U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Wednesday came to Brooklyn touting a new federal law that criminalizes gun trafficking across state lines. The measure is part of the bipartisan package of gun control legislation that President Joe Biden signed over the weekend.
The new law, named the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act, is part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – the first major federal legislation to curb gun violence in decades.
Gillibrand said this bipartisan effort was an important step forward for gun safety but didn’t address the U.S.Supreme Court ruling last week that struck down New York’s restrictive open carry license law.
“This is the first time in nearly 30 years that our government has taken meaningful steps to address gun violence and this bipartisan bill represents the most important step forward in our fight against gun violence,” Gillibrand said. “But unfortunately, this bill does not address some of the issues that the Supreme Court continues to push out. Including this change in New York’s law that we can no longer protect our communities and ensure public safety by not allowing [individuals] to carry a weapon unless it’s a special circumstance.”
Mayor Eric Adams, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Michael-Sean Spence, Senior Director of Community Safety Initiatives for Everytown for Gun Safety joined Gillibrand for the announcement in Downtown Brooklyn.
Gillibrand said she’s been working for the past decade to pass a gun safety law named after Pryear-Yard, who was shot in the face and killed at the age of 17 when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang dispute inside at a Bedford Stuyvesant event. Pryear-Yard was killed by an illegally trafficked firearm.
“I’ve been working for the last 10 years to make sure that her life did not end in vain,” Gillibrand said. “That she in fact, would lift up on behalf of other survivors and other victims to change the law. And so we wrote a gun trafficking law in her name and that piece of legislation was just included in the bipartisan gun reform that President Biden signed into law over the weekend.”
Besides making gun trafficking across state lines a federal crime, Gillibrand said, the law will hold straw purchasers who bring the weapons from out-of-state into New York accountable.
Gillibrand said that going after gun traffickers is a key component of combating the city and state’s ongoing gun violence problem, as 90 percent of the guns used in crimes came from out of state and more than half of those are illegal.
Adams, who earlier Wednesday announced a federal lawsuit the city is bringing against ghost gun retailers, said this legislation is one of many ways the city is working to stem gun violence.
“Earlier today, the police commissioner and I were talking about ghost guns, another river that feeds the sea of violence,” Adams said. “Today we’re [also] talking about the Red Flag law. These are all the rivers that we must dam because there is not a one river approach. This problem has become so systemic throughout history, that we have normalized this level of violence in our city and in our country.”
Before this bill passed, Gillibrand said, law enforcement was hamstrung in the ways they could go after crimes committed with these guns.
“Unfortunately before now, law enforcement had to use a patchwork misdemeanor violations to hold traffickers accountable,” the Senator said. “And now they have made it the law where they can have sentences up to 20 years imposed for these traffickers that are bringing guns into the state.”
The package of bills Biden signed also contained several other reforms, Gillibrand said. This includes closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” – meaning that an individual experiencing domestic violence can have a gun taken away from their abuser without having to be married, which was previously the case.
The bipartisan deal also includes $750 million for states to implement crisis intervention programs that could include strengthening Red Flag laws, Gillibrand said. It also clarified the definition of federally licensed firearm dealers to make it clearer who can conduct background checks and when.
To counteract last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the state legislature is holding a special session tomorrow to vote on legislation that will set new restrictions on where people are allowed to carry a firearm.
“We have a very active legislature right now, working very hard to fix this problem,” Gillibrand said. “And they will be hopefully voting on a bill tomorrow, specifically about creating places where concealed carry is not allowed. Places like schools. Places where alcohol is served. Places where large gatherings [take place] like concert venues. That legislation would go a very long way allowing us to keep our public safety intact.”