After Shootings, Push in Albany for Tougher Gun Laws

Jose Peralta

August 07, 2012

As reported by The New York Times:

In the wake of mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin and an uptick in gun violence in New York City, lawmakers are planning a new push in Albany to win approval of tighter gun laws in New York State.

One measure introduced last week would require background checks of anyone buying ammunition. Another, being drafted this week, would limit the purchase of firearms to one per person per month.

Supporters of the measures said they would fill several gaps in New York’s gun laws, which are already among the toughest in the country, and make them more complete than any other state’s in discouraging gun crime.

“There comes a point where one has to say enough is enough,” said State Senator Michael N. Gianaris, Democrat of Queens. “How many tragedies have to occur before we take even the most basic, sensible measures to reduce gun violence?”

But Jacob J. Rieper, the vice president for legislative and political affairs of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said lawmakers were trying to capitalize on the mass shootings to push their own agendas.

“They’re trying to throw out a bunch of stuff basically to see what sticks,” Mr. Rieper said, adding, “Since when has taking guns from decent people prevented bad people from committing crime?”

In recent years, many gun control measures have passed the Assembly, where Democrats are in the majority, only to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate. For example, the Senate this year blocked a measure to require microstamping, a form of ballistics identification.

A spokesman for the Senate Republicans, Scott Reif, called the shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin “horrific and senseless tragedies” and said Republicans were “always willing to discuss ways to do even more” to improve public safety.

“However, New York already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country,” Mr. Reif said.

The speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who for years has sought further restrictions on gun and ammunition sales, predicted that the newly proposed gun legislation would meet the same fate as many other gun-related bills.

“The Senate refuses to budge,” Mr. Silver said. “They don’t touch anything, clearly. It’s a nonstarter.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, supported tougher gun control measures during his campaign in 2010, but, facing a divided Legislature, he has not made it one of the central elements of his legislative agenda. Asked about the newly proposed gun measures, his spokesman, Josh Vlasto, said Monday, “While there are many proposals that will be considered during the legislative session, everyone agrees that something must be done to stop the violence.”

In addition to the mass shootings nationally, there has been a steady stream of local gun crimes — as of Sunday, there had been 1,058 shooting victims in New York City this year, up from 977 in the same period last year.

A number of lawmakers have offered proposals to address gun violence. State Senator José R. Peralta, Democrat of Queens, would limit ammunition sales to 500 rounds per customer each month.

“Shouldn’t the amount of ammunition being purchased bring up a red flag?” Mr. Peralta said. “It’s just common sense: Why would one individual stockpile all that ammunition, and what’s he or she going to do with it?”

Mr. Peralta is also seeking to require courts to strip people of their guns or gun permits if they are committed to psychiatric hospitals, and to require that all handgun licenses across the state be renewed at least once every five years. He is also the sponsor of the measure to require background checks of people buying ammunition.

Senator Gianaris, the lawmaker seeking to limit firearm purchases to one per month, said the measure would cut down on gun trafficking, in which a person buys a large cache of guns legally and then resells them.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Monday expressed ambivalence about Mr. Gianaris’s proposal, which was first reported in the Daily News. The mayor, an outspoken gun control advocate, said the senator’s “heart seems to be in the right place,” but expressed doubt about whether the proposed restrictions would reduce gun violence.

“Keep in mind, 85 percent of the guns used here in murders come from out of state,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

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