(NEW YORK) — Prosecutors have dropped a weapons charge against New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, who showed up to counter protest a pro-Palestinian rally at Brooklyn College last month with a gun strapped to her hip, according to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
The gun was not loaded and was determined to be inoperable, prosecutors said.
“Peaceful protest is the right of every American, but bringing a gun to a protest is illegal and creates an unacceptable risk of harm that has no place in our city,” a spokesman for Gonzalez said. “The firearm recovered by the NYPD in this case was unloaded and missing the recoil spring assembly, rendering it inoperable, according to the NYPD’s lab report. In order to sustain this charge, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the weapon in question was capable of firing bullets. Absent such proof, we have no choice but to dismiss these charges.”
Vernikov, a Republican who represents the south Brooklyn neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach, was filmed at the Oct. 12 rally with a handgun in her pants. Although the councilwoman has a concealed carry permit, she violated the recently passed city law that prohibits civilians from bringing firearms to protests, police said.
The 39-year-old lawmaker was contacted by police the following day and she surrendered to police at the 70th Precinct. She was charged with criminal possession of a firearm.
“At no point in time was anyone menaced or injured as a result of her possessing the firearm at the earlier protest,” the NYPD said in a statement at the time.
Vernikov, a Ukrainian immigrant who has been a staunch opponent of Palestinian rallies, posted a video of herself at the rally on X, formerly known as Twitter, claiming, “If you are here, standing today with these people, you’re nothing short of a terrorist without the bombs.” She still has the video pinned to the top of her account.
Her arrest had been referred to the City Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, of which she happens to be a member, for possible disciplinary action. Under New York law, a person convicted of a felony or misdemeanor can be barred from elected office.
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