Apr 30th - 8:12 am
From the Morning Memo:
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is poised to release a new poll that shows widespread support among Empire State voters – including gun owners – for what the organization deems “common sense” firearms control measures.
The poll, conducted by the Boston-based firm Kiley & Co., (which, incidentally, is the same outfit the DCCC has been using for years), shows strong support for seven proposed gun safety bills.
The measures range from a safe storage requirement to a proposal that would require anyone convicted of domestic violence to have a firearm removed from his or her possession.
According to the poll, support was strong for a number of those measures in gun-owning households, though they did not much like the idea of the .50-caliber ban (which was juster voted down in a Senate committee) or limiting New Yorkers to just one gun purchase.
Also, 53 percent of poll respondents said they would be more inclined to vote for their own state legislator if he or she voted in favor of stronger gun laws. Fifty percent said they would be less inclined to vote for that individual if he or she were opposed to those measures.
These are particularly interesting findings given the ongoing upset – especially upstate – over the SAFE Act, which the governor signed into law in January 2013.
That was the last significant piece of gun control legislation passed in Albany, and some lawmakers have been working (without much hope of success while Cuomo is in office) to get it repealed ever since.
Recognizing that Albany presents something of a challenge, NYAGV has been focusing on local gun control initiatives, according to the organization’s executive director, Leah Gunn Barrett.
“We’ve been making progress at the local level in cities across the state,” she said. “Just like state laws will precede federal laws, local laws often precede state laws.”
“The lower down you can get in building grassroots support, the more success you’re going to have…The SAFE Act was made up of measures that were introduced year after year after year. We know it takes time to build support.”
NYAGV will hold its annual lobby day in Albany next Monday, which will be attended by students from across the state whose communities have been impacted by gun violence.
Mar 2nd - 10:31 am
Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi announced on Monday he had signed on to a legislative package that would alter and scale back some provisions of the SAFE Act, a omnibus gun control bill approved in 2013.
The measures, which are also backed by Sen. James Seward of Oneida, would address major aspects of the gun control law championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which he counts among his most significant accomplishments as governor over the last four years.
The proposals would end the ban on giving long guns as gifts to relatives and pistol permit holders, repeal a provision in the law that limits 10-round magazines to seven rounds and end the requirement for ammunition retailers to register with the state and provide background checks on customers.
At the same time, county judges would be banned from “imposing extraneous restrictions” in issuing pistol and handgun licenses.
It’s not unusual for Republicans to seek amendments or outright repeals of the law, which has become a lightning rod for gun-rights advocates around the state and country.
But it is eyebrow-raising for a Democrat to back such a sweeping repeal.
In a statement, Brindisi pointed to concerns being raised by gun owners over the years.
“Over the past two years, I’ve received numerous letters and phone calls from constituents who are responsible gun owners, and who have some very valid objections to some of the most burdensome aspects of this law,” said Brindisi, a Utica Democrat. “The four bills I am introducing in the assembly would roll back some requirements of the NY-SAFE Act that are an unnecessary burden on responsible gun owners.”
Seward, a Republican who did not support the law’s passage in 2013, took a pointed view of the existing law.
“The reactionary, hastily drafted and passed NY-SAFE Act was meant for headlines and has done nothing to stop criminals from getting guns and using them for illegal purposes,” he said. “We need to take action now to correct the many technical issues the law created for responsible gun owners who shoot for sport, collect firearms, and carry guns to protect themselves and their families.”
Nov 13th - 11:19 am
From the morning memo:
Assemlywoman Claudia Tenney is expanding her thoughts on the 126 workers laid off at Remington Arms in Ilion earlier this week.
In a Capital Tonight interview Wednesday, Tenney criticized the Cuomo administration for “picking winners and losers and deciding which business are more meritorious than others.”
Tuesday, the Assemblywoman tweeted, verbatim, “Thanks Cuomo for killing NY manufacturing. 126 layoffs at Remington today.” Those layoffs add to the 105 workers who lost their jobs at the Herkimer County plant in August. This all came after Remington moved production of a few of its products to a site in Alabama.
At the time, many blamed Governor Cuomo’s gun control law for the layoffs, but Tenney says differently. While the SAFE Act may have played a role, she says it was the state’s economic policies that ultimately drove Remington to drop the workers.
“It’s the unfriendly workplace we have in New York, being ranked so low and having high taxes, a high regulatory burden,” Tenney said.
