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.”
Jan 3rd - 3:01 pm
A coalition of gun-rights groups have filed a notice of appeal of a federal judge’s ruling upholding certain aspects of the the 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act.
The filing, made Friday, came after U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny upheld most of the year-old law save for the seven-round limit for magazines. As of now, there’s been no indication of whether the state will appeal that decision.
UPDATE: AG Eric Schneiderman’s spokesman Matt Mittenthal emailed the following statement:
“We will vigorously defend New York’s SAFE Act in the Court of Appeals. This week’s decision upheld most of New York’s SAFE ACT, and we will forcefully defend that ruling and appeal those parts of the decision that struck down portions of the law.”
The move was expected by the groups, which includes the Albany-based Rifle and Pistol Association, following the Tuesday ruling.
Gun-rights groups filed a legal challenge in March to the gun control law, a measure that has been a centerpiece for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The law was approved less than a month after the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, marking the nation’s first gun control law to pass since the incident.
There’s also been some confusion as to whether the ruling from Skretny applies only to western New York.
Dec 19th - 4:04 pm
The gun control organization formed by outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is merging with another group.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America on Thursday said they would combine their groups into one.
The mayors group was formed by Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Tom Menino in 2006 and other local chief executives from around the country to push for stronger gun control laws, especially targeting the trafficking of illegal weapons.
Both Bloomberg and Menino are stepping down at the end of the year.
“We started this movement as just 15 mayors committed to protecting our cities – and we’ve since been joined by more than 1,000 mayors and more than 1.5 million Americans from big cities, small towns, and all different walks of life,” said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “Gun violence is, unfortunately, an issue that affects every community, and coming together with Moms Demand Action today will strengthen our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and save lives.”
It was not clear from the announcement if a name change is in store for the merged groups.
Dec 14th - 11:22 am
Many elected officials are releasing statements to mark today’s one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is – not surprisingly – among them.
But the governor also took the opportunity to tout passage of his controversial gun control law the SAFE Act, which he deemed a collection of “common sense reforms”, but has continued to anger gun rights advocates and is the subject of several legal challenges.
New York was the first state in the nation to pass new gun control measures in the wake of Newtown. Cuomo today reiterated his call for Congress to act. Here’s his full statement:
“Today marks one year since the day this nation lost 26 innocent lives, when 20 children and six teachers became the victims of senseless gun violence at Sandy Hook elementary school”
“On this difficult day, the families and friends who lost loved ones at Newtown are in the prayers and thoughts of New Yorkers.”
“The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook was a horrific wake-up call that we must act on the issue of gun violence before another child’s future is wiped away. All across the country, elected officials, parents and community leaders stood up together to call on their State and Federal governments to pass stronger laws that protect our neighborhoods from dangerous weapons.”
“Here in New York, we passed the NY SAFE Act, comprised of common sense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and raise the penalty for killing a first responder on duty.”
“New York is proud to be home to some of the strongest gun laws in the nation. There is no better way to honor the memories of those we lost at Newtown than to make sure they did not die in vain and work together to pass long overdue gun laws to make this whole country safer.”
“As Washington D.C. remains at a standstill on this issue, I urge our representatives in Congress to reach across the aisle and act now because we cannot have another tragedy like Sandy Hook.”
UPDATE: Cuomo was not alone in mentioning the SAFE Act in his Newtown statement today.
IDC Leader Jeff Klein also mentioned the new law, of which he was the chief sponsor in the Senate.
The measure was also the first test of the power-sharing coalition of the IDC and Senate Republicans, who were lobbied heavily by conservatives and gun owners not to allow the act to come to the floor for a vote.
(Now that the SAFE Act is – ahem – safely passed, a number of Republican lawmakers are pushing for its repeal, but that’s highly unlikely to gain any traction).
Here’s Klein’s statement:
“Today, we observe the one year anniversary of the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, parents, and loved ones who continue to cope with unimaginable loss.”
