The Brooklyn district attorney’s office will not be pursuing a gun charge against Councilmember Inna Vernikov after she brought a firearm to a pro-Palestinian protest on a college campus last month.
Oren Yaniv, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA, said the gun was unloaded and missing a recoil spring, rendering it inoperable.
“In order to sustain this charge, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the weapon in question was capable of firing bullets,” Yaniv said in a statement. “Absent such proof, we have no choice but to dismiss these charges.”
The news organization The City first reported the development.
Despite dropping the charge, the DA’s office indicated it was not pleased with Vernikov’s actions.
“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,” Yaniv said in a statement on Friday.
Vernikov, a Republican who has been a longtime supporter of Israel, was facing a firearm charge related to “sensitive locations” under a state law passed last year that prohibits firearms in certain areas. While at a protest at Brooklyn College on Oct. 12, a gun was featured prominently on Vernikov’s waistband in photos shared across social media.
Police contacted Vernikov the next morning and she turned herself in afterward, according to police officials at the time.
The councilmember has a concealed carry license, several news outlets have reported, but is barred under state law from bringing a firearm to a college campus. She was arraigned earlier this month, and her attorney claimed that photos of her with a gun at the protest couldn’t prove her guilt in and of itself.
News of the gun and subsequent charge against Vernikov prompted some Democrats to call for her resignation, among other punitive measures.
“It is unacceptable and unlawful for a civilian to ever bring a firearm to a rally or protest, and especially important for elected officials to model a respect for the law that is expected of all New Yorkers,” Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said in a statement in the charge’s aftermath.
Adams referred the issue to the Council’s ethics committee last month. Council spokespeople did not immediately say Friday whether that investigation would be moving forward.
“I’m glad this is behind me and I look forward to the next two years working for my constituents. Ever since Hamas has unleashed a massacre on the people of Israel on Oct. 7, Jewish New Yorkers have been facing an unprecedented rise in hate and violence on our streets and on our college campuses,” Vernikov said in a text message to Gothamist.
Arthur Aidala, Vernikov’s attorney, said the councilmember had an “outstanding reputation” and was eager to move forward.