Jun 23rd - 7:54 pm
In Buffalo Thursday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, D, pointed to the Orlando, Fla. mass shooting as an example of exactly why New York state passed the SAFE Act. He said the AR-15, gunman Omar Mateen bought legally in Florida and used to murder dozens of people, can’t be purchased in New York.
“In Orlando a bad guy got the gun because they have lax laws.” he said.
Schneiderman held the press conference just days after announcing the largest gun bust in the state since the gun control legislation was passed in 2013. He said state police have seized the majority of more than 100 illegal guns sold by a Rochester-area gun shop.
“We don’t know how many lives we’ve saved by getting these guns off the streets but we know that we’ll do everything that we possibly can in my office, working with our colleagues in government to ensure that nothing like Orlando happens in the state of New York,” he said.
The main defendant is former shop owner Kordell Jackson, who has been an outspoken critic of the SAFE Act. Jackson closed his shop in January 2015 because he said the legislation was too restrictive for his business to continue to be viable in New York.
At his court appearance Tuesday, Jackson’s attorney said the law was not intended to target people like his client.
“I think no one ever contemplated that someone who was licensed by the ATF, monitored by the state, who had over half of his customers law enforcement, either active or retired law enforcement people purchasing from him, would be in a situation like this now,” defense attorney Paul Ciminelli said.
“These people feigned ignorance,” Schneiderman said. “They said, well we’re confused by the SAFE Act but then witnesses were able to report that they knew in great detail what the SAFE Act required, what features of guns had to be changed before they could be sold.”
While applauding his state partners, the AG also criticized the federal government for making his life harder. He said because federal laws are weak, illegal guns are bought in other states and brought into New York.
“This really is a problem where our federal government is worse than the American people deserve,” he said.
Jun 22nd - 12:19 pm
A day after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office had charged three Rochester-area men for selling more than 100 assault rifles, which are illegal under New York’s S.A.F.E. Act, Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again spoke highly of the gun control laws Wednesday.
“There are always people who violate the law, but at least we now have a law that bans assault rifles in the state of New York,” he said.
Cuomo said the S.A.F.E. Act was passed primarily to address these kinds of weapons. He said, while he’s a shotgun owner himself, he sees no reason for anybody to have a gun capable of rattling off numerous rounds in a matter of seconds.
“You don’t go hunting with 40 bullets. That’s the way it’s always been. These assault weapons were weapons that were designed by the military and have a tremendous killing capacity,” he said.
The governor said the federal government needs to follow New York’s lead in banning assault rifles. Following this month’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., the U.S. Senate brought up but failed to pass four different bills addressing gun control.
“How many incidents do we need where you see people who just should not have a gun have found easy access to an assault weapon that has given them a tremendous capacity to kill,” Cuomo said.
Jun 21st - 1:42 pm
A plurality of state lawmakers in the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate have received “above average” distinctions from the gun control group, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
The group on Tuesday released its legislative score cards for the 213 members of the Legislature on Tuesday, using three measurements: Their vote on the 2013 SAFE Act, the unsuccessful effort in 2015 to repeal it in the Senate and whether the lawmaker is a sponsor of a safe-storage bill, known as Nicholas’s Law.
In the Assembly, 44 legislators were given “fail” grades; 20 given a news improvement and 78 were rated above average.
In the 63-member Senate, 23 lawmakers received a “fail” while nine were rated needs improvement. Two were rated average, while 27 were rated above average.
The full rankings can be found here.
“At the end of the 2016 legislative session and after last week’s massacre in Orlando, it is important that voters know where their legislators stand on gun safety. The 2013 SAFE Act strengthened New York’s gun laws by closing the private sale loophole and toughening the assault weapons ban. These are common sense laws that need to be passed by Congress if we are to begin to address our national epidemic of gun violence.”
The rankings come just over a week after a man who says he was inspired by the Islamic State shot 49 people to death at an Orlando night club.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has focused in recent months on pushing Congress to adopt tougher gun control laws, saying states with looser measures in place have resulted in illegal weapons coming into New York.
Jun 20th - 4:52 pm
This evening the U.S. Senate will consider several proposals aimed at addressing gun violence. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has openly supported Democratic bills including one that expands the background check requirement to gun shows and online purchases and another that would stop anyone who’s been on the federal terrorism watch list in the past five years from purchasing a gun.
