ALBANY – The state Legislature left the Capitol early Friday without making any changes to the controversial gun-control law installed in 2013.
After some Senate Republicans ran for office last year vowing to seek a repeal of the gun-control law, they were unable to reach a deal to reform the SAFE Act, drawing the ire of gun-rights groups.
“Am I disappointed? Absolutely, and I think the gun owners of New York state are going to be disappointed also,” said Thomas King, the president of the state Rifle & Pistol Association.
Senate Republicans passed a bill to make a variety of changes to the measure, which was championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Assembly Democrats and Cuomo showed no appetite to follow suit.
The lack of action on the SAFE Act will create further friction within the Republican Party: upstate GOP members loathe the law, but Long Island Republicans voted for it in 2013 — including new Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County.
“Flanagan had a chance to unite the Republican Party, but he didn’t,” Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, a gun-rights advocate, said.
Nojay said Flanagan should have pressed harder in negotiations for SAFE Act changes, saying Flanagan had leverage when it came to New York City Democrats who wanted rent-control laws.
“This is a huge disappointment for the Second Amendment community, and it’s not a good omen for the Republicans in the state Senate,” Nojay said. “They always ask for our support for the past two and a half years. They have failed to deliver on anything.”
Flanagan and other senators, however, said they tried to get an agreement with Democrats, but were unsuccessful. Some Assembly Democrats want more gun-control laws.
“For the first time since it became law, we’ve made real headway. However, because the bills failed to pass in the Assembly, there is still clearly work to be done to fully restore our Second Amendment rights,” Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, Dutchess County, said in a statement.
Serino, along with Sens. Rich Funke of the Rochester area and George Amedore of the Albany area, were among new state GOP senators who pledged to try to get a repeal of the law as they successfully beat incumbent Democratic senators last November.
Among the changes approved by the Senate would have dropped a requirement that every purchaser of ammunition undergo a background check. The ammunition database that was part of the SAFE Act has yet to function, and the state allocated $27.7 million in 2013 to implement the law, including the creation of the database.
“I will be the first to acknowledge that there is unfinished business – further economic development, more mandate relief, SAFE Act repeal and reform – are all issues that I will continue push,” Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, Otsego County, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.
A Siena College poll last month found that 62 percent of voters supported the SAFE Act.
Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said the law has worked to limit gun violence, require greater registration of weapons and kept guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
“None of the parties are inclined to anything about it. And the reason they are not is because it is actually working,” Barrett said. “People support it because it’s commonsense: It’s background checks on all guns sales; it’s an assault weapons ban; it’s a five-year renewable permit; tougher penalties for bringing guns on school grounds. These are all commonsense measure. We have an epidemic of gun violence in this country.”
Flanagan narrowly beat out Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco for the Senate leadership post last month after the resignation of Dean Skelos as leader amid corruption charges. Six upstate senators went with Flanagan over their fellow upstate member, which irked upstate leaders and led Flanagan to pledge to revisit the SAFE Act.
The Republicans who voted for Flanagan behind closed doors were: Cathy Young of the Southern Tier; Michael Nozzolio of the Finger Lakes; Hugh Farley of the Albany area; Seward of the Mohawk Valley; and William Larkin and John Bonacic of the Catskills.
Stephen Aldstadt, president of the Shooters Committee on Public Education, said talk of primaries against Senate Republicans who backed Flanagan will likely grow after the SAFE Act was left untouched.
“There are a lot of people angry” over the law, Aldstadt said. “They are still as angry as they ever were.”
SOURCE :: Poughkeepsie Journal