Machetes — cheap, accessible and sometimes deadly — have become the weapon of choice for gang members, according to Long Island law enforcement officials who applauded a bill that would bar minors from purchasing the broad-bladed tools in New York state.
State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Central Islip), introduced legislation Thursday adding machetes to the list of tools that also includes utility knives and box cutters, which are already prohibited for sale to anyone under 18 years old. The bill was introduced a week after more than half-dozen members of MS-13 were indicted in the killings of two Brentwood girls who were attacked with machetes and baseball bats in September.
“Unfortunately, machetes have become a weapon of choice in New York State,” Boyle said during a news conference at the Suffolk’s Third Precinct in Bay Shore.
Standing in front of a table filled with dozens of daggers, hunting knives and other weapons seized from gang members — including a machete with a 3-foot blade — Boyle said law enforcement officials had told him that street gangs have been using machetes to assault or intimidate people even before the attack on Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of juveniles in possession of machetes,” said Nassau County Family Court Deputy Attorney Julia D’Agostino, a former Boyle aide who, the lawmaker said, had suggested the legislation. “Most were confirmed gang members and some were as young as 11.”
D’Agostino said gang members favor machetes because they are inexpensive and easy to purchase at hardware stores.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini and other Long Island law enforcement officials joined Boyle at the news conference to express support for the measure. Sini called the bill “common-sense legislation.”
Boyle said the bill does not yet have an Assembly sponsor.