Paterson Attempts to Toughen Gun Laws
Governor David A. Paterson today announced that he is submitting legislation to enhance New York State’s firearm and drug laws by creating a new crime – Criminal Use of a Firearm in the Course of Committing a Controlled Substance or Marijuana Offense – and by allowing judges to impose enhanced sentences when persons are convicted of gun and drug offenses as part of the same criminal transaction. This legislation would address the recent spikes in gun violence that has been reported to the Governor’s EmpireStat system by the State’s 17 primary IMPACT jurisdictions.
“Last year’s drug reforms provided non-violent drug offenders with opportunities to fight their addictions, and have resulted in hundreds of addicts being diverted to residential and nonresidential treatment programs,” Governor Paterson said. “But the traffickers who have preyed on these addicts are becoming ever more violent, leading to sharp increases in gun violence in the Impact jurisdictions. We must take these violent offenders off the streets. I call on the Legislature to enact my gun sentence enhancement bill to protect the safety of New Yorkers and the communities that have been plagued by gun violence and drug trafficking.”
The Governor’s legislation would provide two new tools to increase the penalty for a person convicted of a violent felony weapon offense and a controlled substance or marijuana felony as part of the same crime. Typically, possession of a loaded firearm is a Class C violent felony offense, but by creating a new crime the offense level would be raised to a Class B violent felony when the offender possesses a loaded firearm and is involved in felony level drug activity. In addition, by amending the sentencing laws relating to gun crimes, the sentencing court would have the discretion to impose a determinate term up to five-years longer than the longest term authorized for the violent weapon offense had no drug offense been committed as part of the same criminal transaction.
The Empirestat System reports on gun-related crimes in the 17 IMPACT jurisdictions in New York State. Those jurisdictions account for 80 percent of the crimes committed outside of New York City and include, among others, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Yonkers, Newburgh, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Data for January through April of 2010 indicates that firearm-related violent crimes in the Impact jurisdictions have increased from last year, with the number of shooting incidents involving injury up substantially. There were 256 shooting incidents reported in the first four months of 2010, a 31 percent increase from the 195 reported shooting incidents during the same period last year. These 256 incidents had 289 shooting victims, compared to 246 last year. The provisions in the Governor’s bill would have a significant impact on stemming gun violence associated with drug activity.