Albany, N.Y.-- State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) joined his colleagues in the New York State Senate yesterday to co-sponsor and strongly support the approval of legislation that stiffens the penalties for the trafficking of illegal firearms and enacts the "Crimes Against Police Act" establishing tough new laws involving crimes against police officers.
The approved legislation reflects an agreement reached between the Legislature and Governor George Pataki after the governor, in the wake of the recent shooting deaths of two New York City police officers, called a special session of the Legislature to deal with a series of proposals to establish new laws to better protect law enforcement officers and toughen the state’s illegal gun laws.
"We have a fundamental responsibility to do anything and everything to ensure the protection of our law enforcement officers, and these actions are long overdue," said Winner, noting that the Senate has repeatedly approved similar legislation only to see it blocked by state Assembly leaders.
Yesterday's movement came after the recent killings of New York City police officers Dillon Stewart and Daniel Enchautegui.
"So many of today’s criminals are increasingly violent, and not just in New York City. Law enforcement officers in Elmira, Corning, Hornell, Ithaca and throughout our region also need and deserve this protection," said Winner. "The only message that a violent criminal understands is a tough message. Combatting crime can’t be done effectively without tough laws that act as deterrents and that dole out strict punishments."
The agreed-upon lawswill establish stricter penalties and more jail time for owning or selling illegal guns, a move that supporters believe will help deter crimes against police officers, and for threatening, injuring or killing an officer. Specific provisions will:
The Illegal Firearms (Anti-Gun Trafficking) Bill:
> The criminal sale of a weapon offenses are graded in the Penal Law by three degrees ranging in seriousness from a Class D felony to a Class B felony. The illegal sale of a single firearm is a Class D non-violent felony [Penal Law §265.11]; the illegal sale of 10 or more firearms is a Class C violent felony offense [Penal Law §265.12]; and the illegal sale of 20 or more firearms is a Class B violent felony offense [Penal Law §265.13].
> The new law will amend these provisions by (1) classifying the Class D felony offense of the illegal sale of even one firearm as a violent felony offense; (2) punishing as a Class C violent felony the illegal sale of 5 or more firearms; and (3) punishing as a Class B violent felony the illegal sale of 10 or more firearms.
Criminal Possession of Multiple Firearms
> Under current law, the criminal possession of a weapon is penalized by four offenses which range in seriousness from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony. With respect to the illegal possession of multiple firearms, the Penal Law does not include similar gradations. The Penal Law [Penal Law 265.02(5)] sanctions the illegal possession of 20 or more firearms as a Class D violent felony offense punishable by a minimum determinate sentence of 2 years and a maximum of 7 years. An offender who possesses 19 or fewer firearms can be charged only with a mere Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
> The new law will strengthen existing law by: 1) reducing from 20 to 3 the number of firearms required to be possessed for the Class D violent felony offense; 2) creating a new Class C violent felony offense for the illegal possession of 5 or more firearms [carrying a determinate sentence of at least 3 ½ years and up to 15 years]; and (3) creating a new Class B violent felony offense for the illegal possession of 10 or more firearms [carrying a determinate sentence of at least 5 years or up to 25 years].
Cosing the Loophole
> In addition, the new law recognizes the fact that gun traffickers often evade the strict felony penalties for multiple illegal sales by intentionally restricting the number of firearms that they sell in a single transaction.
> This measure amends the law to eliminate this loophole by augmenting the "single transaction" standard with a one year rule. For example, under current law, a gun trafficker who illegally sells one gun each month over the course of a year could only be charged with a D non-violent felony for each of those transactions. Under the new law, the trafficker would be charged with a B violent felony offense.
The Crimes Against Police Act will toughen the minimum penalties for crimes committed against a police officer in the following ways:
> Murder of a Police Officer, Peace Officer or Corrections Employee: The new law guarantees Life Without Parole for the intentional murder of these law enforcement officers. When the sentencing judge does not opt for Life Without Parole, current law allows for a sentence of life, with a minimum of 20 - 25 years.
> Attempted Murder 1 of a Police Officer, Peace Officer or Corrections Employee: Current law allows for a sentence of life, with a minimum of 15 - 25 years. The new law increases the minimums to 20- 40 to life.
> Aggravated Assault of a Police Officer/Peace Officer: A B Violent Felony. Requires serious physical injury caused by a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. Current law allows for a determinate sentence of between 5 - 25 years. The new law increases to between 10 - 30 years.
> Attempted Aggravated Assault of a Police Officer/Peace Officer: A C violent felony. Current law allows for a determinate sentence of between 3 1/2 - 15 years. The new law increases to between 7 - 20 years.
> Aggravated Manslaughter of a Police Officer/Peace Officer in the 1st and 2nd Degrees: The new law creates a new B Violent Felony crime for a defendant who, through an act of extreme emotional disturbance or with the intent to cause a police officer or peace officer serious physical injury, causes the death of such officer. Current law allows for a determinate sentence of between 5 - 25 years. The new law increases the minimum to between 10 - 30 years determinate. The new law also creates a new C Violent Felony crime for a defendant who recklessly causes the death of a police officer or peace officer. Current law allows for a sentence as low as probation, and no more than 5 – 15 indeterminate. The new law increases the minimum to between 7 - 20 years determinate.
> Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide: The new law also creates a new D Violent Felony crime for a defendant who with criminal negligence causes the death of a police officer or peace officer. Current law allows for a sentence of straight probation. The new law increases a minimum determinate sentence of between 3 1/2 - 20 years.
> Menacing of a Police Officer or Peace Officer: The new law creates a new D Violent Felony crime, similar to existing Menacing 2 involving menacing a police officer or peace officer with a deadly weapons, gun or knife, with a determinate sentence of between 2-8 years. A. Current law charges as an A misdemeanor w/ maximum sentence of up to 1 year.