In other cities, violent gun felons are released by the court system and allowed to disappear back into the alleyways and dark corners that spawned them, but here, we keep them fixed firmly in the spotlight of the law.
Statistics show that 30 percent of all shootings in New York City have been committed by a small group of offenders — mostly members of youth gangs. In order to keep their whereabouts known to the police, Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and I spearheaded legislation in 2006 to create the first registry of convicted gun offenders — a law copied in Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, DC, among other locations.
Because of this law, defendants convicted of certain gun crimes must register their addresses with the police, verify them in person every six months and promptly notify the police if they change addresses for four years after their release from prison. Some dangerous felons have gone back to prison for failing to comply with these guidelines, with 11 arrests in 2012 alone for not registering. Quite frankly, this registry is a simple and effective way for the NYPD to keep track of our most violent criminals.
Numerous studies have shown that illegal gun possession has a very high risk of recidivism, and New York City statistics have indicated that those convicted of felony gun possession were more likely to be rearrested when compared to other felons. Forty-two percent of those rearrests were likely to be on violent charges, compared to 25 percent for those not convicted of gun crimes, and gun offenders were also four times more likely to be arrested for homicide. As of December 2012, there were 595 eligible gun offenders in New York City, 302 of whom are currently back in jail.
Recently, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. proposed expanding our registry to all of New York State and making it available to the public online. Borough President Diaz and I are now working together on this plan.
I am currently drafting legislation calling for the gun offender registry to be created statewide, providing police across New York with one of the resources the NYPD and Commissioner Ray Kelly have used to bring murders in the city to the lowest recorded number in history, as well as a bill making the existing New York City registry public online — an idea I believe has advantages and deserves to be discussed. Rather than publicly displaying the names of legal gun owners who have not broken the law — as was recently done by The Journal News in Westchester County — why not alert people to potentially dangerous criminals in their communities?
New York is the safest big city in America, in part because our registry shines a light on gun offenders. Now, the state Legislature must follow in the city’s footsteps by providing law enforcement with this common-sense crime-fighting tool that will help keep the public safe from the most violent criminals — we can’t allow them to slip unnoticed back into the shadows. Let’s at least keep the lightbulb hanging in the precinct ceiling over their heads.
Peter F. Vallone Jr. is New York City Councilman for the 22nd District, in northwestern Queens, chairman of the Public Safety Committee and a candidate for borough president.