As it currently stands, anyone caught with an illegal gun in New York is looking at a maximum of two years in prison. Two years, apparently, is chump change — according to Democratic state Senator Malcolm Smith, anyway, who now wants to up the ante for those busted with less-than-legal firearms.
“We believe the message that that sends to those who have illegal guns is ‘I can go away for a year, maybe two years. I’ll come back on good behavior in a year and I have a badge of honor,” Smith said at a press conference this afternoon.
If Smith has his way, anyone caught illegally possessing a gun would face a minimum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum sentence would be eight years.
“You get caught with your gun, you’re gone,” he continues. “You’re not coming back in a year, six months, five months. By the time you come back, these kids here will have graduated from high school, maybe gone on to college.”
Just for the record, Smith’s plan would have landed former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress — who was busted with a kind of illegal gun — behind bars for up to eight years (more on Plax below).
New York already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But most of those laws are in regards to purchasing guns. Smith’s law would apply to those who already have illegal firearms.
“This particular legislation is for those guns that are on the street that are just hanging out on the corner some place,” he said.
Smith’s proposal is in response to a spike in gun violence in New York recently, including 69 shootings in the Brownsville section of the Brooklyn in what has been dubbed the “Summer of the Gun.”
Locking up thugs who callously take aim at innocent people is great, and all, but the mandatory minimums seem to offer no grey area for those who get busted with an illegal gun, but aren’t necessarily gang-banging creeps.
For example, Burress was busted with an “illegal” gun a few years ago after shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan night club. He spent nearly two years in prison — during the prime of his career.
Burress’ gun wasn’t registered in New York. It was, at one point, registered in Florida, though. However, when he popped a cap into his own leg, the Florida permit was expired.
Expired or not, the gun was illegal in New York. However, it’s not like Burress bought the gun out of the back of some guy’s car and was using it to hold up liquor stores — he bought it legally in a different state, and failed to re-register the gun when his permit expired.
Not to mention, Burress is a multi-millionaire celebrity in a sport with a history of its athletes being the targets of robberies, you can’t blame the guy for thinking he needed a little extra protection.
Then there’s the case of former U.S. Marine Ryan Jerome, who was busted with a weapon that’s registered in Indiana, where he has a concealed weapons permit. That permit, as he learned the hard way, doesn’t extend to New York — he was arrested while visiting the Empire State Building after alerting security that he had a gun on him.
Jerome told police he checked New York’s gun laws before bringing his weapon on his trip to the Big Apple — he claims he must have mis-read them.
He also told police that, as someone who makes a living dealing in precious metals, he carries the gun on him for protection from people who may want to rob him.
Unlike Burress, Jerome avoided jail time — he was sentence to 10 hours of community service and required to pay a $1,000 fine — despite initially getting charged with the same felony gun charge that landed Burress in the hoosegow.
Under Smith’s proposal, both men would have been sent to prison for at least five years.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 16, 2012