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Bill would track out-of-state guns used in NY crimes

ALBANY — A proposal introduced Monday would target a concern shared by both sides of the contentious gun control issue by tracking illegal firearms that enter New York and are involved in crimes.

The bill from Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) seeks to create a public database that would continuously track the state and county of origin of guns used in crimes in New York. The bill takes aim at “the iron pipeline” that police say enables guns purchased in southern states — ones with far less stringent gun controls than New York’s — to be transported across state lines and used in crimes in the north.

“There is an increased national energy in efforts to curtail gun violence,” Gianaris said in an interview. “This will help inform and educate as to how to focus that effort.”

In 2015, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a report that found 74 percent of all guns used in crimes and recovered by police originated out of state, including 86 percent of handguns used in crimes.

The new bill immediately drew the support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. In February he helped create a coalition of northeastern states that want to strengthen gun control laws, share policy studies and track guns as they cross state lines.

“Governor Cuomo’s multistate coalition is leading the nation in its fight against illegal gun trafficking,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi of the compact, which includes New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island. “This bill would memorialize that work, and we will support any effort to make the strongest gun safety laws in the nation even stronger.”

This year, following a spate of highly visible mass shootings around the country, Democrats in the legislature proposed several gun control measures, all but one of which was rejected by the Senate’s Republican majority. One measure that will force people convicted in domestic violence incidents to surrender their weapons was approved in a contentious, last-minute deal.

Gianaris’ measure doesn’t seek to restrict any rights to gun ownership or require any additional registrations, two features of Cuomo’s SAFE Act of 2013 that prompted criticism of the law.

“This avoids a lot of the usual debate about guns,” Gianaris said. “This is about guns used in commission of a crime and simply tells us where they came from . . . so law enforcement and advocates can focus their efforts in the right place.”

He said the measure may also “embarrass” other states and counties, prodding them to strengthen their gun control laws more and perhaps even pressuring the federal government to try to crack down on trafficking of guns across state lines.

There was no immediate comment from the Senate’s Republican majority. The Republicans would have to agree to let the bill by Gianaris, who is part of the minority conference, to the floor for debate and a vote.

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