DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN (WABC) -- Charges have been dropped against a New York City Councilmember who had been accused of bringing a gun to a protest in Brooklyn.
Inna Vernikov, 39, was charged with criminal possession of a firearm, which is a felony, after reportedly showing up to a protest with a gun visible in her hip on October 13.
She was counter-protesting a pro-Palestine rally organized by the Brooklyn College chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine Day of Action. Vernikov is Jewish and has been vocal in support of Israel amid the war overseas.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez dropped the charges after determining the gun was not loaded and was inoperable.
"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. 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," a spokesman for Gonzalez said.
Vernikov had a license to carry a concealed weapon, but under New York law, even licensed gun owners may not bring weapons to certain sensitive locations, including protests and school grounds.
But after Vernikov surrendered her gun, the police examined it and found that it was missing the recoil spring assembly, rendering it inoperable, Brooklyn district attorney's office spokesperson Oren Yaniv said.
"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. "Absent such proof, we have no choice but to dismiss these charges."
Vernikov's attorney, Arthur Aidala, said his client "is pleased to have this all behind her and looks forward to continuing her fight on behalf of all New Yorkers to keep this city the greatest city in the world."