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Kelly On ‘Face The Nation:’ In NYC Crime, ‘The Problem Is The Handgun’

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (file / credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (file / credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly touted new technology to detect illegal guns on “Face the Nation” Sunday, while noting that handguns – not assault weapons – are responsible for most of the homicides and non-fatal shootings in New York City.

Speaking with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer, Kelly came out in favor of proposed gun control legislation in Congress, which could include a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But he said only 2 percent of those arrested for unlawful firearms in the past two years in New York have had assault weapons.

“We don’t want them on the street – make no mistake about it,” Kelly said. “But the problem is the handgun. Sixty percent of the murders in New York City are caused by handguns, and we simply have too many of them. Even though last year, we had a record low of murders in New York City, and a record low of shootings, it’s still way too many.”

Kelly also came out in favor of a universal background check for firearms purchases, noting the loopholes that are now in place. He said a strong background check law will also help police identify straw purchasers, as each gun purchase will be well-documented.

Whatever the case, he said, a national policy is needed – particularly given that 90 percent of illegal guns in New York City come from out-of-state.

“We are the target, so to speak. It’s coming from other places,” he said.

Kelly also talked about the new technology the NYPD is preparing to launch to detect illegal guns. A device that looks similar to body scanners at airports reads terahertz — a specific form of natural energy emitted by people and virtually all forms of matter.

“Basically, everybody emits what they call terahertz radiation, and if that radiation is blocked by something such as a weapon, then you can see the outline,” Kelly explained.

The technology is not yet ready to roll out “in a reasonable way, but we’re getting there,” Kelly said. “It’s sort of like the cell phone was 20 years ago. We hope to be using it, at least experimentally, in the next six months.”

The NYPD has said previously that the U.S. Department of Defense is picking up the tab for the terahertz technology.

Kelly conceded that civil liberties groups would take issue with the technology. The New York Civil Liberties Union already has raised a red flag, saying the technology “implicates privacy.”

But Kelly said: “We’re working with our attorneys to see that (terahertz technology) is appropriately used. We understand that there are Fourth Amendment issues here, so we want to get everybody on board before this goes into any widespread use.”

Kelly also conceded that some gun rights advocates believe background checks are a violation of their rights. He emphasized that the NYPD has no interest in taking guns away from those who follow the law.

“We’re not planning to infringe on anybody’s right to have guns legally,” he said. “We’re looking to get illegal guns off the streets.”

Earlier this month, President Obama challenged the powerful gun lobby to “do the right thing” and end gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Obama also unveiled a $500 million package of executive actions and legislative proposals aimed at reducing gun violence. The package includes a call on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and it would close loopholes in the gun sale background check system.

The president’s long list of executive orders also includes:

  • Ordering tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks and requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Ending limits that make it more difficult for the government to research gun violence, such as gathering data on guns that fall into criminal hands.
  • Requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Giving schools flexibility to use federal grant money to improve school safety, such as by hiring school resource officers.
  • Giving communities grants to institute programs to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.

Also earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the nation’s toughest assault weapon and magazine restrictions.

What do you think of Commissioner Kelly’s take on guns and crime? Leave your comments below…