Legislature Okays Bills On Illegal Guns

James L. Seward

December 23, 2005

The New York State Legislature has okayed two pieces of legislation that would increase penalties for those who injure or kill police officers, and toughen current laws that will crack down on the criminal misuse and possession of illegal guns. The bills were approved by the legislature on December 21.

The governor will sign the bills into law as soon as they are delivered to his desk.

"The final bill, approved by both houses of the legislature, creates new penalties for the illegal (criminal) possession and criminal sale of firearms -- only," said Senator James L. Seward,"and both bills will make our streets and police officers safer. Because of the efforts of the governor and the senate Republican majority, we knocked out provisions in Speaker Silver’s plan to punish gun retailers and gun owners who are legally licensed to possess and sell firearms."

"This is a great day for law enforcement, and for all New Yorkers. I am very pleased that we have come to an agreement on these two, critical and common-sense crime-fighting proposals that will further safeguard the brave men and women who wake up each morning and protect our children and families, and make our streets safer," Governor Pataki said. "As of today, we will be able to give our law enforcement officials the tools they need to get more illegal guns off the streets, and ensure that those who injure or kill our police officers face much tougher penalties."

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, "This agreement is a victory for all the law abiding people of New York, and the police who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. Putting stronger penalties in place to correct the inadequacies of the existing law so we can arrest and punish criminals who sell and poses illegal firearms and to increase penalties for criminals who attack police officers is absolutely the right thing to do. I applaud the governor for his leadership, Senator
Martin Golden for his tenacity on these issues, and I appreciate the cooperation of the assembly to reach an agreement on these important bills."

State Senator Marty Golden, a former New York City police officer stated, "New York City and New York State have made extraordinary stridesand have reduced crime and gun violence in recent years to record lows. The presence of illegal guns on our streets endangers all law enforcement
officers and threatens this progress that has allowed for New York State to be a safe place to live, to work and to raise a family. Today, we have sent a strong message from the Capitol, that we are committed to protecting our law enforcement officers and that we are dedicated to keeping crime
down and keeping our streets safe and free of gun violence."

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said, "This legislative package seeks to prevent violence against police officers, affording all our officers greater protections as they work to protect us."

The two pieces of legislation approved today would help to keep illegal guns off our streets and increase penalties for those who injure or kill police officers.

The Illegal Firearms (Anti-Gun Trafficking) Bill

Criminal Sale of Firearms
· 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].

Closing 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:
The new law will toughen the minimum penalties for crimes committed against a police officer.
· Murder of a police officer, peace officer or corrections employee: Thenew 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.