Statewide chatter about new gun control legislation amplified Saturday with state Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos introducing a bill that seems popular with his members but appears to fall short of what Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants.
A crackdown on assault weapons and illegal guns and stricter penalties for people who use guns in crimes are the central provisions of the proposal by Skelos, R-Rockville Centre. This came on the heels of a push by Senate Republicans on Friday to expand the treatment of mentally ill people, which they argued could potentially prevent psychotic killings.
“We need to target illegal guns so innocent people don’t become targets for criminals who have them,” Skelos said.
His statement cited a vast majority of gun crimes done with out-of-state guns and noted that last year alone, there were 3,443 illegal guns seized in New York City.
Additionally, he has stressed that any talks about gun safety must include a conversation about treating people with severe mental illness.
In response to Skelos’ proposal, Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said Saturday in a statement, “Any gun policy that does not ban assault weapons ignores the reality of gun violence and insults the common sense of New Yorkers.”
Cuomo is expected to lay out a gun control proposal Wednesday in his State of the State address and will likely include a new ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Complicating this issue in the state Senate is the fact that the coalition running the chamber, Republicans and breakaway Democrats, is divided on the issue. Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, the leader of the breakaway Democrats, is in step with Cuomo and wants to see a comprehensive assault weapon restriction.
Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, argued that the proposals from Skelos are the appropriate response in the wake of recent shootings in Connecticut and western New York — both of which included the use of a military-style rifle — and expressed concerns about gun control legislation that was too intrusive.
Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, described the plan as a good first step that should be accompanied by changes to the mental health and criminal justice system.
“Law-abiding gun users are not the problem,” Seward said,
Freshman Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, said Cuomo’s approach was too restrictive and described the plan from Skelos as the right approach to preventing future gun violence.
It’s unlikely the Assembly would settle for the plan from Skelos, as they have traditionally favored restricting access to guns and ammunition.
Freshman Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, expressed qualms about any attempt to curb gun violence with tougher criminal penalties,
“Criminal sanctions occur after the fact and do not prevent tragedy,” he said. “Criminal sanctions have a limited deterrent effect because the people who commit these heinous crimes are not thinking about the sanctions or they would not engage in these actions.”
Based on this train of thought, Steck said he would like to see the state adopt more preventative measures, like limiting high-capacity clips.
Farley said it is likely some sort of compromise will be reached soon, with Cuomo likely playing a leading role.
“This is all part of the negotiation process,” Farley said.
Any compromise that includes microstamping, a process of identifying the gun that fired any bullets, would be troubling to Farley, who worries the process isn’t effective and could cause gun manufacturers to leave the state. In particular, he pointed to Remington Arms — which has a huge production facility in the Herkimer County village of Ilion — as a gun manufacturer that would be unable to afford to do business in New York if microstamping were required.