NY Senate GOP Blocks Push For Vote On Gun Control

ALBANY — Republicans in the New York state Senate blocked an effort by Democrats to force a vote on four gun control bills Wednesday as the debate over how to respond to gun violence continues to ripple through state capitols across the country following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The bills from Democratic senators would have strengthened the state’s background check system and set aside state funding for research into firearm violence. Others would have banned bump stocks and created a new court order of protection to bar people considered to be a danger to themselves or others from possessing or buying guns.

Democrats used a procedural move to try to bring the measures to the floor for a vote but were overruled by the Senate’s GOP majority. Similar debates are underway in other states as lawmakers look to respond to the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people.

“It’s up to us in New York,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, adding that he doesn’t think the U.S. Congress will go against the National Rifle Association by passing meaningful new restrictions on firearms. “We should spit in the face of the NRA today.”

All but one Democrat voted for a procedural motion designed to bring the bills to the floor; the move was opposed by all Republican Senators.

Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan of Long Island released a statement before the vote that his party is already working on its own legislative proposals that focus on school security and stronger restrictions on access to firearms by those with mental illness. He listed several possibilities, including more state funding for school police officers; panic buttons, security cameras and active shooter drills; and “a much stronger response to the mental health issues at the heart of much of this violence.

“Every responsible option is on the table, and wherever we think we can make a difference, we will act,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers, dismissed the assertion.

“This is what’s on the table right now,” she said.

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, said Democrats attempted to include measures on gun control to a bill that would let people register to become organ donors. Young said there was no connection between the bill and what was being pushed Wednesday.

“We are working on a comprehensive package of legislation that will be passed very soon that will protect children and schools from violence,” Young said in a statement to The Post-Journal. “That includes upgrading security through physical changes to school buildings, funding school resource officers, upgrading mental health services and ensuring that there is communication and coordination between law enforcement on federal, state and local levels.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have also announced bills that would outlaw guns designed to evade metal detectors, authorize the seizure of guns belonging to people convicted of hate crimes and domestic violence, and allow relatives of those killed by guns to sue firearm manufacturers. Those haven’t been scheduled for a vote.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, pushed through several new restrictions on firearms five years ago in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting. Last week he announced a new partnership with New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Puerto Rico to share more information about illegal firearms. On Wednesday he criticized federal officials for considering changes to gun laws that are “incremental at best.”

Young said the “most upsetting aspects of the Parkland shooting” was the fact that despite multiple warnings regarding the shooter, no action was taken and fell through the cracks.

“A bill introduced (Wednesday), which I am cosponsoring, would classify mass shootings as terrorism, which would allow the existing New York State Intelligence Center to expand its collaborative federal and state intelligence gathering resources to include cases like these that involve individuals who may present a very real threat to public safety,” Young said. “We owe it to our children, families and all New Yorkers to do everything we can to prevent future tragedies like the one in Parkland.”