“Sandy Hook awoke the conscience of a nation and inspired us in New York to pass one of the toughest gun control laws in the United States. The SAFE Act continues to be a necessary tool in preventing dangerous criminals from obtaining guns.”
“We stand by this law without reservation and with the strong conviction that it is protecting innocent lives. Moving forward, we must encourage other states and our federal government to take strong action on gun violence until it becomes a thing of the past.”
Dec 12th - 10:54 am
After concerns were raised by some local gun control advocates, two national organizations that produced rankings of the states’ gun control laws bumped its rating for New York from a B+ to an “A-”, according to a revised report.
Leah Gunn Barrett, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said the national organizations that produced the report, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign, didn’t fully take into account the strength of the state’s regulations.
“I think our gun permitting system has been a little misunderstood by some of the national groups,” she said. “I think they recognized that in changing it. It’s stronger than the federal standard and I think they took that into account.”
The new ranking puts New York’s gun laws on the same footing as California, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut.
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence initially released a statement praising the B+ rating, and Barrett said her organization didn’t contact the Law Center or the Brady Campaign to protest the ranking.
“Not us, directly, but there may have been some others who contacted them,” she said.
As for the revised grade, Barrett said her group is pleased, but “an A- is not an A and there’s still some work to do.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo successfully pushed through a gun control law last January, the first measure to strengthen gun control laws after the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut last year.
The law measure that has drawn the ire of gun-rights groups here in New York and nationally. Cuomo’s popularity suffered as a result of the measure, known as the SAFE Act, especially among Republicans and in the upstate region.
Dec 11th - 1:42 pm
Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein is taking issue today with comments made by New York State Rifle And Pistol Association President Tom King, one of the more visible opponents of the sweeping gun control law approved in January.
King spoke with YNN on Tuesday about the “B+” rating New York received from two gun control groups, which credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act for a drop in crime.
“Wouldn’t get a B+ from us It’d be more like an F,” King said.
He added, “Saying that the SAFE ACT or any other law that was passed less than a year ago and hasn’t been implemented is responsible for that drop in crimes is totally ludicrous,” King said.
Klein, a Bronx Democrat and co-president of the Senate, knocked King’s stance in a statement:
“Tom King’s recent remarks on the NY SAFE Act are insulting to all New Yorkers who understand we need smart gun control laws. That is why I was proud to sponsor this landmark legislation in the Senate. As a downstate legislator from the Bronx, I’ve seen first-hand the devastation and tragedy wrought by past gun crimes in New York. Despite Tom King’s opposition to some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, New York is much safer today thanks to the NY SAFE Act. Instead of complaining over the widespread praise we’ve received from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign, I think Tom King’s time would be better spent figuring out ways to better protect New Yorkers from the scourge of gun violence that is shattering lives each and everyday.”
Back in January, the passage of the SAFE Act was at the time viewed as an early test of whether the power-sharing agreement between the breakaway IDC and the Senate Republicans — who are in a numerical minority in the chamber — could work. Ultimately several Republican lawmakers wound up supporting the measure.
Aug 15th - 2:31 pm
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh told me during a CapTon interview last night that he’s willing to go to court “if necessary” to block the release of pistol permit data to a private company that sells lists of information about sports enthusiasts to private businesses.
Emerges.com filed a Freedom of Information Law request seeking the permit information earlier this week, reigniting a debate that was first sparked in the wake of the Newtown tragedy when The Journal News published an interactive map featuring the names and addresses of permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties.
The newspaper ended up taking down the map after Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed the controversial SAFE Act through the Legislature because a provision of the new law allows permit holders to file a request for their information to be kept private and outside the realm of FOIL.
Walsh noted a provision in the Freedom of Inforamtion Law allows an agency to deny a request for “lists of names and addresses if such list would be used for commercial or fund-raising purposes,” and he believes emerges.com fits into that category.
