Local Lawmakers Speak Out on Gun Legislation
Assemblyman Andrew Raia
New York State recently passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Act (SAFE). Some feel this was too reactionary and not really addressing the issue at hand, while others feel this is the direction we should be heading in to increase safety in our communities and schools.
Assemblyman Chad Luinacci stated, “With the Governor leading the charge, the New York State Legislature recently proposed and passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE). The initiative’s intent was to curb firearms-related crimes while simultaneously protecting the rights of law-abiding and responsible gun owners. Preventing future crimes and tragedies is something that all of us want to achieve in our society. However, because there is no panacea to the blight of crime and violence, lawmakers can only hope to make at least a positive dent through balanced legislative measures.”
County Executive Bellone praised Governor Cuomo’s efforts in taking charge of this issue. “I applaud Governor Cuomo’s NY SAFE ACT which provides comprehensive gun control measures assisting in making
Senator Carl Marcellino
our schools and communities safer. Governor Cuomo focused on common sense strategies to address the epidemic of gun violence, tackling this complex problem with real solutions. I’m proud that New York State is a national leader on this issue.”
While many felt it was the time to act in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, others believe this was a reactionary law which was not completely thought through. One specific criticism was that the Governor circumvented typical New York State law which requires a bill to age 3 days before being voted on.
Assemblyman Andy Raia who voted no to the bill stated, “Under New York State Law all legislative proposals are required to “age” on a legislator’s desk for three days. This is to enable legislators to read, digest, and seek comments from the public and professionals in a given policy area that the legislation may affect. The Governor has the ability to issue a “Certificate of Necessity” which waives the three day waiting period and enables the Senate and Assembly to immediately vote on legislation that the Governor presents to the Legislature. This legislation is not only about banning certain guns and external ammunition feeding devices, but also has a broad impact on the Mental Health and Education laws of New York State. Due to the complexity of this legislation and the fact that the legislation was crafted behind closed doors
Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci
with little or no input from rank and file legislators and no review and comment allowed by law enforcement, education, and mental health professionals across the state, I was compelled to vote against the legislation. Legislators are not allowed to abstain on votes unless there is a direct personal or business conflict, and not to vote at all would be violating my sworn Oath of Office.”
Senator Carl Marcellino stated, “The NY Safe Act legislation was negotiated between the Governor, the Senate and the Assembly. Waiving the three day aging period occurs quite regularly once bill language on large issues has been agreed on between the legislature and the Governor. In fact it has happened 35 times over the last two years on a wide variety of issues.”
Assemblyman Raia added, “First off, the legal process was not followed, and I do not believe that a rush to be the first in the Nation to pass defective gun control, mental health, and education measures without proper public and professional input is a reasonable reason to waive the three day waiting period on such a complex issue and piece of legislation.”
Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci who was recently elected to his first term in the state assembly voted for the Governor’s Bill. “Voting in the affirmative on this bill was not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination. I am a firm believer in the citizens’ rights to keep and bear arms, but I also recognized the citizens’ call for some reform to take place. The initial proposals put forth by both the Senate and the Assembly included many provisions that exceeded the stated goals of crime and violence prevention. Through the legislative process, I was able to be a part of a number of compromises that eliminated these excesses, thus ensuring the protection of both Second Amendment rights and community safety. My voting “yes” on the bill was the best means of preserving these aforementioned compromises, while simultaneously avoiding extreme measures that were overly restrictive – and even punitive – to law abiding citizens.”
Assemblyman Raia voted no to the bill. He stated, “There are many inconsistencies in the legislation as it was drafted and passed. For example, the law only requires about half of the semiautomatic weapons currently available in New York State to be banned or registered. The other half are still legally available and will never have to be registered with the State. Basically if the rifle has a pistol grip and an external ammunition feeding devise then it is now illegal to purchase, but not to own, but if the mechanical workings of the rifle are contained in a wood stock with no pistol or thumb hole grip, then it is not illegal nor does it have to be registered, even though, it fires the exact same ammunition and at the same rate as those rifles that are now illegal to purchase but not to own.” Raia continued, “Additionally, there is nothing in this legislation to stop people from legally traveling across state lines and purchasing large amounts of ammunition and legally bringing it back to New York without registering it.”
Senator Carl Marcellino voted in favor of the bill. He stated, “I attempt to represent every resident of the 5th Senate District. The fact is New York residents as a whole and more specifically, Long Islanders supported this new law in separate polls by more than 70%. The law represents a sensible solution to the problem of gun violence. The final product is a negotiated effort to produce a bill that rejected more than fifteen proposals that would have included such provisions as confiscation of assault weapons and ten round magazines, a stricter limitation on the number of rounds in the magazines, limiting the number of guns for purchase, and the enactment of fees to register the assault rifles to name just a few. Marcellino continued, “The law protects the rights of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families, and allows sportsmen to continue to target shoot and hunt.”
