ALBANY — The state Legislature passed a comprehensive package of gun reform legislation Tuesday, including extending the waiting period for background checks from three days to 30 days.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking advantage of the new Democratic leadership in the state Senate to pass his agenda, including stricter gun reforms, which he outlined earlier this month in his priorities for the first 100 days of the legislative session that started Jan. 9.
The package contains multiple key bills, including legislation that will extend the waiting period for background check results from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System from three days to 30 days.
“I was just at a gun show in Albany and there was a lot of animosity towards Cuomo,” said Joe Nastke, who owns Shooters Sporting Goods in Valatie. “New York already has the strictest gun restrictions in the union.”
Nastke started his business with his family and said the extension of the waiting period will hurt his small business.
“I can personally live with the current restrictions,” Nastke said. “Why do we need more restrictions on law-abiding citizens? What will be gained by making people wait another 30 days? I think it will hurt mom-and-pop stores like mine.”
The extension is superfluous, Nastke said, arguing that a person trying to buy a gun in New York already has to be approved by a judge to own a pistol permit to even be eligible to purchase a handgun and must go through a background check.
“The form that people have to fill out for the background check is extensive,” Nastke said. “I think anything unnecessary should be unconstitutional.”
This legislation has been a long time coming, said Lt. Col. Steve May, a member of the Philmont Rod and Gun Club’s board of directors. May served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to 1970 and the Army National Guard from 1975 to 2003.
“They are taking the Democrats’ 1994 anti-gun platform, dusting it off and bringing it forward one by one,” May said. “They are going to ram these things through now that they have the majority in the Legislature.”
Democrats have the majority in both houses of the state Legislature since winning enough seats in the historically Republican-held Senate in the 2018 election.
“The bad legislation rammed through today by the Senate Democratic Majority continues a troubling pattern of New York State trying to erode our Second Amendment rights,” said state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43. “Some of the bills enacted today were unnecessary because they are already outlawed by existing federal statutes. Others were poorly written with zero public hearings or opportunity for gun owners to have their voices heard.”
Cuomo held a meeting with gun-reform advocates in Albany before the vote Tuesday, at which he called the package of legislation common-sense reforms that follow a similar national tradition dating back to the early 20th century when machine guns were made illegal.
“The nation is still unable to deal with this issue and politicians are still afraid of this issue,” Cuomo said. “And there’s a deep-seated fear that once government starts to act on guns, well, now the slippery slope and they’re going to outlaw guns and this is what this is really about. They want to outlaw guns and once you give them a little piece, then it’s going to take off from there. All garbage.”
After the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed 20 children and six adults, Cuomo pushed the Legislature, then with a Republican majority in the Senate, to pass the SAFE Act, which imposed the strictest gun-law reforms in the country.
“We did it six years ago,” Cuomo said. “Hunters, sport people, still have their guns. Nobody’s gun was taken away. It’s done nothing but good.”
May argued that recent mass shootings such as the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, when Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, killed 26 people at a Baptist church, shows failures of the system to enforce the laws already on the books.
“He was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force and should have been flagged, but it was not reported properly,” May said. “Enforcement is the problem. Laws are only as good as they are enforced. We do not need new laws.”
The package also includes:
- A ban on bump stocks, which gives guns the ability to rapid fire, something the federal government outlawed at the end of 2018.
- A law that allows the court to order the temporary removal of guns from the possession of people deemed a risk to themselves or others.
- A ban on school personnel other than law enforcement officers and security guards from carrying a gun on school property.
- A prohibition of the ownership, manufacturing or sale of guns created by a 3-D printer.
- Create a Firearm Violence Research Institute in the State University of New York system.
- Require the state police to implement a gun buy-back program.
“The provisions in the firearms legislation proposed in bills the Senate and Assembly plan to vote on today do nothing to make any New Yorker safer,” said Larry DiDonato, of Durham, an outdoors columnist for Columbia-Greene Media. “They do not combat criminal gun violence whatsoever. In fact, several of the proposed bills make New York residents less safe.”
Republican state legislators came out in force Tuesday to object to the new reforms.
“As a life-long gun owner I am always skeptical of gun-control legislation, especially in a legislative session already overburdened with a progressive agenda,” Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, said. “Yes, sensible gun control is something we should talk about, but New York already has some of the most oppressive gun laws in the state. If we were really serious about keeping people safe and protecting their lives, we’d look specifically towards the illegal handgun issue.”
The legislation advanced in Albany on Tuesday is meant to divide people, state Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, said.
“The gun-control measures advanced today, many of which are already in federal and state statute, are not about increasing public safety, but more about creating a political divide between those who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights and those who do not,” Amedore said.