But Bob Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, told the Syracuse Post-Standard that the SAFE Act trumps FOIL in this case. Walsh begs to differ, and is awaiting an opinion from the Association of Sheriffs, which, as you’ll recall, wasn’t a big fan of the SAFE Act to begin with and has joined a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
In the meantime, Walsh has encouraged Onondaga County pistol permit holders who don’t want their information released to file an opt-out form ASAP, and it looks like people are heeding that call.
“We also, you know, are not in the position right now where we can release any lists anyway. We have over 10,000 processed opt-out forms that have been received by the sheriff’s office. But we have another, hard to get a count on them, just yet because they’re still coming in. But I looked at the pile today, and we have at least 2,500 that have not yet been processed. And it’s a manual process to put these things into a computer. And it just takes time and manpower that we do not have.”
Jun 28th - 11:56 am
From Liz’s Morning Memo:
The power of the SAFE Act backlash has not diminished over time. If anything, it has grown stronger among the small – yet vocal – minority of New Yorkers who were infuriated by its passage.
And even though it’s mostly Gov. Andrew Cuomo who has taken a hit at the polls due to his championing of this gun control measure, state lawmakers are not immune to the anger felt by gun rights advocates – a fact that could spell trouble for key legislators in next year’s elections.
A trio of senators got a rude awakening to the organizing abilities of the anti-SAFE Act movement during an event held in Buffalo yesterday afternoon.
Senate Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein traveled to Western New York to attend a policy event hosted by Sen. Mark Grisanti in the afternoon, and then headline a fund-raiser for the Buffalo Republican in the evening.
The afternoon event was supposed to focus on efforts in the Senate to help unemployed veterans, but it was hijacked by angry anti-SAFE Act protestors, who shouted down the senators when they tried – largely in vain – to stick to the scheduled program.
The protest was organized by the 2nd Amendment Coalition. The group’s leaders posted instructions on their Facebook page, urging members to get close to the senators to make sure they could be heard.
The Coalition says changes the Senate approved to the SAFE Act last week during the final days of the 2013 session left veterans out.
(The amendment itself addressed retired law enforcement officers, and also caused a split in the Senate GOP conference, with some members complaining about the timing of the vote, and others insisting they’re holding out for the pie-in-the-sky goal of full repeal).
One leader of the 2nd Amendment Coalition just so happens to be Rus Thompson, a controversial Tea Party figure who worked on Carl Paladino’s failed 2010 gubernatorial bid.
During a recent CapTon interview, Paladino made it clear that while he’s not planning on running again next year, he will use his political action committee to try to influence the balance of power in the Senate in hopes of toppling Skelos from his leadership role.
Grisanti will no doubt again be a target for Paladino. He’ll also be a target for the Senate Democrats, who are itching to win back the Democrat-dominated district the Democrat-turned-Republican lawmaker is currently representing.
Klein once had his eye on Grisanti as a potential member of the IDC. Apparently, both Skelos and Klein are willing to invest in trying to keep Grisanti where he is, regardless of whose conference he ends up joining – sort of a moot point, anyway, so long as the GOP-IDC coalition survives.
Grisanti also received some pressure from the left yesterday, compliments of campaign finance reform advocates who were angry he joined his fellow Republicans in voting down a hostile amendment that would have established a publicly financed system.
Mindful of the fact that the conservative grassroots is still smarting from the same-sex marriage vote two years ago, and steaming over the SAFE Act passage, the Senate Republicans drew a line in the sand over the abortion plank of the governor’s Women’s Equality Agenda and also refused to budget on campaign finance reform.
They may have played right into the governor’s hands, however, enabling him – not to mention the Senate Democrats – to keep two potent progressive issues alive heading into a key election year.
Conservatives insist anger over the SAFE Act could fuel even a no-name recognition challenger to Cuomo like Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. But so far, it looks like the Senate Republicans have more to worry about than the governor does.