New Yorks Republican governor, George Pataki, leaped head first into the currently swirling national firearms debate on March 14 with a call for sweeping new state gun control legislation that may end up helping Democrats Al Gore and Hillary Clinton win the state in November.
New York is expected to be an important battleground for the major parties this year, both in the presidential race and in the race to fill the US Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of the states senior senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Democrats usually do well in New York City and Nassau County on Long Island. For Republicans to win a statewide race, they have to do very well in the rest of the state. But Patakis move could be costly if hundreds of thousands of voters in the upstate area decide to sit out those races this November.
So Kafka-esque is the current situation that instead of holding their noses and voting for Giuliani, New York gunowners may discover that Hillary Clinton is the more pro-gun candidate because she keeps saying she supports guns for hunting. Giuliani didnt help his cause by his recent call for licensing and registration of all rifles and shotguns in New York or the nation. His proposal has been labeled a Sullivan Law for long guns.
The governors gun control initiative even threatens the slim Republican majority in the state Senate, all of whose members are up for re-election this year. Curiously, Pataki made his announcement without consulting key GOP leaders in the state, including Sen. Joseph Bruno (R-Saratoga Springs), majority leader of the Senate. Instead, Pataki reportedly first briefed the Democratic Speaker of the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver (D-New York City).
Even the state GOP chairman was caught by surprise, but later said that after study, the governors plan held promise. Without commenting on Patakis five-point plan, Bruno said that the state Senate had already planned to consider some gun control measures.
All the provisions the Republican governor will propose have been supported in the past in some form by the Democrat-dominated state Assembly. But the Republican state Senate, despite proposals from some of its majority members, has not approved any of the anti-gun measures. They frequently denied Democrat Mario Cuomo his anti-gun programs while he was governor. It will be interesting to see how they handle the hot potato passed by their fellow Republican.
Pataki said that his legislation would soon be presented to the legislature. However, several separate bills that were filed in Albany recently deal exactly with different facets of the governors plan.
A key element of Patakis proposal mirrors similar legislation advanced in Maryland by that states Democratic governor, Parris Glendening. The Pataki measure would require that all guns sold in his state be fired before sale, and that the uniqueimage of the ballistic markings from the bullets and spent cases for each gun be kept on file in a computer. The governor says it would be like having "gun DNA."
"At a crime scene, people dont leave the gun very often," says Pataki, "but they do leave bullets or shell casings, and what we would have here is a tool where police could check the ballistic DNA of that bullet or gun casing against every gun thats been sold here in New York state."
This part of the Pataki plan is included in A-10059, which was introduced in the state Assembly by Assemblyman David Koon (D-Fairport). It requires the dealers to keep the ballistic specimens supplied by the manufacturer with the handgun until it is sold, with the dealer sending the samples to the state police upon sale of the gun. The bill was referred to the Assembly Codes Committee on March 15, the day of Patakis press conference.
Raising Licensing Age
Raising the minimum age for the issuance of state handgun purchases from 18 to 21.
Some reports erroneously claimed that the governor would raise the age for handgun purchases. However, federal law already mandates that a handgun buyer must be at least 21. The age requirement is already contained in S-6908, a bill filed by state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), which was referrred to the Senate Codes Committee on March 7.
Closing the so-called gun show loophole by requiring instant background checks on buyers at gun shows and flea markets.
However, state law already limits handgun sales anywhere to people who already have been issued a state license, and dealer sales of long guns are already subject to the federal background check, whether they take place in the store or at a gun show.
A bill requiring background checks at gun shows, S-6909, sponsored by state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Port Chester), was also referred to Senate Codes on March 7. It requires that no one may sell rifles or shotguns at a gun show unless they have a dealers license. It also defines gun shows broadly to cover many events at which private secondary sales might take place. Anyone who sells without a background check would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
A state law banning and registering so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazines. This would go much further than the ban on new semi-automatic firearms that already exists in federal law.
There have been various such bills filed in both the Assembly and the state Senate since 1989, but the likely vehicle for the Pataki initiative is a new bill, S-6903, sponsored by state Sen. Richard Dollinger (D-Rochester) and 17 of his colleagues. More than merely banning certain firearms, S-6903 imposes restrictions on the possession and use of firearms grandfathered by the federal law, as well as on their large capacity magazines. The licensing system would be similar to that for handguns, and the bill would limit where and when the licensed firearms and their magazines could be legally used. S-6903 was also sent to Senate Codes on March 7.
Mandatory trigger locks for all guns sold in the state.
Actually, this proposal has largely been misreported. The use of the locks in home and business storage would be required. Thats pretty much the language of S-6912, sponsored by state Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-New York City) and 17 other senators. S-6912 also establishes crimes of criminally negligent storage in the 1st and 2nd degree, and requires the commissioner of education to formulate an anti-gun firearms safety program for children.
Eddie Eagle Bill
Schneiderman was one of the key opponents of a safety education bill that would have allowed statewide use of the NRAs Eddie Eagle program. Pataki ended up vetoing that safety education measure last year. S-6912 was also sent to Senate Codes on March 7.
It is interesting to note that the sponsors of all of these bills that might deliver Patakis agenda are all Democrats.
Gun control advocates said if Patakis package was enacted by the state legislature, New York would have some of the strictest gun controls in the United States.
The proposals are largely in line with the views of many Democrats, including President Clinton.
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