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Proposed bill would allow bail for more gun crimes

A Long Island Democrat wants to expand the number of gun crimes eligible for bail under the state’s 2019 bail reform laws.

Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, D-New City, has introduced S.7259 in the Senate. It adds to the list of bail-qualifying offense instances where someone is charged with a crime that involves the use of a machine gun, firearm silencer, firearm, rifle, shotgun, disguised gun, ghost gun or assault weapon for felony court.

“The legislature recently enacted a series of changes to the bail reform measures that were enacted in 2019,” Reichlin-Melnick said in his legislative justification. “The changes were reasonable measures designed to maintain the core components of reform while recognizing the need to provide at least some flexibility when certain criminal violations are at issue. This bill builds on those efforts by adding certain firearm offenses to the list of offenses that qualify for bail.”

It also establishes a definition of “ghost gun” to mean any firearm, rifle, or shotgun that is not serialized in accordance with the requirements imposed on licensed importers and licensed manufacturers so that such weapons are recognized under the state Penal Law. Reichlin-Melnick also proposes adding to the list of offenses that warrant revocation of an order of recognizance instances where a court has reasonable cause to believe the defendant committed a violation of article two-hundred sixty-five of the penal law that involves the use of a machine-gun, firearm silencer, firearm, rifle, shotgun, disguised gun, ghost gun or assault weapon.

Lastly, S.7259 would allow someone to be charged and turned over to the county sheriff if a judge has reasonable cause to believe someone committed a crime that involved the use of a gun.

The New York City Police Department in May reported an 30.4% increase in crime from April 2020 to April 2021, including a 166% increase in shootings. Weapons possession charges have increased by 3.7%, though the number of shootings (490 through May 16) was the highest for the same time frame since 2002. A Buffalo News analysis found shootings in Buffalo had increased 139% compared with the average over the past decade.

According to state statistics, Jamestown has had fewer shootings this year than any year since 2013, with only one shooting through May. The city typically averages four shootings a year. In 2020, there were 250 violent crimes in Jamestown, 16 of which were committed with a firearm. Of the city’s 188 aggravated assaults, 13 were committed with a weapon.

“New York is suffering through a steep rise in gun violence, with shootings and gun homicides up significantly compared to just a few years ago,” Reichlin-Melnick wrote. “In order to address this rise in gun crime, much of it committed with illegally acquired guns, it is important to give judges the discretion to set bail for people charged with crimes using illegal guns. The criminal justice reforms of 2019 brought needed change to the justice system and addressed long-standing racial inequities. Gun violence takes a particularly tragic toll on communities of color, so ensuring that the criminal justice system continues to protect communities from gun violence is imperative.”

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