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Queens Chronicle

Costa calls for gun registry to go public

Councilman introduces bill that will notify neighbors if ex-cons move in

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Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:52 am, Thu Sep 4, 2014.

Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) announced the introduction of legislation that is aimed to keep the community informed of gun violence in the neighborhood.

The bill, primarily sponsored by Constantinides and Councilmen Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), would mandate a community notification requirement for the city’s gun offender registry.

“This bill takes the registry and makes it public,” Constantinides said. “If someone who has been [convicted] with gun violence moves into your neighborhood, it will provide you with an email notification with the name, street number, offense and general description of the offender.”

The bill is a revamp of legislation drafted last year that was ultimately voted down by the City Council.

Though the bill didn’t have the votes last year, Constantinides said he is confident it will go through.

“We introduced the bill on [Aug. 21] and we already have 13 sponsors, including the chair of Public Safety, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, and Public Advocate Tish James,” he said.

The registry will be updated on a monthly basis and gun offenders are required to be registered for four years from their date of release if imprisoned or after their conviction, after which their names will be expunged.

“None of us think this is a magic bullet but it puts an extra set of eyes on the street,” Constantinides said. “We want to provide the public with this kind of information.”

A public database is a relatively new initiative and was recently unveiled in Chicago.

“We thought this was a good, commonsense initiative,” the councilman said. “This is something I thought was a good idea from when I was a candidate last year.”

Constantinides’ colleague, Vallone, said awareness is an important step in reducing gun violence.

“This important piece of legislation will ensure our citizens have access to and are notified of the most recent available information regarding convicted gun offenders in their neighborhoods,” Vallone said. “Spreading awareness and information is a great step towards tackling the issue of gun violence and preventing more gun crimes.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence also stand behind Constantinides’ bill.

“Because we lack strong federal gun laws, New Yorkers suffer from illegal guns that flow into communities from states with lax gun laws,” Leah Barret, director of the group, said. “As a result, our citizens are killed and maimed and public safety is compromised. New Yorkers have a right to know if a dangerous gun offender lives in their neighborhood, Keeping the spotlight on these individuals after they return to the community may help reduce the chances they will re-offend and it raises public awareness about the problem of illegal guns.”

Constantinides said he is hoping to have a hearing on the bill in the near future and would like to hear how the public feels about a more transparent registry.

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