By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has prompted Brooklyn members of the New York State Assembly to take swift action to try to end gun violence.
Calling the need for comprehensive gun control legislation “more urgent than ever,” Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) announced that she is joining an effort by Democratic Assembly members and senators to push through a package of bills.
The bills include a restriction prohibiting residents from buying more one gun a month.
Jacobs said the bills would close loopholes in the state’s assault weapon’s ban. For example, the ban currently does not require New Yorkers to register assault weapons with authorities. Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre, used an assault weapon to kill 20 first grade students and six adults in the elementary school.
The proposed bills would also call for greater regulation of gun transactions, according to Jacobs. Under the new law, residents would be restricted to one gun purchase a month.
The proposed legislation includes stronger background checks for gun buyers, closely monitoring gun dealers and ammunition sales, and requiring gun permits to be renewed more regularly, Jacobs said.
“There needs to a bi-partisan push to ensure greater regulation of gun trafficking,” Jacobs said, calling on Republican colleagues in Albany to join the effort. “It is time to do the right thing, and listen to our conscience, not the gun lobby,” she said.
"We have been trying for several years to pass legislation to reduce gun violence. How many tragedies will it take for legislators and our majority colleagues in the senate to wake up about the need for gun reform?” Jacobs asked.
But Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park) said that while he supports stricter gun laws, he also believes that lawmakers cannot ignore the mental health aspect of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.
Ortiz, chairman of the assembly’s committee on mental health, said lawmakers “must make professional help readily available to individuals struggling with mental illness” and that it should be “a top legislative priority.”
Ortiz announced that he will re-introduce his bill for a 25-cent surcharge on alcoholic beverages sold in the state to raise money that would go toward a mental health assistance program focused on prevention, intervention and treatment.
Ortiz estimated that the surcharge would raise $1 billion for a statewide initiative that would increase access to professional care for people with mental health disorders. “It is clear that there is a great need for more community mental health services to help enhance the lives of people with serious mental illness,” he said.
USA Today reported that the Sandy Hook tragedy and the speculation about Lanza’s state of mind has prompted a useful discussion among mental health experts.
“By improving the availability of professional help to individuals with mental health disabilities, our state will have more productive and healthier residents, as well as increased public safety,” Ortiz said.