State lead­ers call for gun laws

Cuomo and 11 other gov­er­nors send let­ter urg­ing fed­eral ac­tion

Albany Times Union - - FRONT PAGE - By Bren­dan J. Lyons and Dan Freed­man

Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo and 11 other Democratic gov­er­nors on Tues­day sent a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell urg­ing the Repub­li­can lead­ers to pur­sue stricter fed­eral gun-con­trol mea­sures, even as Trump ap­pears to be back­ing away from pre­vi­ous ex­pres­sions of sup­port for ex­panded background checks.

The gov­er­nors join­ing Cuomo are from

Cal­i­for­nia, Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Illi­nois, Michi­gan, New Jersey, New Mex­ico, Ore­gon, Pennsylvan­ia, Rhode Is­land and Wash­ing­ton.

“Putting an end to the gun vi­o­lence epi­demic is not a Repub­li­can or Democratic is­sue, it is an Amer­i­can is­sue,” the let­ter said.

“Pub­lic safety is the first and most im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity of govern­ment, and the fail­ure to act to pro­tect the pub­lic is a fail­ure in leadership,” the let­ter con­tin­ued. “As gov­er­nors, it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to lis­ten to our com­mu­ni­ties’ calls for ac­tion. How­ever, a patch­work of state laws will never be a sub­sti­tute for co­her­ent na­tional pol­icy.”

Through the post-new­town, Con­necti­cut SAFE Act and other mea­sures ap­proved in re­sponse to re­peated mass shoot­ings, New York al­ready has en­acted many of the laws at the state level that gun-con­trol ad­vo­cates are propos­ing na­tion­ally.

New York law al­ready re­quires background checks on vir­tu­ally all sales, in­clud­ing at gun shows and on­line. And last month, a state “red flag” law pro­vid­ing for ex­treme risk pro­tec­tion orders took ef­fect. It per­mits law en­force­ment, fam­ily mem­bers or school of­fi­cials to pe­ti­tion judges for orders tem­po­rar­ily re­mov­ing firearms from those deemed a threat to oth­ers or them­selves.

In Wash­ing­ton, the Democratic-con­trolled House passed two gun­re­lated bills, in­clud­ing universal background checks, in Fe­bru­ary. They have lan­guished in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate, with Mccon­nell refusing to bring up any bill that Trump won’t sign into law.

For his part, Trump has vac­il­lated be­tween an ini­tial dec­la­ra­tion, af­ter the mass shoot­ings in El Paso and Day­ton, that he wants “very mean­ing­ful” and “in­tel­li­gent” background checks, and — af­ter con­ver­sa­tions with Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion leader Wayne Lapierre — a dec­la­ra­tion that “we al­ready have strong background checks.” Trump re­versed himself in sim­i­lar fash­ion last year, promis­ing en­hanced background checks af­ter the mass shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Florida, only to re­nege later.

Mean­while, the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Tues­day de­lib­er­ated on a na­tional risk pro­tec­tion war­rant law, as well as on mea­sures to bar guns from those con­victed of mis­de­meanor hate crimes and to reg­u­late large-ca­pac­ity am­mu­ni­tion magazines and feed­ing de­vices.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer said this week that it was “paramount” for the Se­nate to pass the House background-check bill in or­der to “sew up the most egre­gious loop­holes.”

As a House mem­ber rep­re­sent­ing a Brook­lyn district in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Schumer was the pri­mary au­thor of the Brady Hand­gun Vi­o­lence Prevention Act. The law set up the current sys­tem of background checks, per­formed by the FBI on all pur­chases from fed­er­ally li­censed deal­ers.

But it ex­cluded trans­ac­tions be­tween in­di­vid­u­als who do not de­pend on gun sales for their liveli­hood.

Schumer ac­knowl­edged Mon­day that the ex­clu­sion gave rise to what has come to be known as the “gun­show” loop­hole — al­low­ing in­di­vid­u­als to pur­chase semi-au­to­matic Ar-15-type ri­fles and other firearms with no background check.

Such sales can take place not only at gun shows, but among neigh­bors and ac­quain­tances as well as on­line in cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

At the time the Brady bill was signed into law in 1993, “we didn’t know about on­line so we didn’t fo­cus on that,” Schumer said. “The gun shows in those days were to show off an­tique guns.”

Schumer’s call for clos­ing the loop­hole was echoed by fresh­man Rep. An­to­nio Del­gado, Drhinebeck, who ac­cused Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of cav­ing to the in­flu­ence of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

“The pres­i­dent said he was for universal background checks, and then got a phone call, and then af­ter that phone call changed his tune,” Del­gado said in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters on Tues­day. “There is not bet­ter evidence on who is call­ing the shots on this is­sue. It’s not the peo­ple.”

Rebecca Fischer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of New York­ers Against Gun Vi­o­lence, in­sisted that re­cal­ci­trant Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton can­not hold back what she de­scribed as a rein­vig­o­rated move­ment for gun con­trol at the na­tional and state level as well as among re­tail­ers such as Wal­mart and Dick’s Sport­ing Goods.

“It puts pressure on Mccon­nell and Trump; they know they’re ac­count­able,” Fischer said. “The con­se­quences will play out in the next election cy­cle. The tide is turn­ing.”

A Wash­ing­ton POST-ABC News poll on Tues­day found that 86 per­cent of re­spon­dents sup­port “red flag” mea­sures, such as the one New York re­cently en­acted, which al­low law en­force­ment or friends and fam­ily to pe­ti­tion courts to have guns tem­po­rar­ily taken from trou­bled in­di­vid­u­als.

And 89 per­cent sup­port universal background checks, which would be ex­tended to pri­vate trans­ac­tions, in­clud­ing those on­line and at gun shows.

Both won sup­port from at least 8 in 10 Repub­li­cans, white evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians, and gun-own­ing house­holds, the poll con­cluded.

But the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and the Na­tional Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion, the firearms in­dus­try’s main trade group, con­tinue to re­sist calls for ex­panded background checks and riskpro­tec­tion war­rants.

Mark Oliva, NSSF spokesman, called the House-passed background-check bill a “non­starter.”

He said it would put an ad­di­tional burden on fed­er­ally li­censed gun deal­ers who are al­ready re­quired to run background checks on their own sales. And, Oliva ar­gued, it would lead to data col­lec­tion that amounts to a “na­tional gun reg­istry,” which Congress specif­i­cally barred in 1986.

“The universal background check leg­is­la­tion that has been pro­posed is prob­lem­atic at its foun­da­tion,” Oliva said. “It sim­ply can­not work as it is writ­ten.”

He added that “red flag” laws could in­fringe on due­pro­cess rights of gun own­ers. “We’re talk­ing about the de­nial of fun­da­men­tal rights of Amer­i­cans,” he said. “There has to be an av­enue for an in­di­vid­ual to con­front and re­fute un­founded al­le­ga­tions.”


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