In 2019, there was a shooting at the 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue station that encapsulates the particularly terrible genre of gun violence that plagues my neighbors in the 13th Senate District. A group of young, immigrant men in their late teens and early 20s broke out in a fight that escalated to deadly violence on a crowded commuter train filled with working-class people. To add insult to injury, the then-president used the incident in his State of the Union to vilify my neighbors and push his anti-immigrant agenda, claiming that “countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.”

The shooting on the 7 train was not an isolated incident. The mother hit by a stray bullet outside the Woodside Houses, the more than 10 people injured by a spray of bullets in Corona in 2021 — these tragedies do not fit with the narrative of the lone mass shooter that usually raises national calls for action, but they are equally senseless and devastating.

It is painful to reflect on incidents of violence, that quite literally hit so close to home. I was born and raised in the district that I now represent in Albany, the child of two formerly undocumented immigrants. I am now raising two sons in this community, and it would be dishonest to say that concerns around public safety are unfounded. In this session alone, my colleagues in the Senate Majority and I added eight new laws directed at tackling gun violence in our state. We addressed the U.S. Supreme Court’s dangerous and irresponsible ruling in Bruen v. New York by designating sensitive areas where concealed weapons are not permitted; we strengthened extreme risk protection orders; and we passed legislation to make guns and ammunition easier to track and investigate, to name a few.

This is all critical work, and I am encouraged by the steps my colleagues on the federal level and at the Attorney General’s Office are taking to stamp down on illegal guns from every side. There is a nagging voice, however, that wonders if these bills are enough to address the conditions that drive a person to think that the risk of the consequences they would face by being arrested for carrying a weapon of war in our streets are less than the risk they actually face. How can we make people feel safe enough to not need to take their own security and protection into their own hands?

There are three pieces of legislation that were left behind last session that are critical to creating that holistic sense of safety: the New York Health Act, Good Cause Eviction and my bill, Treatment Not Jail. Systemic defunding of mental health infrastructure, extreme housing insecurity and a cycle of incarceration that only exacerbates mental health and substance-use issues, instead of intervening in them, have the natural consequences of people making desperate decisions.

We need to back the important work we did by passing widely popular and common-sense gun legislation with practical and equally popular bills that address safety from another, more holistic angle. People feel safe when they are housed and able to anticipate the cost of their rent. Families feel safer when they are able to seek preventative healthcare without fear of crippling medical debt. Vulnerable communities feel more secure when their families are not destabilized by being jailed for the symptoms of their illnesses, rather than treated in appropriate mental health facilities.

Ultimately, I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I did to curb gun violence this session, but I stop short of saying the job is done. The damage inflicted on Queens — by the pandemic, by the housing crisis, by austerity — will take more than one legislative session to recover from. The good news is that we have the tools at our disposal. We just need to tap into the same courage we used to stand up to the gun lobby to sustain our fight.

Jessica Ramos is New York State Senator for the 13th District, in northwestern Queens.