Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) suggested Thursday that federal legislation requiring background checks for gun purchases nationwide would help stem deadly violence such as the three fatal shootings in Central Islip this week.
Long Island’s lone Republican congressman was responding to a question from Tyzier King, a resident of that community, who asked how the veteran lawmaker could address the murders during a town hall meeting at the Brentwood Public Library, where King also shared his views on immigration, terrorism and the economy.
“Most of the crimes committed with guns in New York are committed with guns that are from out of state, where other states have virtually no background checks or little background checks,” said King. “Having a background check in no way infringes on the Second Amendment.”
A groundswell has been forming to reintroduce new gun control measures in Congress after a background check bill failed in the U.S. Senate in April. But, getting the most attention of late has been an immigration reform bill being negotiated—an idea King told LI’s largest immigrant community he supports, as long as it also adds border security.
“After the last mass immigration legalization on [LI]of 20,000 Salvadoran war refugees, a study found a 40 percent increase in earnings by the newly documented and a direct contribution in increased state and federal taxes paid by the formerly undocumented,” said Pat Young, an immigration attorney and program director of the Central American Refugee Center who served as one of the panelists. “These individuals also shifted towards homeownership and became citizens in large numbers.”
A member of The Muslim Center of Long Island in Bay Shore—the largest mosque on LI—said the congregation is concerned about the Muslim radicalization hearings that King held, hate crimes they have suffered and Islamophobia.
King defended the hearings he held when he was chairman of the Homeland Security Committee as “fair and objective,” said Muslims aren’t victimized by hate crime perpetrators more than other religious groups and said he is willing to meet with Islamic community leaders.
The nonprofit Long Island Civic Engagement Table and Islip chapter of the NAACP organized the meet-and-greet for King to get to know the Bay Shore, Brentwood and Central Islip communities that he absorbed during redistricting last year.
The congressman noted that he’s discussed the recent Central Islip murders with Suffolk County police, who he said suspect gang involvement in the first two slayings. Homicide Squad detectives have said the third fatal shooting does not appear to be linked to the first two.
Pastor Roderick Pearson, president of the Islip chapter of the NAACP, who lead an invocation to open the meeting and the benediction to close it, asked the about 200 people in attendance to join hands and pray together for peace in the community.
“There are three families mourning,” Pearson said. “We may not agree on every issue, but…I ask that we the people seek justice and love in one another.”