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Gun control measures approved in New York

Karen DeWitt

The New York State legislature built on the state’s 2013 gun control laws Tuesday, and are passing  measures to extend the waiting period for background checks for some purchasers,  and forbidding teachers from bringing guns to school.

At a news conference before  the gun control measures were voted on, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there have been 27 incidents of mass shootings in the US  already in 2019.

“Every day, it seems, we wake up to the headlines of another mass shooting, another horrific gun crime,” Stewart- Cousins said.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says “thoughts and prayers” are not enough. He says the bills will permit judges to issue an “extreme risk protection order” to authorize police to temporarily remove guns from a household if a person in the home is deemed by a school official or law enforcement to be a potential danger to themselves or others.

“And keep a person who is a threat to themselves or others from possessing a gun for up to one year,” Heastie said.

Another measure extends the waiting period for background checks for gun purchasers for up to 30 days. Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins says the background checks of 91% of gun purchasers take only a few minutes, but for around 9%, there are questions raised. Under the current law, those purchasers are often sold the guns anyway.

“The FBI even says that it takes at least 25 days,” she said. “We want to expand it so that all the appropriate checks will be done.”

The legislation further restricts bump stocks, the devices used to turn semiautomatic weapons into machine guns and used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting where 58 people were killed.  The use of bump stocks are already forbidden, now the sale and possession of the devices will be banned.   

Another measure prohibits teachers from being asked by school administrators to bring guns to school to protect the students. The parents of Parkland Florida school shooting victim Scott Beigel are among the supporters.  Beigel, a Long Island native who was a geography teacher and cross country coach at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School died saving his students from a mass shooter on February 14, 2018.

His mother Linda Beigel Schulman says her son would never have wanted to have to bring a weapon to his class room .

“Arming teachers is something that to me is  ridiculous,” Beigel Schuman said. “He would never have wanted to be armed.”

In the Senate, Republican Senators objected to the ban on teachers carrying weapons. Senator Andrew Lanza says the bill restricts local control of schools, and  the Second Amendment rights of New Yorkers.  And he calls the bill a “red herring”, that won’t keep school children safe.

“My fear, as long as we keep talking about bills like this, that is that the only people carrying guns in schools are going to be the bad guys, and that’s a problem,” said Lanza. “And this bill does not address that.”

The bill does continue to permit school safety officers to carry guns.

Nearly all of the 23 GOP Senators voted against many of the gun control measures.  Although ten Republican Senators did vote in favor a measure to aid gun buy -back programs.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who championed the 2013 gun control laws known as the SAFE Act, and convinced the then- Republican led State Senate to pass it, met with victims of gun violence before the vote. Cuomo appealed to opponents of the bills, saying the measures don’t impinge on the second amendment.  

“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. None of those myths that they scare you with come true,” Cuomo said. “ They're just commonsense reforms”.

Cuomo has promised to sign the bills.

Legislative leaders say they are still vetting more gun control legislation.  The bills include including a ban on guns manufactured in 3-D printers, and a law that requires guns to be stored in a secure location.

“This is not an every six year exercise,” Stewart- Cousins said.