New York City officials focusing on gun control in coming months

Reducing gun violence has been a prominent goal of New York City law enforcement, politicians and gun safety advocates for years. Because of these efforts, New York City has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Its controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy - often cited by police as a means to find illegal gun possession - was ruled unconstitutional last year, but law enforcement remains vigilant about enforcing existing gun laws.

In 2013, New York City had fewer homicides than any year in its recorded history, according to the mayor's office. The city averaged fewer than one homicide a day, significantly lower than in 2001, when there were 641 murders in the city. Approximately 3.6 people are shot per day in New York City.

Legislators focusing on gun crimes this summer

In March, several state legislators reintroduced a resolution that designates June as Gun Violence Awareness Month. In spring and summer, the city has historically experienced a rise in gun violence. In support of Gun Violence Awareness Month, programs will be initiated such as gun safety education programs and community health events. A public service announcement campaign is also in the works.

The mayor's office also recently allocated $2 million for the SNUG violence reduction program and $13 million to the new Gun Involved Victim Elimination program. GIVE is part of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services IMPACT program. These programs attempt to enforce New York gun laws through information sharing between law enforcement agencies, accurate crime data and community organizations.

"Luisito's Law"

One New York lawmaker, in response to the shooting of 4-year-old Luisito Oyola Jr., introduced a bill on February 19 that would enhance the sentencing ranges for shooting a gun within 500 feet of a school, park or playground. "Luisito's Law," as the bill is named, would also enhance the sentence for shooting a child under 10 years old. Shooting a gun in a park or school zone would bring 3.5 to 15 years in jail, and shooting a child under 10 would bring a minimum mandatory sentence of five to 25 years.

Gun rights advocates are pushing back

Some legislators are concerned New York gun laws go too far. Several legislators have proposed repealing all or part of New York's "SAFE Act," enacted after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Considered the toughest gun control law in the nation, the SAFE Act broadened the definition of assault weapons, limited the capacity of magazines to seven bullets, required background checks of ammunition and toughened penalties for illegal gun use. New York residents with legal possession of "assault weapons" under the SAFE Act must also register their weapons by April 15, 2014.

Gun crime defense

Illegal gun possession or unlawful use of a firearm are serious violent felony criminal charges. However, New York residents do have rights under the federal and state constitutions. New Yorkers accused of a gun crime should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect their rights and to discuss their legal options.