New York’s gun control laws already were among the toughest in the nation. As of this week, it looks like the regulations will get even tougher. The New York State Senate and Assembly passed six gun control bills Jan. 29, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign into law.
Supporters of the proposed regulations range from legal professionals to medical and mental health professionals, survivors and victims, educators and parents.
In Albany, however, support for the bills was largely along party lines. Democrats voted in favor, including two representing Scarsdale — Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Republicans and others who oppose the proposals view the legislation as too restrictive of Second Amendment rights to “keep and bear arms.” But if they take a closer look, it’s clear these measures won’t violate gun owners’ rights.
One of the six bills prohibits the carrying of firearms on school property with some exceptions — security officers, school resource officers and police — and prevents school districts from arming teachers. That doesn’t infringe on the right of people to own a gun. It leaves the job of securing schools to trained law enforcement personnel, rather than arm those who are tasked with educating our children, and thereby will help prevent firearm accidents at schools.
Another bill, the so-called “Red Flag” bill, allows law enforcement officers to take firearms away from anyone who poses an extreme risk to himself or another. This is intended to prevent gun-related suicides and domestic gun violence. It also empowers teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention for high-risk individuals. A violation of rights? No, because due process remains in place — strong evidence and a court order are required to restrict the person’s access to guns. What’s more, the restriction is temporary — the person can appeal the ruling and win back his or her right to own a gun if the risk subsides.
Another proposal extends the wait-period from three to 10 days (in some cases up to 30 days), allowing for a more thorough investigation of the background of a potential gun purchaser. It makes sense to make people wait. When is there urgency to possess a weapon? Why not wait?
Another item in the legislative package will permanently ban bump stocks — devices that turn semiautomatic rifles into rapid-fire weapons — in New York State. It’s a vital measure that will protect public safety and would have little impact on most gun owners. It was one measure that was supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The passage of these bills illustrates the strength of our system of government, which grants states the power to act when the federal government is recalcitrant, as it has been vis-a-vis proposals for stricter gun regulations.
Among the loudest opponents to changes in gun rules is the National Rifle Association. But it wasn’t always that way. The NRA was established after the Civil War to educate and train soldiers, hunters and other marksmen. In the 1930s, prompted by prohibition, and again in the 1960s, after the high profile assassinations of that era, the NRA supported the enactment and enforcement of gun regulations. Today the NRA educates its members in the safe and proper use of arms, however, its primary purpose has shifted to political activism and they have become one of the nation’s most influential lobbies. The NRA’s 5 million members should get the organization to return to its roots and redirect its energies to support common sense gun safety instead of lobbying against all gun control efforts solely on the basis of Second Amendment rights.
Meanwhile, we applaud our state legislature for taking a stand to protect our safety by passing these common sense initiatives.