Another criticism made by Assemblyman Raia was, “the legislation was seventy pages long, amends numerous sections of law, adds several new sections, contains language that is very technical, and contains four different effective dates (immediately, 60 days, 90 days, and one year). Due to the fact that the legislation was quickly drafted and passed, many mistakes in the language are now being discovered; not to mention the lack of public and professional comment.”
Raia continued, “In the rush to pass this legislation, the Governor and Legislative Leaders also forgot to add many exemptions for our law enforcement officials. As passed, this legislation would prohibit police officers from stepping foot on school property with their gun. The guns that they carry can also only legally contain seven rounds of ammunition as opposed to the normal fifteen rounds that many normally carry. The Legislature will have to pass numerous amendments to this law to correct the mistakes in drafting.”
Marcellino stated, “I support efforts that are currently underway to include language in a Chapter Amendment that will specifically exempt law enforcement from the provisions of the bill.”
Assemblyman Raia continued, “I am also very concerned with the mental health aspects of this legislation, and its impact on veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. As noted before, mental health professionals were not consulted prior to the passage of this legislation and my office has been flooded with concerns from mental health professionals who are worried that returning veterans will not seek help for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder out of fear of having their rifle taken away from them. The very same rifle that has kept them safe during their tour of duty.”
While Assemblyman Lupinacci believes there were some flaws in the bill he also believes there are some very positive provisions in the legislation. These included: 1) cracking down on those who possess, sell or use illegal guns; 2) increasing criminal penalties on individuals who bring firearms onto school premises (including on buses); 3) increasing the ability of Kendra’s Law to better ensure that those suffering from mental illness get the services that they need; 4) strengthening RICO statutes to further enable the prosecution of individuals who utilize illegal firearms in gang-related activities; 5) imposing life prison sentences for those convicted of killing first responders; 6) reimbursing schools for measures taken to make their facilities more secure; and 7) providing confidentiality to pistol permit holders.
Assemblyman Lupinacci continued, “To be sure, the bill that became law is not a perfect piece of legislation; there are already some proposed amendments in the works, for example, to exempt law enforcement and other entities from certain provisions. Also, complete enforcement of the law will pose a challenge to both citizens and government agencies. With all this being said, tweaking our laws is only part of the overall societal response that is needed to make our communities safer. Therefore, I would like to be part of – and encourage – new initiatives led by the community that promote non-violence and better address mental health concerns. Despite all of these inherent obstacles, we as New Yorkers can surmount them as we do in every other challenging situation.”
We asked the lawmakers to address how this will prevent another Newton nightmare. Assemblyman Raia responded, “I do not believe it will. I believe that in the haste to make headlines, The Governor and Legislative Leaders drafted and passed into law legislation that is fundamentally flawed. There are major concerns in the areas of law enforcement, mental health, and education that need to be openly discussed by the professionals in those areas and the Legislature needs to return to Albany and vote on amendments to this law that will in fact keep New Yorker’s safe. Keep in mind that there are well over one million military type rifles currently owned by New York residents.”
Senator Marcellino stated, “The truth is there is no way to guarantee another tragedy won’t happen. I wish there was, but that is no excuse to do nothing. No law is perfect, but I believe this law will protect our residents in their schools, homes and neighborhoods.”
Marcellino continued, “Many of the recent tragedies were carried out by individuals suffering from mental illness. That’s why the law contains a mental health piece strengthening Kendra’s Law that would keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others, and provides needed treatment to these patients.”
“We also fought to improve school safety to protect students and teachers. The State will now reimburse school districts which put in place enhanced security features like hardened doors, electric security systems, security cameras and stationary metal detectors”, continued Marcellino.
Marcellino said, “The new law contains a series of tough, anti-crime measures, such as increased penalties for anyone who uses a gun in the commission of a crime or brings a gun onto school grounds.
At this point, Police are not exempt from the law. It is possible for a criminal to show up with many rounds of ammunition and legally police are only permitted 7 rounds. To this point Raia stated, “I agree, this is just one of many examples of how rushed and poorly drafted legislation can cause more harm than good. The Legislature will be forced to amend and re-vote on many provisions contained in this flawed and complex law”.
Raia continued, “It should also be noted that as drafted and passed into law, a police officer is not legally allowed to step foot on school property with their gun because the legislation failed to exempt them.”
The New York State Sheriffs Association issued this statement after the passage of the legislation. “Many law enforcement groups, who are responsible for enforcing the laws the Legislature enacts, were not given the opportunity to comment prior to the legislation’s passage. “It is the view of the Sheriffs’ Association that anytime government decides it is necessary or desirable to nibble around the edges of a Constitutional right that it should only be done with caution and with great respect for the Constitutional boundaries. It should only be done if the benefit to be gained is so great and certain that it far outweighs the damage done by the constriction of individual liberty. While many of the provisions of this bill have surface appeal, it is far from certain that all, or even many, of them will have any significant effect in reducing gun violence, which is the presumed goal of all of us. Unfortunately, the process used in adoption of this Act did not permit the mature development of the arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling ignored by their government. Even those thrilled with the passage of this legislation should be concerned about the process used to secure its passage, for the next time they may find themselves the victim of that same process.”