City Hall lawmakers are pushing for a searchable online gun offender database registry, not too dis-similar in its concept from one already in place statewide for sex offenders.
A bill introduced before the City Council and gaining traction among Bronx elected officials including co-sponsor Councilman Ritchie Torres — as well as Senator Jeff Klein, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen — would create an online searchable registry of gun offenders.
This would easily allow the community to search an online database by their geographic area, to see if people who have committed crimes using guns live near them.
The database would identify gun offenders for four years, at which time, if there is no other crime related to guns, the offender will be removed from the list, said a spokesman for Torres. This provides an incentive for a gun offender to stay away from guns, the spokesman said.
“We must take every measure to stem the tide of gun violence in New York City,” said Torres. “This bill will create a commonsense crime-fighting tool that provides both law-enforcement and community members with real-time information on violent gun-offenders in their neighborhoods.”
The information in the database will be the offender’s name, block on which they live, a physical description, the crime the offender was convicted of, and sentence imposed. It will be updated monthly.
Borough President Diaz first proposed such a database in his 2013 State of the Borough address, he said.
“A safer New York State, and a safer nation, demands that we shine a light on those individuals who would commit gun crimes in our neighborhoods,” said Diaz. “An easily-accessible gun crime registry will serve as an excellent tool not only to keep neighborhoods informed about crime, but to serve as a deterrent from such acts.”
Senator Klein added: “New York residents deserve access to any information that will help them lead safer lives and give them the tools to better protect their families. By allowing for community access and mandating community notification to the city’s gun offender registry we will give our citizens the knowledge they need to make smart choices.”
Sonia Medina, 55, an anti-gun community activist from Fordham who is familiar with the legislation, said she thought it would “empower communities.”
“For me, it is a very good idea because it would be easy for people to check around their neighborhood to see if there is someone nearby who caused violence because of guns,” she said.
Indeed, violence touched Medina very recently. She said that gun violence is common in her Fordham neighborhood, and she received some shocking news in Decemeber 2013 shortly after attending an anti-violence rally.
She received a phone call from her niece in Pennsylvania that a family member had been shot in the head. Gun violence is ubiquitous from other states to her Fordham community, where she says there has been an uptick recently.
“We have had quite a few deaths from gun violence in the past couple of months,” she said. “It has gotten worse for sure.”