NYS Seal For Immediate Release:
April 25, 2007


Assembly Passes Comprehensive Gun Package

Measures Address Law Enforcement Protection; Gun-Related Domestic Violence Incidences; Protection of Children; Enhanced Gun Safety Education and Awareness

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol today announced Assembly approval of a nine-bill package aimed at reducing the number of illegal guns, protecting victims of domestic violence and safeguarding children from firearms by ensuring that weapons are stored safely.

Earlier in the morning Silver joined other legislators at a rally marking the annual lobby day of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, a statewide advocacy group working to build public awareness of the devastating impact of gun violence in New York and across the country, while advocating for sensible gun legislation on the city, state and federal levels.

The lawmakers noted that the unbelievable devastation caused at Virginia Tech was yet another example of the need for continued vigilance when it comes to examining gun laws.

"The Assembly Majority seeks to enlist the support of responsible gun dealers in the war against illegal weapons. We continue to urge the adoption of effective measures to prevent guns from being diverted from the legal stream of commerce to individuals who are not legally entitled to possess life-threatening weapons," said Silver (D-Manhattan).

Bills in the Assembly's comprehensive package have passed overwhelmingly for as many as 14 years, only to be met by strident resistance from the Senate. Silver said they include measures that would ban "cop-killer" armor-piercing bullets and close a loophole in current law that allows convicted violent felons to possess firearms.

"New York's law-enforcement community still faces a very real threat at the hands of violent criminals," said Silver. "How can we continue to send law-enforcement officers into the path of danger armed with bullet-proof vests, while also allowing deadly armor-piercing bullets on the streets? Over 140 police and sheriff's departments from across the state support this common-sense measure," said Silver.

"The Assembly Majority's gun-safety package would enact strong laws to keep guns out of the hands of children and convicted felons, crack down on violent criminals who use firearms and enact common-sense measures to ensure that guns are possessed for lawful purposes, like self-defense and hunting," said Lentol (D-Brooklyn).

"Each year, one thousand New York State residents die from gun shot wounds and hundreds more are maimed. Law enforcement officers are on the front lines and are particularly at risk every day from the many illegal guns that flood New York's streets. The tragic shooting spree at Virginia Tech is a reminder that we can and must do more to keep guns out of prohibited hands. NYAGV praises the Assembly for passing nine important gun violence prevention measures today and calls on the state Senate to act," said Jackie Kuhls, executive director, NYAGV.

Tracking Guns Involved In Crimes (A.3451/Koon)

This bill would require law-enforcement personnel to submit ballistic information to the new State Police Ballistic Identification Databank whenever spent bullets, shell casings or guns come into their possession.

"My legislation would add to the amount of information in the state's ballistic identification databank, giving law enforcement the tools to track down gun-toting criminals and protect our families. Expanding the databank will allow police officers to use valuable ballistic information to link guns to various crime scenes and stop violent criminals," said Assemblymember David Koon (D-I-Perinton).

Domestic Violence (A.1497/O'Donnell)

Sponsored by Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan), this measure seeks to protect victims of domestic violence by requiring criminal or family court judges to inquire about the existence and location of firearms owned or possessed by a defendant when an order of protection is sought. Expressing concern for victims of domestic violence, Silver said that while current law allows for the discretionary or mandatory revocation or suspension of firearms licenses upon the issuance of orders of protection, it does not require the court to inquire about the existence of those weapons.

"This bill will help reduce the risk of gun violence in domestic violence cases. Studies have shown that in states with laws restraining abusers from possessing firearms, intimate partner homicide rates steadily decreased," said O'Donnell.

Banning Armor-Piercing Ammunition (A.3447/Koon)

This measure, sponsored by Koon, seeks to rid New York streets of deadly armor piercing ammunition and ammunition that is designed to fragment or explode upon impact.

"We owe our law-enforcement officers the highest level of protection against lethal ammunition, and this legislation will do just that. With more than 140 police and sheriff departments supporting this common-sense measure, now is the time for the Senate to pass these bills and further protect those who protect us," said Koon.

Keeping Guns Out-of-the Hands of Violent Felons (A.463/Dinowitz)

Another bill would eliminate a loophole that allows a convicted violent felon to obtain a firearms' license and possess a weapon after being granted a legal waiver. The measure is sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx).

Current law allows a convicted violent felon to possess a rifle or shotgun lawfully after being issued a "certificate of good conduct." Under this legislation, violent felons who are issued a certificate of relief from disabilities or certificate of good conduct would be prevented from obtaining a firearms license. It also criminalizes the possession of a rifle or shotgun by a convicted violent felon.

"Once again, the Assembly is taking the lead in passing tough gun laws to protect our law-enforcement officials and all New Yorkers. I strongly urge the state Senate to finally join us in passing these sensible bills that will save many lives," said Dinowitz.

