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Governor Cuomo says the Newtown shooting is “every parent’s worst nightmare"

WBFO News file photo
Governor Cuomo talks with reporters

Governor Andre Cuomo says federal gun laws need to be strengthened to prevent more shootings like the one in Newtown Connecticut, but he says New York State’s assault weapons ban has loopholes that need to be closed.Governor Cuomo, who says the Newtown shooting is “every parent’s worst nightmare”, says the state already has some of the toughest anti gun laws in the nation, so the focus should really be on the strengthening of federal laws.

The federal ban on assault weapons was allowed to lapse in 2004.  New York State has an anti assault weapons law on the books, but Cuomo says it’s outdated and needs to be tightened up.  For instance, the semi automatic weapon used in the Newtown shootings is legal in New York.

“There is no doubt that our assault weapon law has significant flaws and significant loopholes,” said Cuomo, who  says the list of weapons and magazine cartridges banned under the law have not been updated since 1994. 

The governor  says he does not plan to add anti gun measures to his “litmus test”  of issues he released several days ago, and wants the new Senate governing coalition to accomplish. The coalition includes all of the Senate’s  Republicans, who have traditionally not been as receptive to gun control. The governor did leave open the possibility that he could add some proposals to his State of the State message in January.    

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, agrees that the state’s assault weapons ban needs to be modernized to account for new types of weapons and ammunition.

“I hate to use a tragedy in this fashion, but the reality is, we have to stop the proliferation of guns,” Silver said.  

Speaker Silver says he intends to push the new coalition of around 30 Republicans and the five Democrats in the Independent Democratic Conference to adopt bills like child safety locks for guns, and micro stamping of bullets to better investigate criminal shootings.

In statements after the Newtown shooting on Friday, IDC Leader Senator Jeff Klein said we must “continue to reevaluate the place of guns in our state and our society”

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, who will jointly lead the new Senate governing coalition with Senator Klein, says he’s interested in pursuing measures to “curb illegal gun use by increasing penalties and enacting mandatory minimum sentences”. Skelos says most gun crimes are committed by people illegally possessing guns.

Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus, says approving stricter gun laws in New York can set an example for the rest of the nation.

“We can pass laws that can both have an impact and symbolically send a message to the rest of the country ,” said Camara.

Governor Cuomo says there other steps that need to be taken as well, in response to the recent spate of mass shootings. He says the mental health system needs to be re examined, to determine whether society is being adequately protected.  And he says society needs to address the current propensity for violence.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.