Cuomo Champions Stricter Gun Laws

The Democratic-controlled New York State Legislature passed a package of six bills aimed at making the state’s gun laws stricter last Tuesday. 

These measures included legislation that would make it illegal to sell and manufacture bump stocks, devices that can tranform semiautomatic weapons into fully-automatic rifles. 

The legislation passed quickly through the Assembly and the Senate since Democrats regained control in the November elections. Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has expressed his support for the legislation and is expected to sign it into law.

“There is a solution, and we have six years of history to show that the planet does not stop spinning, people don’t lose guns, it doesn’t bankrupt an industry,” Cuomo said at a state Capitol news conference with anti-gun violence advocates.

This legislation was the first gun-control legislation approved in Albany since Cuomo’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act in 2013. The SAFE Act passed just weeks after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“New York is pretty famous across the country for having pretty good gun control laws,” said psychology professor and founding member of Move Forward New York, Glenn Geher. “I think that it’s really unfortunate that as a nation we’re not able to have sensible gun laws. About 30,000 people a year in this country die from gun violence and I’m sure some percentage of them would die from other violence if guns were not around, but there’s no question that the availability of guns is part of the problem.”

Fourth-year sociology and psychology major Ellie Condelles said that the common misconception is that gun control advocates want to get rid of all guns. This, she said, is simply not true.

“Gun control is an absolute necessity in our country, no exceptions,” she said. “We place more regulations on driving a car, or to be frank, a woman’s right to her own body, than we do on machines designed to kill. Every other developed nation has some form of gun control; the stats show that it quite literally saves lives.”

Under the current state law, districts can decide whether to allow teachers and other school employees to carry guns in school. One bill would prohibit anyone other than a law-enforcement officer, school resource officer or other security personnel from carrying a firearm while on school property. 

The package of bills also includes measures to create a municipal gun buyback program. Additionally it would extend the waiting period from three to 30 days for individuals who do not pass the instant background check.

Condelles said that the entire package of bills is comprehensive but she believes this extension will be the most effective.

“The recent spat of mass shootings over the past year have been perpetrated by individuals who by no means should have had access to weaponry, but lax background checks made this possible,” she said. “Moreover, individuals with a history of domestic violence, suicidal tendencies or other mental health issues will likely be prevented from purchasing arms through this more comprehensive system.”

There also is a measure called a “red flag” bill that would authorize law enforcement, parents, teachers and school administrators to ask a judge to evaluate a child who they believe is a threat to themselves or others. The judge would then have the power to order the confiscation of firearms in the child’s home. 

The “red flag” bill was the most debated of the package. California, Washington, Indiana and Connecticut also have similar provisions in place to prevent high-risk people from obtaining guns. Condelles said that it is necessary to exercise caution with this law as it could stigmatize those with mental illness and contribute to racial profiling.

Geher said that of all the new laws, this one may be in need of some calibrating. He added that how it is implemented procedurally will be important to avoid issues of discrimination. 

“When you look at what happened in Parkland, Florida and several other instances if there had been a law like that they probably really could have circumvented catastrophe,” he said. “So it’s like a classic human rights issue up against a security issue, but I’m supportive of it in spirit because of the problems we’ve had in this country.”