Assemblyman Karim Camara and I were joined Friday by state lawmakers, family members who lost loved ones to gun violence, and community leaders in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to shed light on the gun lobby’s undue influence in New York State and called on it to help stop the shooting that is plaguing New York’s communities.
“We are in a state of emergency in every community in urban America, where many of our citizens are being held hostage by the highly influential gun lobby,” Assemblyman Camara, Chairman of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, said.
“This lobby has consistently thwarted any attempt at common sense gun legislation including microstamping, which will help Law Enforcement track shell casings, reducing the size of magazine clips and semi automatic weapons bans. These measures would save lives and keep our communities safer. However, due to the gun lobbies powerful influence these bills languish in the Senate, with little hope of being passed to the detriment of our youth.”
Speaking at the Gun Violence Prevention Mural, “Piece Out/Peace In,” located outside of Brower Park, a notorious location for gang activity and gun crimes, lawmakers like myself and family survivors have called on State Senator George Maziarz to withdraw his “Stand Your Ground” legislation (S.281). Senator Maziarz’s bill is very similar to the Florida law which has faced significant scrutiny in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Gun Violence has been a litmus test for the legislature in Albany, just ask the gun lobby. Today, members of the Assembly are bringing the issue back to the streets because that is where lives are being cut down by bullets every day in New York. I am worried that a “Stand Your Ground Law” can become a reality in New York State, the gun lobby is that strong.
“The “stand your ground” legislation (S.281), twice introduced by Senator Maziarz (Rep), is a provocatively and thinly-veiled biased piece of legislation. The very act of introducing this legislation underlines insensitivity to the many victims of this legislation, including recent victim Trayvon Martin,” said State Senator Eric Adams, Co-Chair of the New York Chapter of State Legislators Against Illegal Guns.
Debbie Griffin Daza knows firsthand the devastating impact of gun violence. Her cousin, Damon Allen, a 33 year old Brooklyn sanitation worker, who received a Citation of Valor from the City of New York for rescuing a 4 year old girl from a burning building, was shot and killed while leaving a party in Crown Heights on Sept. 4, 2006.
Several reports from that evening indicate that Allen was struck in the head as he pushed two young women to the ground to shield them from the crossfire. He left behind two young daughters. Unfortunately, right near St. Marks Avenue which is named in his honor, Damon S. Allen Way, shootings continue to occur.
“We need stronger gun legislation and control of the guns being bought and sold that are coming into the streets of New York City and into the hand of criminals. The murderer of my cousin Damon, was out on bail for a previous shooting in the community and had been involved in five other shootings. It is perpetrators like him whose hands the guns are reaching. Now if we had stronger gun laws prior to this my cousin and others would still be alive and able to contribute positively to our community as they did when they were alive,” said Debbie Griffin Daza, the cousin of Damon Allen.
A New York Daily News investigation earlier this month revealed that the National Rifle Association (NRA) donated more money to elected officials and political committees in New York State than any other state in the nation. Close to half of the donations were given in 2010 after the legislative defeat of my microstamping bill.
The gun lobby’s influence in New York State has in the State Legislature. Year after year the State Assembly passes public safety measures like and 5 year renewable gun permits only for the legislation to be blocked in the State Senate. Friday, members of the New York State Assembly took the fight to the streets, to the people, who are affected by gun violence on a daily basis.
Michelle Schimel is the New York State Assembly representative for the 16th Assembly District. She was first elected in a Special Election held on March 27, 2007.