THE BLOG

It's Time to Stand up to the NRA . . . Again

It was utterly predictable; the NRA and its gun lobby allies are on the attack against my campaign for Manhattan District Attorney.

The gun plan I am proposing in my campaign couldn't be more straight-forward: develop a cooperative electronic regional interstate compact linking illegal gun trafficking investigations from the source states of illegal guns to New York with New York investigations. Dubbed the I-95 Compact, because Interstate 95 is the main conduit for illegal weapons coming to NY, such a compact would give us a highly focused look at gun traffickers and augment the scarce resources of ATF. My plan would also include:

• launching a community-based Gun Violence Task Force to link the community, NYPD and the DA's office into a common plan to help the community get rid of guns;
• passing micro-stamping legislation and a requirement that gun permits be renewed at least every 5 years at the state level;
• and yes - focusing on Congress to renew the ban on assault weapons, ban private sales without a background check and repeal the Tiahrt amendment.

The cold reality is that there is still much we can do to combat gun violence, and as a candidate for Manhattan DA, I do not intend to back away from these arguments. Much of what I propose can be done at the law enforcement level, without legislation.

However we must also re-establish the broad coalition that successfully challenged the NRA in the past and once again remove its chokehold from the neck of Congress. This tireless coalition of elected officials, victims and advocates, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with law enforcement, defied the odds and passed legislation that no one thought possible. I was proud to lead the Brady Campaign back then and will press hard now for the laws we need from Congress. While we can - and will - do much at the local level, we must collectively challenge Congress to change the laws that unnecessarily permit illegal guns to poisonously flow throughout our country infecting our cities and causing unnecessary death and destruction.

Simply put, there is not one single, legitimate reason why assault weapons should be made available to the public. Coupled with their large volume clips capable of carrying numerous rounds of ammunition (described in one ad as "extreme firepower"), these weapons of war have no legitimate purpose in civilian hands and are used to assault our police officers by criminals bent on destruction. Congress, which shamelessly allowed the ban on assault weapons to lapse in 2004, should redeem itself by renewing the ban now.

The loophole that permits the private sales of guns to occur without a Brady background check should be closed. There is no doubt that the Brady Law has been effective in stopping felons from purchasing guns from gun dealers. Since the Brady Law went into effect, nearly 700,000 felons and other prohibited individuals attempted to buy guns from dealers but were stopped because of the Brady background check. With this success in mind, why not seek to have all sales go through a background check to ferret out felons who seek to buy weapons.

The Tiahrt Amendment, passed at the behest of the NRA, has for too long prohibited local law enforcement from getting the data it needs to more effectively combat gun trafficking. In this modern era where information is key to effective law enforcement, depriving law enforcement of this critical data is irresponsible.

I know firsthand just how hard it is to get Congress to move on gun control legislation. But difficult or not, we have no choice but to try. When people unnecessarily die because we have failed to control guns, as they do every day, we cannot sit back and wait for others to act. The NRA is a tough adversary, but we beat them before, and we can beat them again.

Victims, advocates, law enforcement, elected officials and candidates must collectively combine our efforts, renew our coalition and press Congress for the gun laws that we need. It will not be easy. But we are obliged to do so for ourselves and for our children.

Richard Aborn is a former Manhattan prosecutor, former president of Handgun Control, Inc. (now the Brady Campaign), and a candidate for Manhattan District Attorney.