A bill to give the public access to a registry of gun crime offenders is
well-intentioned but ill-advised. More importantly there is no research or data that demonstrates its potential effectiveness.
Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. is sponsoring the proposal, which was requested by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
If made a law, the bill would publicize a registry that the New York City Police Department uses to monitor these offenders. Anyone with Internet access would have access to the same information.
Both Diaz Jr. and Vallone are trying to tackle the use of illegal weapons to terrorize our neighborhoods. Their position is that a public registry will help deter crime.
The proposal would be the first of its kind nationwide and follows the model of sex offender
registries. But this is a flawed approach to curbing gun violence.
First, there is no scientific evidence that this type of public registry works. Studies done at institutions such as Columbia University and the University of Chicago have found that sex offender registries don’t decrease criminal tendencies or the recidivism rate for sex crimes.
Also, these crimes are completely different. One is rooted in psychological problems, and scientific and medical causes. The other has mostly social triggers. For example, a Department of Justice report shows gun-related offenders share certain characteristics, such as coming from impoverished homes plagued by drugs, alcohol and abuse and having limited schooling.
An even graver problem with this bill is that people who already served their sentences and paid their debts to society face extended consequences after their release from prison. This will impose more obstacles for those who want to become productive members of society again.
A population that is predominantly African American and Latino, would bear the heaviest burden in securing employment and housing.
Although this proposal is well-meaning considering the devastation caused by gun violence, it is narrow and premature. Policies like these give a false sense of public safety. We need more than a two-page proposal that is based on frustration. More importantly we need open dialogue and analysis with all stakeholders.
We applaud tough sanctions against those who use guns. But the sponsors and supporters of this bill should look for ways to offer more opportunities to at-risk youth instead of undermining their chances to get work and an education and exposing them to a future damaged by public perception.