GOA: Times Square shooting shows ‘gun-free zones’ are ineffective

Nearly two years after New York lawmakers banned firearms in Times Square to prevent gun violence in the bustling tourist hub, a 15-year-old accused of shooting and injuring a tourist while shoplifting last week is facing no additional charges for bringing a gun into a so-called “sensitive location.”

A judge ruled Tuesday to keep the teenager in jail as he awaits trial as an adult on several counts of attempted murder, criminal possession of a loaded firearm and assault with intent to cause injury with a weapon, according to court records.

But prosecutors did not charge him with criminal possession of a weapon in a sensitive location — the charge attached to breaking the new law. As of early November, only three people in the entire state faced a top charge of criminal possession of a firearm in a sensitive location, and none of those had been in Times Square, according to state data. At least one other person accused of opening fire in Times Square since the law took effect in September 2022 was also not charged with violating the new law.

While advocates for the law maintain it is a needed deterrent in high-traffic areas, critics say the fact that prosecutors aren’t using it when someone is accused of shooting a gun in Times Square shows the law’s effectiveness is limited.

“Imaginary lines don’t stop criminals from breaking the law,” said Luis Valdes, a national spokesperson for Gun Owners of America, a nonprofit group that has challenged New York’s gun laws in court.

Valdes, a former law enforcement officer, said prosecutors already have the tools they need to charge the defendant in this case with other felonies, including attempted murder, so they don’t need an extra charge for bringing a firearm into a gun-free zone. He called New York’s gun-free zones law “useless.”

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