Spitzer Addresses Crime Victims Vigil

Attorney General Spitzer said today that more than 60 municipal governments from across New York have joined a national coalition which will use their purchasing power to pressure gun manufacturers to make safer guns and market their products more responsibly.

Spitzer said that the coalition will help make New York a leader in reducing gun violence. His comments came at a special gathering of crime victims and their families in New York City. The event, the 15th Annual Candlelight Vigil, marks the beginning of National Crime Victims Week. The Attorney General’s Office is the sponsor of this year’s event.

"City, county and town officials have come together as never before in our efforts to have safer streets, safer homes, and safer schools," Spitzer said. "We are using our buying power to try to ensure that gun companies to take responsibility for their products. We are sending a message to the rest of the nation that everyone has a stake in this fight."

One of the speakers at the vigil was Dwight Boone who has lost five cousins and a brother to gun violence.

Groups represented at the service included New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Parents of Murdered Children of N.Y. State, and Victim Services, Inc.

Municipalities that join the gun procurement coalition agree to purchase police firearms only from companies that sign a new safety code that changes the way handguns are designed, marketed and distributed. It’s estimated that 25% of all gun purchases are made by government.

Spitzer has received commitments to join the coalition from the mayor of 31 cities in New York and dozens of other municipal officials, including supervisors, sheriffs and county executives. Participating municipalities include: Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Albany, Elmira, Middletown, Kingston, Ithaca, Plattsburgh and Westchester County.

New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, State Comptroller H. Carl McCall and other leading officials in New York City have expressed strong support for the coalition.

Spitzer is also working with the White House and federal Housing and Urban Development Department to organize a gun procurement coalition nationwide. Dozens of cities have joined the coalition nationwide, but no state has greater overall participation than New York.

The goal of the effort is to reward those companies who sign the code of conduct, and bring financial pressure to bear on those who do not. Spitzer developed the idea for the coalition and began organizing it last month.

The coalition was praised by gun control advocates: Joshua Horwitz, Executive Director of the Washington-based Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence said, " The gun industry is finally beginning to acknowledge the role it can play in reducing firearm death and injury by altering its manufacturing and distribution practices. If state, federal and local governments can unite around the gun procurement program to ensure that the gun industry acts responsibly, then all of America will benefit. We applaud Attorney General Spitzer for his creativity and leadership on this issue."

Spitzer took the lead last year in organizing municipalities across the nation that had either sued the gun companies or threatened lawsuits. He began negotiations with gun industry representatives on the development of a voluntary code of conduct. The White House later joined the discussions, which culminated last month in the announcement of an agreement with the nation’s largest gun maker, Smith & Wesson. The foundation of that agreement is a code of conduct that was originally developed by Spitzer last year.

Spitzer was joined at the crime victims vigil by Kim Webdale, sister of New York City subway pushing victim Kendra Webdale. Spitzer worked with the Webdale family to propose and advance Kendra’s Law, which permits family members, roommates and care givers of the mentally to petition the courts to ensure that the severely mentally ill take their prescribed medication.

The vigil, an ecumenical ceremony of remembrance for the victims of crime, was held at the West End Collegiate Church.