Three weeks ago, 90 yards from my house, Dwayne Saunders lay dying from multiple gunshot wounds. He was 37. It was 11 a.m. According to published accounts, he had an argument up the street and was chased and shot before collapsing next to the corner store where I buy milk and cat food. In an email to concerned community members the NYPD said Saunders was “known to the department and has been arrested multiple times.” The city issued wanted posters for a man and woman believed to be driving a Honda with Connecticut plates. It was the second killing in the neighborhood within two weeks.
I’d never heard of Saunders, and chances are I won’t again. Mass shootings like the Orlando nightclub or the Parkland high school get sustained news coverage, for obvious reasons. But gun violence like the killing on Hull Avenue and 209th Street, which claims one life at a time, does not.
The Parkland massacre triggered a more robust discussion about gun restrictions than occurred even after Newtown or Columbine. New York City has a peculiar place in that national debate.
Despite its reputation for violence, the city has record-low violent crime. It has very strict gun laws.
But gun violence is still the biggest violent killer on city streets: According to NYPD data, 356 of the 627 murders in New York City in 2016 and 2017 involved handguns – about 57 percent of all killings. Strict gun laws of no, firearms find their way in: Data from the office of the state attorney general indicate that 87 percent of the 25,000 firearms recovered by law enforcement in New York City from 2010 to 2015 came from out of state. And gun crime has framed probably the biggest controversy in the city over the past decade: the rise and fall of the stop-and-frisk program, whose aim was to seize guns.
City Limits has covered guns and gun violence for years: identifying the epicenter of stop and frisk, investigating the gun industry, discussing divestment from gun companies, chronicling violence interruption efforts, visiting gun courts, tracing smuggling prosecutions and analyzing the new push for federal concealed-carry reciprocity.
Now we’re teaming up with the Center for Crime, Media and Justice at John Jay College for Criminal Justice to present a powerful mini-conference on gun violence in New York. We’ll examine the state of gun laws, the chances they might be improved and the threat of federal undermining. And we’ll talk about where gun policy stands, exploring the city’s gun courts, the “cure violence” movement and policing after stop-and-frisk.
Panelists will include Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice director Elizabeth Glazer, Citizens Crime Commission Chief Richard Aborn, Detectives Endowment Association president Michael Palladino, Nick Suplina of Everytown for Gun Safety and Heidi Hynes from the Mary Mitchell Center in the Bronx.
Join us on June 7 at John Jay from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Register here.