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Editorial: Find the guns

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It was two weeks ago that the TimesLedger reported on the tragic shooting death of a young man on an outdoor basketball court in southeast Queens. In last week’s papers, we reported on the shooting death of a supervisor for the city Department of Environmental Protection in Long Island City and the arrest of two men from Ridgewood and Maspeth for shooting a club bouncer in Long Island City. We also reported that a man opened fire in Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village.

The most frightening thing about all of this is that it is not news. There are hundreds of people in Queens carrying illegal handguns. Some are drug dealers and gang members. They carry guns because guns are the tools of their trade. Others carry guns because they are a kind of status symbol on the street. The guns give them a heightened sense of importance and a feeling of invincibility. And some carry a gun because they are afraid.

Everyone carrying an unlicensed gun is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off with the slightest provocation — like the idiot who fired his gun at a softball game or the cowards who executed a young man on a basketball court.

It’s not likely that we will ever rid the city of young hotheads whose anger hovers near the boiling point nearly all of the time. The city has tough gun laws which mandate a year in prison for anyone caught with an unlicensed loaded weapon. But judges are reluctant to impose this penalty and they often find “mitigating factors” that allow them to impose a far less stringent penalty.

Although tough sentencing must remain part of the solution, the city’s best hope of ending the gun-related violence is to cut off the supply of illegal guns. The supply of hotheads, jerks and gang wannabes appears to be endless. Right now it is far too easy for these people to get a gun.

The NYPD has an undercover unit made up of courageous officers who risk their lives every day to stem the sale of illegal guns. But they are fighting an uphill battle. The public can help. Under Operation Gunstop the city will pay $1,000 for information leading to arrest of a person carrying an illegal handgun.

Whether we can win war against handgun violence remains to be seen. But each time a gang trafficking in guns is shut down and each time even one illegal gun is taken off the street, the people win a battle.

Editorial: Hope for seniors

CB 9 Chairman Paul Sapienza has asked the city to push the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to allow the city to build a school and a senior assisted-living center on property the diocese owns at 89-15 Woodhaven Blvd. The property, which is now vacant, had been the site of St. Anthony’s Hospital.

Catholic Charities, which ran the hospital until it closed in 1998, said the diocese has not made a decision on what to do with the property. The assisted-living center is still a possibility.

The church is facing tough times and it cannot be faulted if it decides to sell the property to the highest bidder. Nevertheless, we hope that someone will succeed in persuading the diocese to lease the property to the city. At the moment, there are few options in Queens for its senior citizens. There are barely enough nursing homes and few places where a senior citizens can experience assisted living in a less restrictive — and costly — environment.

Affordable assisted-living centers are needed here and in every part of Queens. There is no doubt that the diocese is keenly aware of this need. We hope the city and the church can come to terms on an agreement that will put this property to good use.

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