Tenney also said she’s been in contact with managers at the Ilion plant, who she says don’t expect any more layoffs through the end of this year.
Regardless of that bittersweet news, Tenney also said the layoffs may have been avoided if the state provided more economic incentives to the gun industry, like they have with solar power in Western New York.
“The governor is happy to spend billions and all the other incentives he put through this year,” Tenney said, “But yet this business has been around almost 200 years and is a wonderful business with great benefits, great opportunities for our community and has tradition here.”
Tenney went on to contrast the state’s investment in nanotechnology to the gun manufacturer’s layoffs.
“We’re hoping and praying that a company does come to the Utica area or Utica Nano and brings jobs with it,” Tenney said, “but right now we’ve put hundreds of millions into that center and we don’t have a job. But literally twenty minutes down the road is Remington Arms which has now laid off 126 people.”
As for a potential pay raise for state lawmakers, Tenney says she’s against the measure. In fact, she says she’d rather see the legislature take a pay cut and convene for only three months out of the year, citing how much money it would save the state.
“We don’t need to have full time career politicians working in the state Assembly.”
Nov 11th - 5:00 pm
Gun manufacturer Remington Arms is laying off more than 100 workers at its Ilion, NY plant according to multiple news reports and one Assemblywoman Tuesday.
According to a tweet from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (see below), the plant laid off 126 workers from the Herkimer County location Tuesday. This follows another round of layoffs from August that left 105 employees without a job.
Gun control opponents, including Tenney herself, have blamed the recent layoffs on Governor Cuomo’s 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act.
It wasn’t until earlier this year, in May, that Remington decided to move production of two of its firearms out of New York to Alabama. Both products face stricter regulation under the SAFE Act.
At the time, Senator Jim Seward estimated as much as 100 jobs could be lost in Ilion because of the move. The actual number has since doubled.
At the time of the first round of layoffs in August, Governor Cuomo had told reporters the gun control law had nothing to do with the downsize.
May 16th - 3:40 pm
Gun manufacturer Remington Arms will move production of its Bushmaster and 1911 gun lines from Ilion in New York’s Mohawk Valley to Alabama.
The company has shifted its resources out of other states like North Carolina, Utah and Georgia in recent weeks.
But the shift from Ilion has important psychological undertones for the small upstate village where the company has been a cornerstone for more than 200 years.
The plant in Ilion employs about 1,400 people, and it was not immediately clear how many jobs would be lost with the two lines moving to Alabama, where the company opened a new plant earlier this year.
At the same time, the move out of New York comes more than a year after the passage of the SAFE Act, a sweeping gun control law opposed by gun-rights advocates.
The Bushmaster line is no not legal for sale in the state without modifications.
“The fact that the lines being moved out are for products now more strictly regulated in New York due to the overreaching SAFE-Act sends a strong, obvious message,” said Sen. James Seward in a statement. “Moving forward, I stand ready to assist Remington in meeting their needs in the Mohawk Valley, and that includes securing state support to help with facility upgrades at the company’s birthplace.
Seward added that as many as 100 jobs could be lost in the move.
Apr 24th - 12:12 pm
ICYMI from today’s morning memo:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is continuing his effort to woo gun owners angry with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the SAFE Act by resurrecting the uproar over his local newspaper’s posting of pistol permit holders’ personal information.
A fundraising appeal that arrived at my Capital Region residence yesterday asked: “Would you want your home address published in the local newspaper and online, marking your household as a place where a pistol could be found?”
“Probably not. But that’s exactly what happened in Westchester County last year when a Gannett editor decided to make headlines,” the letter continues.
“Thousands of law abiding pistol permit owners in that county were treated like sex offenders, and put at risk of home break-ins through this stunt, which clearly emanated from Andrew Cuomo’s anti-Second Amendment hysteria in Albany.”
The appeal goes on to state that just one New York elected official “above all others” stood up for the gun owners, “even though by doing so he’d be publicly criticizing the editors of his home county newspaper.”
That “one official” is, of course, Astorino, who, according to his campaign, “demanded the maps come down and widely chastised the newspaper’s decision to publish it. It made him no friends at the paper, but it was the right thing to do.”
This all dates back to the winter of 2012 when The Journal News, a Gannett publication, decided to post an interactive map of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties in the wake of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The mass shooting had reignited the gun control debate in both New York and Washington, D.C. Cuomo was aggressively pushing for action by the Legislature, hoping to beat President Obama to the punch in the process.
