Gun control

Astorino’s Pro-Gun, Anti-Gannett Appeal

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.

Rob Astorino fundraising appeal, hits Gannett for publication of pistol permit information. by liz_benjamin6490

State Judge Upholds SAFE Act

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.

Judgment by Nick Reisman

Gun-Control Group Backs Klein Measure

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.

Gun Control Advocates Push 2014 Agenda

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.”

2014GunSafetyLegislativeAgendaBackgroundInfo by Nick Reisman

The SAFE Act, One Year Later

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.”

Gun-Rights Groups File Notice Of Appeal In SAFE Act Suit (Updated)

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.

GS #2550021 v1 Notice of Appeal Draft by Nick Reisman

A Merger For Bloomberg’s Gun Control Group

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.

Cuomo, Klein Tout SAFE Act In Newtown Remembrance (Updated)

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.”

NY’s Gun Control Rating Bumped Up To An A-

newmap

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.

Klein Blasts Firearm Group’s Comments

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.