Republicans block Queens senator’s bill for enhanced background checks in wake of Parkland shooting

Photo courtesy of Twitter/@SenGianaris

A group of bills aimed at enhancing gun safety in New York were shot down in the state Senate on Wednesday — including an Astoria senator’s bill to extend the time after which a firearm can be obtained without a background check.

New York Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, a coalition of elected officials, announced that they would push for the passage of 12 bills on Feb. 27 to prevent gun violence in the state. Senate Democrats forced the vote by introducing four of the 12 bills as hostile amendments. This process tacked on the bills to unrelated pieces of legislation already up for a vote.

Most of the bills have already been introduced but lawmakers believed that the Parkland, Florida, shooting that left 17 dead would help their case.

The package would ban bump stocks, make it a crime to fail to securely store a weapon, prohibits people convicted of certain domestic violence charges from purchasing or possessing a gun and more.

On Feb. 28, Republican lawmakers voted against the four pieces of legislation in the package including the Effective Background Checks Act, sponsored by state Senator Michael Gianaris, who represents Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, parts of Ridgewood and Woodhaven.

Currently, the deadline to conduct a background check on a person interested in purchasing a gun is three days. If law enforcement has not conducted a background check before the deadline, the seller can still provide the firearm to the buyer.

The bill would extend the deadline to 10 days, giving law enforcement additional time to meet the deadline. It would also require gunsmiths and licensed firearms businesses to report to authorities a person who later fails a background check after purchasing a gun and requires that employees at these establishments to also go through background checks.

“More responsible gun laws will make our communities safer, keep firearms away from dangerous people and ensure preventable tragedies do not happen. I am appalled Senate Republicans voted down the common sense measures we proposed today, including my Enhanced Background Checks Act,” Gianaris. “Senate Republicans’ twisted values put the NRA first and schoolchildren last. Senate Democrats will not stop fighting for a safer future for New York families.

Bills to ban bump stocks, allow courts to prohibit certain people deemed dangerous to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms and establish a violence research institute to study gun violence as a public health issue were also shot down.

According to a spokesperson for Gianaris along with 29 members of the Democratic Party and the Independent Democratic Conference voted for the proposals. It is not clear how Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, voted.

State Senate Majority Leader John F. Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, released a statement saying that the “senseless violence” in schools is “unacceptable and must be stopped.”

In response to the most recent shooting, Flanagan said Senate Republicans are working on crafting a “comprehensive school safety plan” that will include additional security cameras, cops or armed resources officers, panic buttons and active shooter drills. He also called for greater coordination between law enforcement and a “much stronger response” to mental health issues.

Flanagan’s statement did not expressly mention guns or any measures that would curb gun violence.

“Every responsible option is on the table, and wherever we think we can make a difference, we will act,” he said. “Schools must be safe havens, where students can learn and teachers can teach. In New York, they will be.”

In 2013, the New York State Legislature passed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act in response to the Sandy Hook shooting. It banned certain assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, created a universal background check provision and more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York has the third lowest rate of gun death in the country. In 2016, 900 people were killed by guns in the state.

On Feb. 22, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced the creation of States for Gun Safety, an interstate coalition aimed at promoting gun safety.

“Here in New York, we’re proud to be home to the nation’s strongest gun safety law,” Cuomo said. “However, the federal government’s continued inaction on this issue has not only allowed the epidemic of gun violence to spread, but it has actually prevented the laws like the SAFE Act from being fully effective. Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses and pass responsible gun safety legislation, New York is joining with New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island to take matters into our own hands.”

The agreement will allow the states to share information about individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm. The states will also create a regional gun violence research consortium. The federal government has banned the CDC to research gun violence but the states will use criminal justice, public safety, public health, public policy and social welfare research to produce reports to support gun violence reduction.

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