Pistol permits were, at the time, considered public documents, though Putnam County officials refused to heed the paper’s Freedom of Information request for information on their local holders.
About a month into this fight, which generated considerable consternation – including threats to Journal News staffers – the paper eventually heeded the calls from Astorino and others to take down its map, citing a provision in the new SAFE Act that enabled permit holders to opt out of having their information be publicly available.
Thousands of New Yorkers availed themselves of that opt-out clause, creating a lot of additional work – and headaches – for the state’s county clerks.
Astorino has been consistently reaching out to gun owners for support in hopes of exploiting the still-simmering upset with Cuomo over the SAFE Act – the passage of which marked the start of the downward slide in the governor’s approval ratings upstate.
The fundraising appeal – a no-frills affair comprised of just two sheets of paper, a letter and a contribution form – concluded thusly:
“County Executive Astorino will be vastly outspent by Governor Cuomo, but Mr. Astorino is a demonstrably better leader. If he can raise even a third of what Mr. Cuomo spends, we think he’ll be our next governor.”
As of mid-January, Cuomo had amassed a campaign war chest of more than $33 million, compared to Astorino’s $1 million on hand.
For the record, both my husband and I are registered independents. We are technically a gun-owning household, as my husband is in law enforcement.
Apr 16th - 11:50 am
An acting state Supreme Court judge in ruling on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of gun control law known as the SAFE Act.
The challenge to the law, brought Washington County political activist Robert Schulz, alleged the law was approved infringed on the right to bear arms, as well as challenged the legality of Gov. Andrew Cuomo issuing a message of necessity to waive the required three-day aging process for bills.
The Senate approved the measure first in January 2013, followed the next day by the state Assembly.
Schulz had argued Cuomo’s use of the message of necessity was a “sham.”
However, Acting Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara ruled the legality of the message issued by Cuomo is “well settled.”
“Here, while plaintiffs may disagree with the Governor’s and Legislature’s assessment of the need to act quickly, the Governor included in his certificatearecitation of his reasons for urging speedy passage,” McNamara wrote.
At the same time, McNamara writes in the ruling the arguments that the SAFE Act violates the constitutional right to bear arms fall short.
“Though plaintiffs assert in the complaint that the SAFE Act infringes upon rights granted by this provision of the Constitution, they do not point to any right created thereby nor is one apparent,” he wrote. “The arguments offered with regard to this provision are generally linked to the right to keep and bear arms which as discussed above, fall short of demonstrating unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A key registration deadline for registration certain weapons under the measure came on Tuesday, though it has not been publicly revealed how many gun owners complied with the registration requirement.
A separate challenge to the SAFE Act remains pending in federal court that is supported by the National Rifle Association.
Feb 21st - 12:38 pm
The gun-control organization New Yorkers Against Gun Violence praised a proposal on Friday from Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein on Friday that is meant to strengthen penalties for those who use a firearm near a playground.
“NYAGV supports Luisito’s Law, which imposes stiffer penalties on individuals who use guns in the vicinity of a playground. When our children can no longer feel safe in public parks and playgrounds, which should be safe havens, something is terribly wrong,” said Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett. “Although New York has strong gun safety laws, there is more we can do to protect our children from gun violence and Luisito’s Law is a positive step forward.”
The measure was introduced by Klein and a fellow Bronx Democrat, Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.
The bill would create new criminal charges for those who use a gun near a playground.
Those who fire a gun within 500 feet of a park, playground or schoolyard could be charged with a “class c” felony and face 3-1/2 to 5 years in prison.
The new charge of shooting a victim under the age of 10 would be created as well: a “class B” felony that comes with 5 to 25 years in prison.
The bill was introduced after the Aug. 30 wounding of Bronx 3-year-old Luisito Oyola, who was caught in the crossfire of a shooting at a park.
He survived, but supporters of the bill point to the rash of shootings at Bronx parks that have resulted in at least four other children being injured.
Jan 15th - 12:26 pm
On the anniversary of the SAFE Act passing, advocated for gun control both in the Legislature and in advocacy groups are calling for new laws.
The 2014 legislative goals include the long-sought measure of bullet microstamping, which would require a unique code printed on a shell every time a gun is fired from a semiautomatic handgun.
Advocates are also calling for laws that would require the storage of gun in a safe with a trigger lock or secure cabinet.
