With the deadline looming on New York state’s legislative session, Brooklyn Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D – 20th District) is urgently navigating a gun control bill he authored through the legislative process.
The proposed legislation would allow civil liability lawsuits against gun makers and dealers who negligently allow their weapons to end up on New York streets.
Myrie told BK Reader it was a shame that federal law allows accountability of most industries, such as pharmaceuticals, automobile and tobacco, but “grants only one industry – the gun industry—near blanket immunity.”
“At a time that gun violence is skyrocketing in Brooklyn and around the nation, we simply cannot afford to let the industry that produces these dangerous weapons off the hook any longer,” he added.
On May 18, Myrie applauded his colleagues on the Senate Consumer Protection Committee for advancing his gun industry accountability bill, which was headed to the full Senate for a vote.
It must also pass the state Assembly before landing on the governor’s desk for enactment.
Federal law currently shields the gun industry from most lawsuits while allowing states to enact their own laws to bypass the federal statute.
However, no state has successfully drafted legislation that passed federal court challenges.
In 2008, a federal appeals court dismissed a New York City lawsuit against gun makers. The suit sought to stem the flow of illegal weapons into the city. However, the court ruled that the gun industry had legal immunity.
Myrie’s bill would open the door to lawsuits against the gun industry by categorizing the misuse of guns as a nuisance.
It would amend the state’s criminal nuisance law to include the sale or manufacture of products that endanger people’s health or safety.
If it passes, Myrie’s bill would be the first law in the nation to end blanket legal immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers.
Meanwhile, the industry is fighting back. Lobbyists are spreading misinformation about the bill, according to the senator.
A recent poll, however, suggested that the vast majority of New Yorkers side with Myrie. More than 80% of voters want Albany to enact gun control legislation.
Parts of Myrie’s district, which includes Brownsville and East Flatbush, is at the epicenter of the surge in gun violence. Anti-gun violence organizations in those neighborhoods stood with Myrie at a rally on Thursday to support the senator’s bill.
“Gun manufactures must be held accountable,” Camara Jackson, executive director of Elite Learners, a Brownsville-based youth mentorship and anti-gun violence organization, told BK Reader. “We need them to take accountability for the guns that end up in our communities.”
Jackson pointed to the skyrocketing wave of deadly shootings in Brooklyn this year and called for action.
“We can no longer ignore the heightened gun violence because too many are losing their lives. We are losing our children in these streets,” said Jackson, who spoke at the rally.
Indeed, Brooklyn accounted for roughly 37% of shootings across the city this year, concentrated in the central part of the borough where crime rates are usually higher, according to data reported in The New York Times. About 96% of shooting victims citywide are Black or Latino.
An estimated 74% of illegal firearms used in New York crimes originated in Southern states with weak gun control laws. Smugglers transport the weapons along the Interstate 95 corridor, dubbed the “iron pipeline.”
To stem the flow, Myrie said it’s necessary to address the source of this problem.
“Some gun companies are responsible, but others look the other way and balk at even the most basic precautions and preventive measures,” he said.
“We’ve used our laws to go after bad guys in the streets, but what about bad guys in the suits?”
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