Legislature eyes expansion of gun control

Cuomo

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday his support for stringent gun control measures is so strong that he wants to see it mentioned in the first paragraph of the eulogy that will be given when he dies.

Cuomo's provocative statement in a public radio interview, addressing a topic that divides the state along regional lines, came on the eve of what is expected to be the passage of several pieces of legislation designed to expand on the controversial gun restrictions he signed following the massacre of school children and teachers at a Connecticut school in 2012.

Cuomo said he is prepared for legal challenges that could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. But he predicted that even if his administration loses the legal fight it will be vindicated in the court of public opinion.

"We are the inverse of where Washington is," he said in a reference to the administration of President Donald Trump. "They are going extreme conservative and we are going progressive."

One of the measures that supporters expect to be approved Tuesday by both the Senate and Assembly is "red flag" legislation aimed at allowing police to temporarily seize guns from individuals who show signs of being a danger to themselves or others.

The proposal favored by Cuomo would give teachers standing to request that guns be taken away from a person believed to be unstable. Similar measures have been adopted by at least six states since a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at a school in Parkland, Florida, last February.

The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legal Action urged lawmakers to reject the measures favored by Cuomo, calling the bundle of bills "nothing more than extreme political pandering to his extreme anti-gun base."

The NRA group singled out the red flag legislation as "one of the more dangerous in the package," predicting it will become a "widely used instrument to take away someone’s constitutional rights with little or no due process."

Such measures had been routinely blocked when the Senate was under GOP control, many of them representing New York's upstate and suburban regions. The Senate swung to Democratic control in last November's "blue wave" elections.

Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said that a "secondary" consequence of the measures will be new "burdens" on police and prosecutors.

"I don't even believe that's constitutional on its face," Ortt said of the proposed safe-storage mandate.

 

But Rebecca Fischer, director of the advocacy group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said she is optimistic that the storage proposal, the red flag bill and the other gun control measures will have enough  votes to pass.

As for the protocol that would lead to gun seizures under the red flag bill, she said, "We're not talking about confiscating guns from law-abiding people. There is a very high standing of proof. There are several due process protections built very closely into this bill."

Another proposal advancing at the statehouse would ban rapid fire modification devices on firearms known as bump stocks. Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said such devices have already been regulated out of existence by federal law reclassifying them as machine guns. New York, he added, has banned machine guns for at least 80 years.

King also questioned the red flag proposal, arguing that individuals who challenge the confiscation of their weapons may have to pay as much as $15,000 in legal expenses before their guns are returned to them.

Lawmakers are also being asked to impose a ban on school teachers being armed in classrooms and lengthen the period for background checks for gun purchases.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com