Statement from Assemblymember Cahill on the NY SAFE Act

January 16, 2013

Albany – The Assembly passed The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013 (A.2388) yesterday, a comprehensive measure designed to curb the increasingly devastating gun violence that has spread across the state and nation. Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D – Ulster, Dutchess) has released the following statement on the legislation:

“The protection of our children is our top priority. While simply restricting firearms ownership alone will not ensure safety, the action we took is one step on the road to reducing our pervasive culture of violence. This is not a perfect solution, but the failure to achieve perfection cannot be used as a barrier to prevent us from doing good or an excuse to allow us to sit idly by.

“A number of my colleagues yesterday expressed concern over the fact that this complex legislation was put before us by a Message of Necessity. While I too am troubled by the compromise to transparency that last minute bills create, in this case the argument that does not stand up. Many of the provisions included in this bill have been previously vetted by the Assembly, and debated extensively, and often repeatedly, on the floor of this House. In the past, I have supported some parts of the comprehensive bill and opposed others. I accept the fact that the legislative process is one of compromise and sometimes we have to agree to things we don’t support in order to achieve positive goals.

“Some opponents have once again taken the position that any gun legislation is unacceptable. They are wrong. The Second Amendment cannot be used as a shield against meaningful reform. The United States Constitution does not prohibit legislative bodies from enacting fair gun regulation, and this legislation does not present unreasonable conditions on our citizens’ right to keep firearms. Courts all over the nation have ruled numerous times that a sensible regulation of firearms is perfectly within the purview of our legislative bodies. It is not only within our power, it is our duty.

“Doing nothing in the face of the horrific acts we have witnessed would be immoral. The culture of violence is swallowing cities across the country and now manifesting itself in movie theaters, shopping malls, college campuses, community centers, high schools and even elementary schools. The suggestion that the answer to assuring the safety of our children is armed guards in our schools or a gun hidden in a teacher’s desk is simply ridiculous.

“The time for denying the role of the lethal capability of guns is over. However, gun regulation is far from the only solution either. Much more needs to be done in the area of mental health, civic engagement, awareness, and a reversal of the sense that confrontation in our daily discourse is an acceptable way of living.

“Let’s not look at this legislation as the end. It is not the end of gun rights, nor is it the end of this culture of violence that every day feels more and more like an epidemic. Instead, we should use this as an opportunity to continue our discussion on how to make New York safer. We cannot give anyone a pass – not the NRA, not the Governor, not our teachers, not our parents, not our neighbors, not our leaders, not ourselves. We must not give up until everyone, but especially our children, are as safe as can be.”

The provisions of the NY SAFE Act include:

Stronger gun safety measures

  • Prohibits weapons that include one or more of the features that increase the lethality of a semi-automatic weapon;
  • A grandfather clause for owners of legal semi-automatic weapons provided they register then with the state police, recertify the registration ever 5 years and undergo a background check;
  • Bans all high-capacity ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds;
  • Revokes and/or suspends the gun license of an individual upon issuance of an order of protection by a court of law;
  • Establishes a statewide database of handgun licenses to enable the state police to crosscheck the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to determine if any current licensees have been legally disqualified from possessing firearms under federal law;
  • Creates statewide standards for handgun license applications;
  • Updates the New York gun licensing statute to ensure those prohibited from possessing firearms on the federal level are not granted a gun license from the state;
  • Requires re-certification of gun licenses on a 5 year cycle to include current name, date of birth, current address and the make, model, serial number and caliber of all firearms possessed;
  • Allows counties to keep the names and addresses of gun licensees confidential under certain circumstances;
  • Requires all private sales of firearms, shotguns and rifles to be made through a licensed gun dealer to ensure that a proper background check is performed, unless the sale is between immediate family members;
  • Requires owners of firearms to safely store such weapons if he/she resides with a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under certain provisions of federal law; and
  • Allows schools to qualify reimbursement of building aid assistance if they choose to add electronic systems and hardened doors to increase safety.

Increased criminal penalties

  • Increases the existing penalty for possession of a loaded firearm from 3.5 years to 5 years imprisonment when the defendant is also convicted of a drug sale or violent felony offense as part of the same charge;
  • Increases the penalty for possession of an unloaded firearm from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony when the defendant is also convicted of a drug sale or violent felony offense as part of the same charge;
  • Increases the penalty for possession of an unloaded forearm from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony;
  • Increases the penalty for unlicensed possession of a gun on school grounds from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony;
  • Creates a new elevated crime of Aggravated Enterprise Corruption for commission of multiple class B felonies and gun-related crimes, a class A-I felony punishable by a mandatory life sentence with a minimum term of between 15 and 25 years;
  • Increases the penalty for straw purchases of firearms from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony;
  • Increases the penalty for recklessly causing physical injury to a child with a firearm from a class A misdemeanor to a class D violent felony;
  • Increases the penalty for failing to report a lost or stolen firearm and ammunition from a $100 fine to a class A misdemeanor; and
  • Clarifies that an individual can be prosecuted for criminal facilitation for making available, sharing, selling, exchanging, giving or disposing of a “community gun” which helps another person commit a crime.

Strengthening Mental Health Protections

  • Requires mental health professionals to report to law enforcement when they believe a person receiving mental health services is a danger to themselves or to others. Those who possess a firearm license would have their license revoked or suspended and be required to surrender their firearms;
  • Requires the evaluation of the need for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) prior to the expiration of the order;
  • Requires the county director of community services to notify the director in another county when a person subject to an AOT has moved to that county;
  • Extends the maximum duration of an initial AOT order from 6 months to 1 year;
  • Requires inmates being released to the community from a mental health hospital undergo review for an AOT order; and
  • Extends the sunset provision of Kendra’s Law from June 30, 2015 to June 30, 2017.