After a tourist from Tennessee was arrested for bringing a loaded gun into the Big Apple, there were calls for the city's gun laws to be reexamined.
Yesterday, the New York Post reported State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat whose district includes the 9/11 Memorial, wants to hold hearings on how New York City's stringent gun laws are being enforced. Silver wants to find out if changes to the law need to be made.
The incident that sparked the calls for review occurred on Dec. 22. Meredith Graves, 39, a medical student, travelled to New York City with her husband so she could attend a job interview. While in the city, the couple decided to visit the 9/11 Memorial. Graves had a loaded 32-caliber pistol in her purse; a gun she was licensed to carry in her home state of Tennessee.
Prior to entering the memorial, Graves saw a sign the read, "No guns allowed." Not wanting to break the law and wishing to comply with the rules, she asked a security guard where she could store her weapon. Police were called and Graves was charged with felony gun possession. She was later released on bail.
The "No guns allowed" sign was meant to apply to law enforcement officers and the few others who are legally allowed to carry firearms within the city's five boroughs. While many states have reciprocity agreements that recognize permits to carry firearms issued by other states, New York City does not. Even those who have legal permits issued in other parts of New York State, cannot legally possess firearms within the boundaries of New York City.
If convicted of the offence of felony possession, Graves, who presumably has no criminal record, is looking at a minimum sentence of three and one half years in prison.
Graves' situation generated a lot of sympathy, mainly because, by approaching the security guard, she showed she was attempting to comply with the prohibition against guns at the 9/11 Memorial. Coupled with this is the high mandatory minimum sentence she would face if found guilty of carrying her gun should she be indicted.
Silver said, Her actions show a clear indication that she didn't know she was breaking the law, and when she saw the sign, she said 'OK, I do have a gun. Take it from me.' There was no criminal intent.
Silver has the support of the state's Republican Minority Leader Brian Kolb. Kolb was quoted as saying, That is so ridiculous. She had a legitimate permit for the gun in Tennessee. I just think that's the wrong message to send to a law-abiding citizen.
But ignorance of the law is no excuse and not everyone is sympathetic to the medical student's plight. A Tennessee firearms instructor told the Los Angeles Times it is the responsibility of gun owners to check the laws of other states before taking their firearms to another jurisdiction. All the relevant information is available on the Internet and the instructor expressed surprise someone like Graves hadn't done that.
Any loosening of gun laws will likely be opposed by the city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg. After a spate of gun violence last Labour Day weekend that saw 10 people killed and more than 50 injured, including young children and police officers, the mayor called for tougher federal gun laws.
Graves is scheduled to appear in a New York City courtroom in March.