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The Remarks of Speaker Carl E. Heastie

Press Conference Announcing
Assembly Majority Action on Gun Safety

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

As Prepared For Delivery

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us.

Las Vegas, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Sutherland Springs, San Bernadino, Binghamton, Columbine. And now, just last month, Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

These places are known for the unimaginable trauma and loss they have suffered due to gun violence… Sadly, it's only a partial list and this has become all too common.

The Assembly Majority refuses to accept gun violence and mass shootings as the new normal. For many years, we have called on the federal government to tighten gun laws and prevent seemingly endless tragedies that continue to unfold in communities across the country.

The numbers in this country are staggering. Every day on average 96 people die as a result of gun violence. 96 PEOPLE. Seven children and teenagers die from gun violence each and every day.

America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada and nearly 16 times as many as Germany.

In England and Wales, 2 countries that don't allow guns, in 2016 there was ONE firearm homicide for every 1 million people. In the U.S. the rate was 1 for every 29,000 people.

What does that say about our society if we accept this as a cost for allowing unfettered access to guns?

Thousands of lives have been stolen yet very little progress has been made to move the national conversation forward. In the wake of the horrible violence in Newtown, we passed a law to drastically limit assault weapons in New York. But much more can be done, and this conference will not wait for yet another mass shooting tragedy to reach New York's doorstep.

We will enact sensible gun reforms to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who would do our citizens harm.

Later today we will take up and pass a package of gun safety legislation to keep guns out of dangerous hands. I want to thank the Chair of our Codes committee, Assemblymember Joe Lentol for his stewardship of this legislation and our bill sponsors: Assemblymembers Danny O'Donnell, Amy Paulin, Pat Fahy, Pamela Hunter and JoAnn Simon.

Hindsight has shown that many violent episodes could have been prevented. Mass shooters that slipped through the cracks of background checks or that had histories of domestic violence are proof that the current system is flawed and allow warnings to be missed.

The bills in today's package will:

Establish new extreme risk protection orders to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed by the courts to be likely to engage in harmful conduct against themselves or others. This bill is sponsored by Assembly member Jo Anne Simon.

Ensure that background checks are thorough and more effective at flagging individuals whose past behavior or history of harmful mental illness should disqualify them from gun ownership in New York. These bills are sponsored by Assembly members Amy Paulin and Pamela Hunter.

Enact the "Domestic Violence Escalation Prevention Act" to protect vulnerable individuals and families from gun violence. This bill is sponsored by Assembly member Danny O'Donnell.

Ban bump stocks and similar devices, sponsored by Assembly member Pat Fahy.

In our proposed budget we will also seek to address the root causes of gun violence by ensuring that we have adequate mental health services in our schools and communities.

We must stem gun violence by confronting the reality that these are weapons, plain and simple.

There are too many innocent victims and too many families left behind struggling each day to find a new normal.

Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.

We are all witnesses to a society where our fellow citizens must bury their children, their parents, classmates and friends then prepare themselves to walk into the halls of government and beg their government to take action. This is not normal and it must end.

In the weeks since the Parkland, Florida tragedy, the brave students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas have channeled their grief into an inspiring wave of advocacy for gun reform and we are hopeful their pleas will not be in vain. New York hears you and you are inspiring a nation to look inward to find the courage to finally confront the gun lobby head on.

Passage of these bills today marks yet another step in our efforts to curb gun violence. Yet it is not the end and we will continue to fight for other common sense gun safety measures so that we can say we have made every effort to address the scourge of gun violence in our communities.

We are thankful to be joined by Rebecca Fisher from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Ruth Senchyna from the NY chapter of Moms Demand Action and Nico Bocour from the Giffords Organization.

We will hear from them in just a moment but first, I would like to welcome Assembly member Lentol to the podium, followed by our bill sponsors to share more details about today's gun safety package.