Last weekend, the city saw nearly 30 shootings resulting in 22 people being shot, according to the NYPD. As the Memorial Day weekend gets underway, community leaders and public officials are turning their attention to gun trafficking.
Among the victims of the recent violence includes an 18-year-old girl shot in the back in the Bronx and a 17-year-old boy shot in Harlem. Police found a victim in Queens who was shot in the stomach and later taken to the hospital with life threatening injuries.
A community in Queens is mourning the shooting death of 18-year-old Joel Lambert who was murdered near his home. A recent high school athlete, Lambert was killed Friday night when a bullet hit him in the throat in Far Rockaway.
His mother said he was a good kid and wasn’t involved in any criminal activity. Lambert had aspirations to be a nurse after graduating from high school. No arrests have been made.
Since the start of 2021, there have been over 520 shootings in the city. As the weather gets warmer, COVID-19 restrictions are easing and people are spending more time outdoors, officials feel things will get worse without intervention.
“The best solutions to crime in many cases are community-based solutions,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We know many, many incidents were stopped because violence interrupters ensured that someone never got back into a life of crime or got into a life of crime to begin with, in the case of so many young people. They stopped a retaliation before it happened. This is very tough work. It’s dangerous work. We have lots of examples of that.”
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said while the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be coming to an end, the pandemic of gun violence is taking center stage.
“The staggering national increase in shootings over the last year coincided with the pandemic, but the trend continues today,” he said. “I fear that as temperatures rise, so will those numbers, and the lives they represent. And I know, as this occurs in a city with the largest police force and budget in the country, that no amount of headcount or funding is the solution.”
Guns are the most common weapon used to kill Black homicide victims in America, according to a new study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study found that 86% of Black homicide victims nationwide were killed with guns with two thirds killed with a handgun.
In an interview with the AmNews, anti-violence advocate Jackie Rowe-Adams, who is the co-founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., says gun trafficking is one the factors for why the city is seeing so many shootings.
“The guns come in from down south. They come in from Virginia. They come in here in cars and buses,” Rowe-Adams said. “It’s like somebody dumped a load of guns in the middle of the street and said, ‘take it.’ No one’s paying attention to what’s coming into our city and state.”
Rowe-Adams added that recent bail reform laws and an increase in gang activity are also to blame. She says the “no snitching culture” is keeping people from speaking up about criminal activity they know about.
State Sen. Robert Jackson has a bill in committee that would increase penalties for gun trafficking. Under the current law, trafficking 10 or more firearms within a year is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Under the new bill, trafficking 20 or more firearms in a year would be classified as an A1 felony and a minimum of 15 to 25 years in prison with a maximum of life. A petition started by Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. received thousands of signatures in support of the bill.
“Overall, when it comes to the pipelines, we have to communicate with clarity that if you’re caught with bringing guns from wherever into our state, you’re going to be punished,” Jackson told the AmNews. “These guns coming in are not trophies that are hanging on the wall. Selling 20 or more guns in one year is meant to hurt people and kill people in the long run with gangs and other people like that.”