“I’m hopeful we can get this passed tonight and there are some people working on a compromise. I’m open to a compromise. As long as it doesn’t let the terrorists get guns, I’m willing to look at any way to do it,” Schumer said in Rochester Monday.
The senator said while he has great respect for the “spectrum of views” on gun control, he believes it’s clear people under suspicion of terrorism should not be able to purchase firearms.
“We’re in a new world. We’ve seen that with Orlando. We’ve seen that with San Bernadino. These lone wolves, these are disaffected people and ISIS preys on their mind and then tells them on their own to just go out and kill people and the easiest quickest way for them to kill a lot of people is with guns,” he said.
Schumer also doesn’t believe the proposals are unconstitutional. He points out there are already restrictions for felons, people convicted of spousal abuse and the mentally ill.
“Every amendment has reasonable limitations and it seems the most reasonable of all is to say a terrorist shouldn’t get a gun, would-be terrorist,” he said.
Feb 17th - 3:33 pm
A new bill that would establish a Gun Violence Research Fund would be paid for by gun owners themselves.
The bill from State Senator Brad Hoylman would add an additional $5 fee on top of each gun sale. That $5 would be collected from vendors, reported, and added to the Gun Violence Research Fund.
The fund would be managed by the state, with money going to the Department of Health and the State University of New York. They would use the fund to award grants for research on gun violence and how to prevent gun-related deaths.
In the sponsor’s memo, Hoylman says the fund would be established to make progress where the federal government has fallen short. Congress has not allocated significant funding toward gun violence research in more than a decade.
Hoylman compares gun deaths to fatal car accidents in his memo, saying Congress has allocated money to research car safety, but not gun violence.
The fund would not request any additional money from the state budget, only the amount collected from gun owners. The bill was has also been introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Matt Titone.
Feb 16th - 2:58 pm
Gia Arnold, a former candidate for state senate, had her first court appearance today in Niagara Falls for charges relating to the SAFE Act.
Arnold was arrested last week with 18-year-old Halim Johnson during a traffic stop in which police found the pair in possession of a weapon that allegedly violated the SAFE Act. Arnold was also charged with public obstruction after police say she tried to speak with Johnson during the stop.
In court today, Arnold’s attorney argued that both charges be thrown out. James Ostrowski, a Buffalo-area attorney, is representing Arnold.
“There was no indication in the allegations that it was an assault weapon,” Ostrowski said, referring to one of the two guns found in the vehicle. Police said last week they found an AR-15 rifle, a magazine for that gun, an additional handgun, and a combat knife during the traffic stop.
As for the obstruction charge, Ostrowski told reporters after court that Arnold was not acting illegally when she spoke during the stop. Police said last week that she was trying to speak to Johnson during the stop, but Ostrowski says Arnold is charged for speaking to the police while they are trying to speak to Johnson.
“She’s charged with speaking to the police and that’s protected speech under the first amendment. It’s not obstruction. It’s just not,” Ostrowski said. “You can talk to the police in America – until further notice, I guess.”
Opponents of the SAFE Act were also at the court appearance to support Arnold. One man was wearing a black T-shirt that read ‘REPEAL NY’S S.A.F.E. ACT’.
When asked by reporters what he thought of the case, he simply responded “Yeah, honor the second amendment.” He did not respond to additional requests for an interview.
“There’s interest in the case from people who oppose the SAFE Act, who believe it’s unconstitutional, as do I,” Ostrowski said, referring to the guests. “But I’m not going to comment any further.”
Arnold is out of jail on $1,500 cash bail, which was lowered from an initial $5,000.
Feb 12th - 3:27 pm
Former New York State Senate candidate Gia Arnold was arrested for criminal possession of a weapon and obstructing governmental administration. The Niagara Falls Police Department said officers found an AR-15 assault rifle and magazine, a handgun, a K-Bar combat knife and a black half ski mask in Arnold’s vehicle during a traffic stop.
Arnold ran for NY’s 62nd Senate District in 2014 on an anti-SAFE Act platform. Then a 24-year-old mother of three, she dropped out of the race after admitting she cheated on her husband but stepped back into the race a week later.
Niagara Falls police said Arnold was a passenger in her vehicle with 18-year-old Halim Johnson driving. Officers said they noticed both occupants moving around and one of them reaching under the seat as they approached the vehicle.
