NYAGV Commentary Piece.

Economic growth and public safety — both are top priorities for state lawmakers. They should go hand-in-hand, but in the case of gun manufacturing in New York, it’s more like one at the expense of the other.

The state’s publicly funded economic development agencies, like the Empire State Development Corp., are designed to support economic growth in New York through grants using taxpayer dollars. The problem is that since 1999 more than $11.4 million has been given away to two New York gun manufacturers — Remington and Kimber — to create a few hundred jobs and make a product that is killing thousands of New Yorkers.

Over the same 13-year period, more than 13,000 New Yorkers were killed by guns and more than 30,000 were injured by guns. These 43,000 New Yorkers cost the state millions of dollars every year in unpaid medical expenses, police investigation costs, lost wages and tax revenue, and other services necessary to repair the damages.

Every gun crime imposes a crushing financial burden on New York taxpayers and is a huge drain on human and economic resources in communities already facing serious budget crises. This doesn’t even account for how families continue to suffer long after Remington and Kimber’s guns leave the assembly line.

Given the statistics about gun violence and the fact that manufacturers are taking public monies, shouldn’t the gun industry support common sense measures to help law enforcement officials catch violent criminals?

If only that were the case.

Victims and more than 80 police departments from across New York have pleaded with the gun industry and state government to give the police a new tool called microstamping — aka DNA for guns — to help law enforcement catch violent criminals. Microstamping imprints a unique alpha-numeric code on a shell casing each time a semiautomatic handgun is fired, which would help police identify the gun’s first purchaser and begin the investigation process. Microstamping is not a panacea, but since 40 percent of homicides remain unsolved nationally, it’s a tool law enforcement needs.

Given that microstamping will not be implemented unless it costs $12 or less per gun and that the average price for a new semiautomatic handgun is nearly $750, gun manufacturers can no longer claim cost as an impediment.

But when crime victims and law enforcement officials ask the gun industry to support microstamping to help solve gun crimes, Remington and Kimber have one resounding answer: NO.

New York taxpayers deserve more from the gun industry supported by our tax dollars than a blanket refusal to help police get violent criminals off our streets. Our money should not be given to the gun industry when the damage caused by its product, and its refusal to improve public safety, far outweigh any benefit gained by New York state taxpayers.

Adding insult to injury, the most recent state grant to Remington is the definition of a sweetheart deal. Since 2010, Economic Development Fund grants have paid for an average of 10 percent of the overall project cost for which the awarded company is applying. Remington’s grant paid for a whopping 28 percent of Remington’s $5.9 million factory expansion project. When all other public funds are accounted for, New York taxpayers footed the bill for 44 percent of Remington’s project.

ESDC and other government funding sources focus on the economic well being of New York — but they got it all wrong in supporting Remington and Kimber while the industry refuses to help solve critical safety and crime problems. Simply put, this was a bad deal for New York.

In his 2010 campaign for governor, and earlier as the state’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo was unequivocal in his support for microstamping as a way to keep New York communities safe. He needs to follow through on his pledge to pass microstamping for all new semiautomatic handguns produced or sold in New York.

Microstamping would help police get criminals off the street, making communities across the state safer and better places for businesses to grow, employ residents and build a better New York. That’s good for economic growth and for public safety — at the same time.

Jackie Hilly is the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.