A coalition of local prosecutors from across the country, including New York City and Nassau County, came out strongly Tuesday against pending federal legislation that could greatly expand the number of concealed handguns legally carried in major cities.
The group also voiced strong support for state proposals that would allow family members and law enforcement to petition courts to temporarily restrict firearm access for a person at risk of causing harm to themselves or others, and to remove guns from domestic abusers.
Spearheaded by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the coalition, Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, took aim during a news conference Tuesday at concealed-weapons bills in both the U.S. House and Senate that law enforcement officials view with increasing alarm.
The bills, known to varying degrees as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, would allow anyone legally permitted to carry a concealed weapon in their home state to bring a firearm into states that also have a concealed carry law.
Vance said someone from Vermont, “where there are no permit requirements, could come into New York City with a loaded gun, come to Times Square, go to the subways and be amongst us in our communities.”
NYPD officers would be powerless to arrest and charge that person because possession of a gun would be legal in Vermont, he said.
“It is so absurd, it is the lowest common denominator approach to legislating around gun safety,” Vance said.
New York has a concealed carry permit for residents after they have gone through a rigorous vetting process.
“This obviously is bigger than a city issue, bigger than a state issue, it is a national issue,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas. “This bill must be defeated, it simply will cost lives if it passes.”
Vance said he thought the prospects for passage were “dangerously close,” and expected it would pass in the House and have a close fight in the Senate. The Library of Congress legislative index indicated the House and Senate versions are not scheduled for votes any time soon.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said that while all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow concealed gun carries in some form, all jurisdictions have legal controls as to where guns can be carried. He said the city wants to maintain its current legal standards.
“We want our right to maintain sensible standards through proper vetting practice . . . so it can be determined whether someone has a justifiable [reason]to carry a weapon in New York City,” O’Neill said.
If the proposed bill becomes law, O’Neill said, it would make it harder for cities to control who can legally carry a weapon.
The National Rifle Association has come out in favor of the reciprocity bills, one introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and another in the House sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.). The NRA has said the bills would eliminate the patchwork of state carry laws and allow law abiding citizens to travel over state lines with concealed weapons without risking arrest. The NRA said “available evidence” showed that persons with concealed carry licenses are “exceptionally law-abiding.”