According to a friend who set up a crowd-funding page, Arnold’s bail was set at $5,000 when she was arraigned Thursday morning. Because of the government holiday, he said bonds are not available and she remains in the Niagara County Holding Center until the full bail can be posted.
The same friend said the AR-15 was non-compliant under the SAFE Act but would not have been illegal before the law was passed. He also alleged that the officers profiled Arnold’s boyfriend, Johnson, because he was black.
But some of Arnold’s supporters during her failed senate campaign were not as quick to back her up on Friday. Tea Party activist Rus Thompson said he was concerned for Arnold but didn’t want to make any comment about the situation until he had all the details about what happened.
Meanwhile, former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who attended Arnold’s announcement when she entered the senate race in 2014, had even less to say. When called for comment, he asked who Arnold was.
Oct 19th - 1:34 pm
The ruling, issue by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, also upheld a Connecticut gun control law that, along with New York’s SAFE Act, had been approved in the wake of an elementary school shooting in December 2012.
“We hold that the core provisions of the New York and Connecticut laws prohibiting possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines do not violate the Second Amendment, and that the challenged individual provisions are not void for vagueness,” the ruling found.
Still, the ruling is only a partial victory for gun-control advocates. A key and controversial provision of the SAFE Act, which limits magazines capable of holding 10 rounds to seven bullets, was found to be unconstitutional, a finding that upholds a lower court’s determination. More >
Jul 29th - 3:57 pm
The memorandum of understanding reached by Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to not enact an ammunition purchasing database was a common-sense reform to the controversial SAFE Act gun control law.
That’s according to Sen. James Seward and Majority Leader John Flanagan, who met earlier this morning at the Otesaga Resort and Hotel, part of the downstate leader’s re-introduction to upstate New York.
“Until anything changes in the future, that section of the law under agreement is suspended,” Seward said of the two-way agreement.
The MOU has done little to assuage the concerns of some gun-rights advocates, who have pushed for a full repeal of the law — a prospect that is unlikely given the Democratic control of the Assembly as well as the governorship.
But given the political realities, Seward said the MOU was at the moment the best the GOP conference could achieve. More >
Jul 13th - 1:48 pm
The controversy continuing to swirl over the memorandum of understanding between the Senate GOP and the Cuomo administration that appears to halt (at least for the moment) development of the SAFE Act’s ammunition database really hinges on one central question: Does the document have any legal standing?
Zack Fink touched on this question in his blog post/memo item earlier today, noting that the MOU appears to try to subvert a law passed by two houses of the Legislature and signed by the governor through a non-legally binding agreement between one house of the Legislature and a top Cuomo aide – something that, at least to my memory, has never been done before.
The Cuomo administration has repeatedly insisted that this MOU does not other than codify an already existing situation. The database doesn’t yet exist due to the fact that the State Police, which is charged with creating it, has said it is incapable at this time of bringing it to fruition.
According to the governor’s office, the database project is still ongoing – although when, exactly, it will be up and running remains a mystery, and how it can get up and running without the say-so of the Senate GOP – which isn’t likely to approve as long as it controls the chamber – is also under.
The Assembly and Senate Democrats say they’re investigating their options for a potential legal challenge to the MOU. Over the weekend, I made some calls, looking for someone who would be able to opine on whether this thing has a legal leg to stand on, and the response I encountered (as so often occurs in these cases) was: Ask your Dad. (That would be Dr. Gerald Benjamin, a SUNY New Paltz political science professor and expert on all things state government related).
So, I did. And here’s what he said:
The executive has discretion in enforcement of the law. By analogy, if a budgeted program is demonstrated to be ineffective or suspect, he or she may not spend the money pending revision or investigation. No MOU is constitutionally required with either house or both houses for such an action to be taken, though it may be sought for political purposes. In fact, entering into an MOU may provide a troublesome precedent for the executive branch at a later time.”
“(State Operations Director Jim Malatras’) signature suggests that this is an administrative matter, and may be a hedge against precedent. The governor did not sign.”
“Conditioning resumption of administration of a law on one house approval is suspect. If approval is withheld by the Senate, that portion of the law is effectively rendered void. This constitutes a de-facto one house legislative repeal. It also gives away executive authority; precedent again. Repealing the law requires the conventional process: action by both houses and gubernatorial approval.”