By David Brand
A mass shooting by a white nationalist in El Paso, Texas and another gunman in Dayton, Ohio have prompted an analysis of gun crimes in Queens, where some areas are grappling with their own rising shooting and murder rates — and where guns trafficked from other states are the weapons typically used to commit violent crimes.
At least 22 people were killed Saturday when a white nationalist, who seems to have been radicalized on online message boards, used a high-powered automatic rifle to murder and maim shoppers at a Wal-Mart in El Paso. Hours later, a gunman in Dayton killed nine people, mostly black or African-American, in a popular nightlife district.
There have been no mass shooting incidents reported in Queens this year, but murders and shooting incidents are on the rise in the NYPD’s Queens North sector.
Overall, there have been 31 recorded murders in Queens in 2019, according to the most recent data published by the NYPD on July 28. Queens North accounted for 15 of those murders — up from nine at the same point in 2018. Murders in Queens South have decreased from 23 at this point last year, to 16.
Shooting incidents have also increased in Queens North, from 14 as of this point last year, to 30 in 2019.
Shooting incidents have decreased in Queens South, from 52 last year to 38 in 2019.
New York state has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, and in New York City, it is virtually impossible for most people to get a gun that they can carry legally outside their homes.
But weak gun laws outside New York enable people to easily purchase firearms in other states and transport them to Queens.
“We cannot forget that the lack of reasonable gun control legislation in America puts Queens families in harm’s way every single day,” said Borough President Melinda Katz, who is leading the Democratic primary for Queens district Attorney amid an ongoing court battle. Katz called Saturday’s mass murders “heart-wrenching.”
Nearly 75 percent of crime guns recovered in New York State came from other states, mostly ones with weaker gun laws, according to a 2017 report by the state attorney general’s office. Roughly 87 percent of crime guns recovered in New York City came from out of state, according to the report.
Traffickers purchase these guns outside the state and bring them to New York via the “Iron Pipeline.” States with limited restrictions that account for New York City crime guns include Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
That easy access to guns nationwide can turn hateful ideology into a deadly threat, Katz said.
“Mass shootings like these are sadly not new to us, and we need to reckon not just with the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence in America, but its causes,” Katz said. “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the racism and white supremacy that lead to domestic terrorism attacks.”
Though mass shootings have become tragically routine — the shootings in El Paso and Dayton were the 249th and 250th mass shootings in the U.S. this year — they make up just a fraction of the total gun murders and gun crimes nationwide.
Domestic violence is one of the leading indicators of gun violence throughout the country. According to top gun control advocate Everytown for Gun Safety, almost 1 million women alive today have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner. Roughly 4.5 million U.S. women alive today have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner, Everytown reports.
Suicide is another leading cause of gun deaths. Researchers and advocates say impulsive, suicidal thoughts can become instantly lethal when an individual has a gun at their fingertips.
“There are too many acts of gun violence plaguing our communities,” tweeted Councilmember Adrienne Adams. “This epidemic must be stopped before another mass shooting. We don’t need more prayers. We need action now to end the gun violence.”