Joint Statement on Gun Violence
February 22, 2018
By Assemblyman Matt Titone and Councilwoman Debi Rose
In the almost two decades combined that we have served in elected office, we have pursued measures to reduce auto fatalities, improve construction safety, and promote breast cancer screening and treatments. We have done so knowing that while we cannot fully eliminate fatalities in these three areas, our actions are driven by data, and the data tell us we are saving lives.
At the same time, we are frustrated and angered that we cannot do the same regarding gun violence, a public health crisis that takes the life of one American every 15 minutes. With more than 4 million Americans killed in the last four decades, the National Institutes of Health has given exactly 3 research grants to study gun violence. By comparison, it granted 212 research awards to study cholera, a disease that claimed the lives of 400 Americans in roughly the same period.
That is because in 1996, Congress prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from even studying solutions that might lead to gun restrictions, leaving us with no data as to what might be the most effective safety measures to protect our streets and our schools.
Here is what we do know based on non-governmental research: States with lax gun safety regulations have higher rates of gun-related fatalities. Among the 11 states rated “A” or “B” by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, all but one have gun death rates below the national average. By contrast, 23 of the 26 states given an “F” have gun death rates above the national average.
When we speak of gun safety measures, we’re speaking about regulations that have near universal support. For example, 93 percent of gun-owning households support universal background checks, 89 percent support preventing the mentally ill from buying guns and 88 percent support a nationwide ban on the sale of guns to people convicted of violent crimes—all opposed by the National Rifle Association and the party that has controlled Congress since 2010.
As we call on the federal government to stop ignoring this crisis and take real action, we are taking steps to fund the life-saving research right here at home.
In light of that Congressional ban on researching solutions to gun violence, we have proposed legislation to conduct state-funded research here in New York. Assemblyman Titone has introduced three pieces of legislation to create and fund a gun violence research fund through appropriation, through a taxpayer gift check off and through a special fee on firearms—and Councilwoman Rose will introduce a City Council resolution next month calling on the state to pass these three bills.
Our hope is that this research fund will yield data on common-sense solutions to protect our children and our neighbors from gun violence.
At the same time, we reject proposals based on emotion rather than data, including proposals to bring more weapons into our schools. Proposals to bring armed guards into our schools have gained much traction on social media in recent days but, like many social media memes, they have little data to support them. Douglas and Columbine high schools both had armed guards. Virginia Tech had a police department. Fort Hood was a military base. None of these measures prevented a mass shooting from taking place. This proposal will do little to protect public safety, while instead turning our schools into prisons and further normalizing the culture of gun violence and glorification that has infected our country.
We urge our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us in saving lives by exploring and pursuing a wide range of data-driven solutions. We can respect the Second Amendment—including self-defense rights and hunting rights—while protecting our streets and our schools, if we aim to reduce gun violence the same way we have successfully reduced traffic fatalities, construction injuries and breast cancer deaths.
New York City Councilwoman Debi Rose represents the 49th District (North Shore) and serves as Deputy Majority Leader and Chair of the Council’s Youth Services Committee.
New York State Assemblyman Matt Titone represents the 61st District (North Shore) and is the Chair of the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee