dedicated to proactively addressing gun violence in the city, recovered 19 guns and made 35 arrests, Malinowski said.

On Sunday – less than a week after Gillibrand’s announcement – police and firefighters responded to yet another shooting in the Southside, less than a mile from the Syracuse University campus, reported.

The legislation proposed by Gillibrand is a welcome step towards reducing gun violence, but will need to be part of a much larger solution, said Hasan Stephens, anti-gun violence activist and founder of the Good Life Youth Foundation.

“This is a multi-pronged, multi-faceted approach that needs to be taken,” Stephens said.

The Stephens Foundation serves at-risk youth in the city of Syracuse, providing services and programs with the goal of reducing cycles of poverty and incarceration. It is these cycles, Stephens said, that contribute to gun violence in Syracuse and across the country.

For this reason, increasing penalties against interstate gun traffickers will not be enough, Stephens said. Real change will require significant investment in underserved communities to combat the effects of systemic racism and to support community organizations, such as the Good Life Youth Foundation, which can intervene before violence occurs.

Ryan echoed the need for local and community solutions in addition to federal action.

“The other side is making sure we invest resources in historically resource-poor areas,” Stephens said. “If we are not willing to invest in these communities, we cannot expect these young people to actually have things that distract them from the life they are involved in.

For Stephens and Ryan, this means more community engagement with local youth, as well as creating new, safe spaces and programs to keep children ‘off the streets’.

All of these goals, Stephens said, will require action at the local and state level. Gillibrand’s legislation, if passed, can do little.

Contact Chris: [email protected]

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