Convicted domestic abusers in New York —even those found guilty of misdemeanor offenses–will be barred from owning all types of firearms under new legislation signed April 24 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Although the legislation had already become law several weeks earlier with the passage of the state’s budget, Cuomo shifted the formal signing ceremony from the capital at Albany to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City to reinforce the national campaign against the gun violence “epidemic.”
“In a time when gun violence continues to relentlessly torment communities across the country while our federal government refuses to act, New York must lead the charge to end this epidemic once and for all,” said Cuomo.
The governor, who is running for reelection this year, invited leading gun control activists, including a survivor of the Parkland, Fl. school shooting, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to make the political symbolism of the event unmistakable.
“It’s just repulsive for people to see what’s going on, and see that we’re doing nothing,” he said. “There is no national answer from Washington on why they’re not taking action.”
The new legislation eliminates loopholes that allowed domestic abusers who have been convicted of misdemeanor offenses to own firearms. Convicted abusers will be required to give up any firearms they own.
The legislation also includes provisions ensuring that individuals wanted for a felony or other serious offenses are unable to retain or renew a gun license.
According to Cuomo, the strengthened provisions will “sever the undeniable connection between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence.” Although he claimed New York had the “strongest gun laws in the nation,” Cuomo conceded that state laws could ultimately only provide partial protection from firearms brought into the state illegally—or from states with less strict gun curbs—without a firm commitment from the federal government and Congress.
He charged that such a commitment was unlikely as long as federal lawmakers and the administration were “owned” by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
“After Parkland there were a very interesting few days,” he said. “(President Donald) Trump held a cabinet meeting and asked, ‘why do we have to have assault rifles, why don’t we raise the age of purchasing a gun, why don’t we have a mental health background check?’
“That was his first instinct, common-sense questions. Two days later, he did a 180-degree turn. Why? Because he got a phone call from the NRA. And they respond to the NRA. This is an extreme conservative Congress and an extreme conservative administration that is owned by the NRA.”
Reviewing New York’s approach to gun control, Cuomo said the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE), passed a year after the 2012 massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, had contributed to New York’s ranking as the state with the third lowest rate of per capita murders with a gun.
Cuomo also announced Tuesday he was proposing new legislation to extend the waiting period for individuals to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System from three days to 10 days.
Meanwhile, Tuesday’s law was immediately welcomed as a strengthened tool to counter domestic abuse fatalities.
“Research shows a strong correlation between domestic violence and gun violence,” said Amy Barasch, Executive Director of Her Justice. “People who are being abused by their partners are at far greater risk of lethal harm when their partner has a gun, and they’re also far more afraid to seek help.”
Preceding the governor’s speech, Aalayah Eastmond, a survivor of the Parkland, Fl. School shooting, testified about her experience.
“Nicholas Dworet (a classmate) saved my life,” she said. “During the shooting I hid underneath his body. No student should have to hide underneath their classmate’s body to survive, but I was that student.”
In a response to Eastmond, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the student protests around the country had “made a difference.”
Predicting that the protests would represent “the tipping point” for achieving eventual federal legislation, Pelosi said the fact that “97 percent of Americans support universal background checks, including 97 percent of gun owners,” demonstrated broad bipartisan support across the country for stricter gun measures.
Other groups present at Tuesday’s event included Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, The National Organization for Women, Gays against Guns, and Moms Demand Action / Everytown For Gun Safety.
John Ramsey is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.