The death of teenager Trayvon Martin — shot by civilian George Zimmerman, who initially escaped charges under Florida “stand your ground” law because local police said they had not found anything to dispute Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense — has put gun control back in the headlines.
Here in New York, it has breathed fresh life into Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to introduce a microstamping law, which would require bullet casings to have unique markings to help fight crime, but the National Rifle Association has been pushing back. Just today, the Daily News reported that the New York was the top recipient of campaign cash from the NRA in the past nine years.
The Florida tragedy has also led to calls for State Senator George Maziarz to kill a bill he sponsored that would establish “stand your ground” laws in New York similar to those in Florida that have allowed Zimmerman to play vigilante killer.
As Bloomberg heads to the nation’s capital this afternoon to announce a new national campaign to reform and repeal Florida-style “shoot first” laws, we want to look closer to home and ask: What gun-control measures are currently under consideration in Albany?
If you have information or insights to share, write us, tweet @thenyworld or comment below.
*Update: Zimmerman was charged late today with second degree murder, 45 days after shooting Martin
What we found
About 64 gun-related bills sit in Assembly dockets, while 60 linger in the Senate. Perhaps the best known is the Bloomberg-supported microstamping bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and Senator Jose Peralta.
Here are other major bills that have been fervently pushed by gun-control and anti-violence advocates, passed by the Assembly but now languishing in Albany awaiting Senate approval:
A Peralta-sponsored initiative that would require the renewal of firearms licenses after five years outside the City of New York. Currently, only a handful of counties — among which are New York, Nassau, and more recently Westchester — require any renewal at all. In the rest of the state, a permit lasts forever regardless of mental health changes of the holder, or any other circumstances such as becoming someone who’s actually prohibited to carry firearms.
“It’s a completely unregulated system,” laments Jackie Hilly, the executive director at New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and a former prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office, adding that it could have prevented incidents like the 2009 mass killing in Binghamton by shooter Jiverly Wong.
Yet another Peralta bill that Schimel calls “just common sense” and “a no-brainer” passed two years ago in the Assembly but has faced opposition in the Senate is one that would require employees of dealers in firearms and gunsmiths to submit to a criminal background check. Gun dealers themselves are currently required to undergo checks but not their employees who handle, market, and sell the guns.
“That’s just plain stupid,” says Hilly.
These bills are opposed by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA), the state’s largest and nation’s oldest firearms advocacy organization, which is also the official NRA affiliate in New York. The latest NYSRPA “Legislative Report” lists all the firearms bills of the state and the association’s official position on each of them.
Among the measures it opposes are a bill that would establish a safety course requirement for firearm license, another that would provide for the temporary surrender of firearms where an individual may be a danger to himself/herself or others, and one that would prohibit the sale of ammunition without proof of a firearm license.
Its “support” list, which is much shorter, provides insight into the gun lobby and its objectives:
- A bill that would prohibit counties and other local municipalities from regulating hunting, fishing, and trapping
- A bill removing the provision that requires certain firearms dealers to renew their licenses every six years
- A bill authorizing children 10 years of age or older to load and fire a rifle, shotgun or pistol at a shooting range while under the supervision of a qualified person
- A bill making it easier to make amendments to a license to carry or possess a firearm by allowing them to be made by low-level staff such as the filing officers or county clerk of each county, unless otherwise specified through resolution of the county’s legislative body
“There are too many people in the Senate — and there are some Democrats, too — who think first about the NRA and how much money they’ll give them than about public safety,” says Hilly. “It’s absolutely criminal for elected officials to pander to the NRA when there’re so many people whose safety is compromised by weak gun laws.”
It is a view shared by Peralta and Schimel, who thinks “none of the bills involving gun safety will pass the Senate.”
“New York used to be the leader in sensible gun laws, but things have changed,” says the Assemblywoman. “I don’t want to give them too much credit but the gun lobbyists have scared many, many politicians against voting for gun-control laws. Who’s to say that Senator Maziarz’s bill will never come through? Look at the money that’s being poured in now.”