A once-a-month gun limit would be imposed for purchases, limiting buyers to one handgun a month, which advocates say will cut down on “straw purchases” and trafficking.
Other measures include stronger background checks, protections for domestic violence victims and banning 50-caliber sniper rifles.
“While some seek to go backwards and undo the SAFE Act—and make it legal once again, for example, to sell guns to strangers with no questions asked, or to have guns with 30-round ammunition magazines—we’re taking our next steps forward to prevent gun violence without undue restrictions on responsible gun owners,” said Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat.
Kavanagh, along with Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, are co-chairs of the State Legislators Against Illegal Guns-NY, and are joining with the independent New Yorkers Against Gun Violence in calling for the new laws.
Whether these measures can pass after the SAFE Act, a measure that is deeply opposed by some Republican lawmakers and gun-rights groups, remains to be seen.
“The first anniversary of the historic NY SAFE Act is an important moment to take stock of the great progress New York has made and the important work yet to be done,” New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett. “NYAGV and SLAIGNY will continue to work this session with the legislature and Governor Cuomo to keep our citizens, and particularly our children, safe from gun violence. We are confident that New York will continue to show other states and the federal government the way forward by passing common sense gun safety measures that will save lives.”
Jan 15th - 9:15 am
From the morning memo:
One year ago today, the Democratic-led Assembly approved Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sweeping gun control legislation, the first regulations dealing with firearms in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting a month earlier.
The previous evening, the state Senate, operating for the first time under the unusual joint majority coalition of Republicans and independent Democrats, managed to the pass the gun control legislation as well after GOP lawmakers were able to insert more provisions dealing with illegal firearms.
One year after the law passed, the reverberations of the SAFE Act for the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are still being felt, while implementing its provisions remain a complex undertaking.
The Times Union reported today the state database for compiling ammunition sales from gun dealers is yet to take effect, 12 months after the governor signed the law.
Other aspects of the law remain challenged in state court, include the infamous seven-bullet limit to a magazine, which a federal judge in western New York ruled was arbitrary and unconstitutional. The judge in the case did uphold the majority of the law, including the expansion of the ban on assault weapons.
Aside from the complications to the practical implementation of the law, the SAFE Act has had political ramifications as well.
The well of political capital Cuomo had been hording was depleted. His popularity among upstate and Republican voters — perhaps artificially high to begin with — took an immediate hit, which the governor and his team attributed to the measure’s passage.
Though several Senate Republicans voted to back the law, Cuomo found it difficult to move the more controversial items through the chamber as 2013 wore on, including the 10-point women’s agenda as the conservative base became increasingly restive.
What GOP opposition to the governor existed both externally and in the Legislature before the law was now galvanized by its passage.
Protests at Cuomo events around the state — once the exclusive domain of environmental advocates opposed to high-volume hydrofracking — were soon joined by those protesting the SAFE Act.
In short, Cuomo’s extended and unusually long honeymoon as governor ended with the law’s passage.
Despite all that, Cuomo has insisted the law is one of his crowning achievements as governor, a symbol of doing what’s right even if it cost him politically. For the governor, the law is an example of government taking action, doing something tangible.
By the same token, Cuomo has said the opposition to the law, while vocal, represents a minority of voters who likely wouldn’t have supported him in the long run, anyway.
But entering this election year, opponents believe it will have an impact at the ballot box, especially upstate.
“I absolutely do,” Sen. Kathy Marchione, a Saratoga County Republican deeply opposed to the law, told me in an interview. “This is a very serious issue. North of Westchester — I don’t have a good handle on New York City — but north of New York City this a very serious issue.”
Marchione plans to circulate another petition online calling for a repeal of the law, a highly unlikely action given it would require the Democratic-led Assembly to sign off as well.
But Marchione, who has introduced two repeal measures, said the petition is more to tell Cuomo the opposition to the law is hardening.
“The purpose of it is to tell the governor we’ve not gone away,” she said. “We’re as serious about this issue today as we were a year ago and I think the governor needs to see that.”
In the Assembly, Speaker Sheldon Silver said the law has made New Yorker safer to a point. The problem is a lack of progress on gun control at the federal level, where no measure was passed in the wake of the mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora, Colorado.
“If there were federal action on it then I would really feel we were safer,” Silver told reporters in Albany on Tuesday. “But right now it’s primarily a federal issue. People can buy guns legally elsewhere and bring them into New York. that would be the best way — if the federal government would act.”