Community leaders gathered Monday to back federal legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) to prevent violent juvenile offenders from obtaining firearms when they turn 18. They showed their support at a news conference at the Suffolk County Police Department’s Second Precinct in Huntington Station.
Israel’s legislation aims to close a loophole in the federal Brady Bill that bars individuals who have been convicted of a crime and served more than one year in prison from owning a firearm.
According to Israel, individuals who have been convicted of a crime and serve more than one year in prison cannot own a firearm. However, many juvenile offenders, up to age 17, receive more lenient sentences because of their age, officials note. So even though they commit violent crimes, they can still get a gun because they did not spend more than a year in prison.
Israel says his legislation would close the loophole by adding individuals who committed “violent juvenile acts” to the list of those who are excluded from owning a firearm.
“It’s scary to think that someone who committed a violent crime as a minor could easily purchase a gun just a few years later because of a loophole in current law,” Israel said.
“In order to keep our communities safe, we must expand the Brady Bill to prevent juvenile defenders from getting guns," he added. "That’s why I’m proposing common-sense legislation that will keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”
Local leaders agreed.
“Closing a loophole that otherwise would allow teenagers with violent histories to own a gun when they turn 18 is an important step in protecting us all and should help law enforcement in their efforts to combat violent street gangs who recruit teenagers,” Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said.
“Keeping guns out of the hands of those with criminal tendencies is imperative to the safety of everyone,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Edward Webber said. “Closing this loophole is just another step we as government officials can take to keeping members of the public safe.”
“As someone who works with many of our youth, I know how important it is to ensure we’re doing everything to keep our communities safe," said Xavier Palacios, president of Friends of the Huntington Station Latin Quarter. "We must pass this common-sense legislation to prevent violent juvenile offenders from getting guns.”
According to a news release, firearm purchasers with at least one prior misdemeanor conviction were more than seven times as likely as those with no prior criminal history to be charged with a new offense after a handgun purchase.On average, more than 250 attempts by “dangerous people” a day are blocked to purchase a gun due to Brady background checks, officials say.