Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the next likely mayor of New York City, appeared together on Monday to call on Congress to pass legislation that would make gun trafficking a federal crime, marking yet another response to a rise in shootings in major cities across the country.
The presence of Adams, who just last week met with President Joe Biden, allowed another glimpse at the Democratic mayoral nominee’s newfound role in the Democratic party and what has become a national discourse on gun violence. Following his meeting with Biden last week, he held a joint press conference with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has announced $139 million in state funding to address gun crime across New York.
Speaking in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall, the senator from New York announced her plan to re-introduce a bill that she and a bipartisan group of lawmakers initially rolled out nearly a decade ago in response to the Connecticut shooting massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school.
“Everything has its own timeline,” Gillibrand said. “And this one’s ready. This could have passed eight years ago and it didn’t. It could have passed five years ago and it didn’t. We need a vote.”
Back in 2013, the bill, which seeks to make gun trafficking a federal crime for the very first time, garnered 58 votes in a Republican-controlled Senate—two shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster and pass.
The proposal would allow authorities to track down gun traffickers across state lines. It establishes a penalty of as much as 25 years in prison for those involved in gun trafficking rings and making straw purchases, or buying firearms for someone legally prohibited from doing so.
The senator said that there is currently no authority for the FBI or even NYPD to be part of cross-state investigations tracing the sale of illegal weapons.
She argued that the chances of passage was greater under Senator Chuck Schumer, her fellow New York Democrat who is now the Senate majority leader.
Adams, who has enjoyed the national spotlight following his primary victory, expressed support for Gillibrand’s bill.
Echoing his previous remarks, he stressed the disproportionate toll of gun violence on Black and Latino neighborhoods.
“This gun violence crisis is a crisis that is racially divided. Black, brown, and poor communities are receiving the brunt of America and New York’s gun violence,” he said.
New York City has recorded 829 shootings with 968 victims citywide so far this year, according to the latest NYPD data. Those numbers are up from 677 shootings and 832 victims in 2020. The city is also on track to see the highest murder rate in a decade.
Adams has pledged to bring back a unit of plainclothes police officers dedicated to cracking down on illegal gun owners. On Monday, he once again criticized New York’s bail reform, claiming that courts were allowing people who had illegally fired off weapons to be released without bail.
The new bail law, however, applies to misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Judges still have the discretion to impose mental health treatment or other kinds of oversight, including electronic monitoring.
Adams also called on judges to aggressively employ Kendra’s Law, which gives courts the power to force the mentally ill to comply with treatment.
In addressing the spike in shootings, Mayor Bill de Blasio has highlighted the use of violence interrupters, community members who perform outreach, and conflict resolution among those involved in gangs or gun crime.
Adams, a former NYPD captain, has said he wants a “holistic approach” that addresses both root causes of gun violence and increased policing.
On Monday, he said he did not believe that the latter would undermine the work of violence interrupters, who establish trust in part by not involving law enforcement.
“The option is a pathway to come out and be part of the city or the option is to use my criminal justice apparatus to get you off my streets,” he said. “I’m not going to allow my city to go to a place where violence was the norm. And so they decide the path that they’re going to take.”
Immediately following the remarks by Gillibrand and Adams, Republican mayoral nominee Curtis Sliwa held his own press conference in which he criticized Adams for saying he would re-train police officers before reviving the plainclothes “anti-crime” unit. The unit was disbanded last year because of members of the NYPD were found to have contributed to gun shootings. Adams said the problem was that the officers were not properly trained.
Sliwa disputed Adams’s claim and argued that the city needed to ramp up the number of police officers and roll out the new unit as soon as possible.
“The emergency is now,” he said.