Cracking Down on Illegal Gun Trafficking (A.6525/Paulin)

Noting that one percent of gun dealers account for more than half of the guns that make their way into the illegal market, Silver said it was important to enact a comprehensive program to stop illegal guns from falling into the hands of criminals through commercial gun dealers.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), requires stringent recordkeeping and reporting to prevent gun sales to criminals. Additionally, under the terms of the legislation, gun dealers must implement a security plan, require employee training and prevent access to guns by minors. The bill also imposes penalties on legal gun dealers guilty of allowing guns into the illegal market.

"We have a duty to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and by passing this common-sense measure, we are moving one step closer to protecting all New Yorkers from gun violence," said Paulin.

The Children's Weapon Accident Prevention Act (A.76/Weisenberg)

This legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), seeks to protect children from accidental shootings. Five new categories of crime would be created under the bill's provisions for negligent storage of a weapon. Gun retailers would be required to alert consumers about the new weapons storage requirements. The state Education Department would develop a weapons safety program to teach children how to prevent weapon accidents.

"No responsible gun owner should object to my legislation, when we know that approximately one third of all gun-related deaths involving children could have been prevented by simply locking up guns and ammunition. The Assembly has overwhelmingly approved this life-saving measure for the past 15 years. I fervently hope that this is the year my colleagues in the Senate finally join with us to end these needless tragedies. Its enactment is long overdue," said Weisenberg.

Childproofing Firearms (A.829/Englebright)

Sponsored by Assemblyember Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), the bill seeks to reduce child-related shootings, particularly those tragedies involving children shooting children. It would make it a Class A misdemeanor to sell guns without childproof features. Covered under provisions of the bill are pistols or revolvers manufactured 12 or more months after the effective date of the bill. Design features could include making the weapon more difficult to fire by adjusting the trigger resistance of the gun to at least a 10-pound pull, altering the firing mechanism so that an average five-year-old child's hand would be too small to operate the gun or requiring a series of multiple motions in order to fire the gun.

"It's important to take every precaution to protect our children from the accidental discharge of a firearm. By requiring simple and inexpensive gun design changes that already exist, we hope eventually to eliminate the all too frequent tragic gun accidents," said Englebright.

Stopping Assault Weapons (A.7331/Titone)

This legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Matthew Titone, would ban assault weapons. Seeking to address the void when President Bush and Congress allowed the federal assault weapon ban to expire, the Assembly proposal would expand the definition of assault weapon to prohibit more of these deadly guns in New York, including guns that have been modified to work like assault weapons.

"We need to do more to protect our families and the brave men and women in law enforcement who put themselves in danger on a daily basis," Titone (D-Staten Island) said. "By moving forward with this bill we are taking an important step to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals, whose only intention with these killing machines is to maim and murder."

Banning 50-Caliber Weapons (A.2772/Eddington)

Another proposal, sponsored by Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington (WF/D/I-Medford), would ban 50-caliber sniper weapons, which can be used to disable commercial aircraft and helicopters and are powerful enough to penetrate steel plating. These dangerous weapons, which are use extensively by the United States military, are accurate from over one mile away. They continue to be available for purchase in New York by anyone who can buy a rifle. A report from the nationally-renowned Violence Policy Center found that these weapons have been purchased by the Al Qaeda terrorist network and used by other domestic and international terrorist organizations.

"The thought of a 50-caliber weapon in a criminal's hands is chilling. With deadly accuracy, it can destroy a target from over a mile away," said Eddington. "Designed for armor-piercing these are weapons of war that have no place on our streets. As a weapon of choice for terrorists, they are a threat we must proactively fight to prevent a major tragedy."

Federal Action Needed

Emphasizing the devastating impact of out-of-state illegal gun trafficking on New York State, Silver noted that 92 percent of the illegal handguns recovered in New York City came from beyond the state's borders.

"We urgently need a new federal law to require police departments around the nation to submit ballistics information to the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) national tracing database so that more violent crimes can be solved," Silver said. "We must also repeal federal law that prohibits information from gun-tracing databases to be used to solve violent crimes.

"New York's gun laws will only go so far to curb gun violence while the patchwork of state laws across our nation continues to create loopholes that allow vast quantities of weapons to be purchased legally and transported elsewhere," said Silver.

"The Assembly Majority is once again advancing its comprehensive legislation to curb gun violence. These bills, some of which have been passed by the Assembly for more than a decade, represent a sound and responsible gun-safety plan. Communities across New York State have seen firsthand the deadly consequences of gun violence. We must take every step possible to dry up the sources of illegal gun trafficking. The Senate must agree to do more to protect New Yorkers," Silver concluded.

-- 30 --