From WRGC (Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief):
The Republican-led state Senate on Monday approved a bill that would make a variety of changes to New York’s controversial gun-control law.
The measure faces an uphill fight in the Democratic-led Assembly as Senate Republicans look to reform the SAFE Act, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democrats championed when it was approved in 2013.
Among the changes would include a repeal of 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.
The bill, introduced late Friday, is sponsored by Sen. James Seward, a central New York Republican whose district includes the major gun manufacturing plant owned by Remington Arms. The bill passed the Senate, 35-26.
“These are commonsense changes, administrative changes to the SAFE Act,” Seward said on the Senate.
Seward was one of six Republican senators from upstate who supported Sen. John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, to succeed indicted Majority Leader Dean Skelos last month.
Flanagan, who voted for the SAFE Act, has pledged to look at possible changes to the law as a nod to the upstate members.
The bill also includes several other reforms to the law.
It would amend the law to allow for the gifting of registered semiautomatic long guns to family members, who would then be required to undergo a background check.
Another change would no longer allow for gun registrations to be made public. Currently, the gun licenses are public unless, as part of the SAFE Act, a gun owner applies to the information kept private.
The change would no longer consider the information public, yet the bill makes it explicit that statistical data on the number of registrations and recertifications would be public. Gun groups have successfully sued to have statistical information made public, but State Police have fought the requests.
Another provision of the SAFE Act that requires reporting mental-health issues involving gun owners would also be clarified. The bill would aim to make the reporting of such cases more accurate by identifying reported people, changing the guidelines and simplifying the appeal process.
Another reform would give counties and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services more oversight of the license recertification process — not State Police. The recertification is required as of 2018 every five years, but State Police handling the process instead of counties has wrangled gun-rights groups.
Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Brooklyn, criticized the bill, saying the SAFE Act has proven successful in better reporting and monitoring gun ownership and sales.
“This bill is not a reasoned and considered amendment to the SAFE Act,” he said during the Senate debate. “This bill undermines some provisions that are working, such as the registration of ammo dealers.”
Last month, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, doubted whether Democrats have the appetite to revisit the SAFE Act. Some Democrats want more gun-control laws.
“That would probably be very challenging, but if it comes up, we’ll bring it to the conference,” Heastie said. “But I don’t really foresee too many changes coming from us in the SAFE Act.”