The mayoral race in New York City has drawn outsized attention from local and national media, and unfortunately the focus has strayed from candidates' platforms and substantive debate. The real story in the Big Apple is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on his way out, and a massive void will remain where once stood a steadfast, outspoken advocate of gun control.
Bloomberg has stirred up his share of controversy during his tenure in Gracie Mansion, and his departure will be welcoming to some and lamentable to others. However, for those of us who have dedicated our lives in public service to ending the scourge of gun violence, Hizzoner will be sorely missed.
New York City is on track to experience its lowest murder rate since the 1950s, and Bloomberg's role in achieving this milestone should not be underestimated. The mayor has been an advocate of proactive policing since first taking office and has empowered the NYPD to aggressively crack down on illegal guns.
Naturally, Bloomberg has drawn the ire of the heavy-handed gun lobby, and he deserves credit for confronting a well-funded, powerful industry that has intimidated its fair share of elected officials. For those of us in the state legislature who tirelessly push for stronger gun laws, the mayor has been a strong ally and a high-profile voice for sensible reforms.
In 2006, Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), which has united mayors across the country in their efforts to institute national background checks, keep lethal, military style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines off our streets, and work to develop and use technologies that aid in the detection and tracing of illegal guns.
Taking on the National Rifle Association is no picnic, as many elected officials have been bullied out of office by the gun industry's mouthpiece. Candidates across the country often find themselves in the crosshairs of the NRA for backing common sense gun reforms and advocating against gun violence.
Bloomberg has been an important counterweight to the gun lobby by supporting these embattled candidates with his influence and finances. As mayor of the nation's largest city, and the overseer of an historic decrease in gun violence, his words carry tremendous weight.
The New York SAFE ACT represents a tremendous step toward sensible gun control. It is a model legislation for other states and the nation. During my tenure in the legislature, Mayor Bloomberg's lobbying efforts in Albany helped validate these critical reforms. Washington, take note, The NY SAFE Act passed with bipartisan support in both houses.
The SAFE Act contains important provisions including a ban on high-capacity magazines, universal background checks in New York State, and increased penalties for gun crimes.
My microstamping legislation, which requires gun manufacturers to microstamp shell casings, enabling law enforcement to trace bullets at crime scenes back to the criminals who fired them, was not part of the SAFE Act. Mayor Bloomberg and MAIG have been strong supporters of microstamping technology. But this critical technology failed to make it into the bill due to unrelenting opposition from the gun lobby and Senate Republicans.
I sponsor microstamping legislation in the Assembly because criminals get away with murder as they fire anonymous bullets. In many crime scenes, there are no witnesses, no leads, no gun, just an abundance of shell casings and a victim. I will continue to do everything in my power to give law enforcement the necessary tools to protect us from gun violence.
While we have won an important victory for gun control in Albany, there is still so much more to do to prevent the tragedies associated with gun violence. With so many forces opposing common sense gun regulations, it will take every conscientious citizen and elected official to enact sensible policies. Gun control must be a litmus test issue, especially in New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg hasn't shied away from this challenge, and his support has been critical to the successes we have had in reducing gun crimes. I am concerned that his departure will be a setback to our continued efforts to crack down on illegal guns.
I sincerely hope that whoever succeeds Bloomberg will show the same tenacity tackling the issue of gun violence. The next mayor of New York must be outspoken and proactive when performing the most basic mission of government: protecting people's lives.