North Country lawmakers widely rejected sweeping new gun control measures that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Tuesday, Jan 15.
State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, all voted against the bill. Stec called the bill, which was approved by the state Senate Monday last week and by the Assembly Tuesday, a "slap in the face to legal, responsible gun owners.
"There are elements of this legislation that I support, such as the strengthening of Kendra's Law, increased penalties for illegal firearm usage and the measures taken to protect first responders," Stec said in a prepared statement. "However, I cannot support a bill where large parts severely restrict the constitutional rights of our sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts and ignores overwhelming information that shows restricting access to firearms is not a solution to solving gun violence in our communities."
Duprey told the Enterprise this morning that the entire process was wrong.
"We were talking about a law that was significant and impacted people," she said.
Duprey said she previously estimated that 95 percent of the emails she had received on gun control were from people who opposed the legislation. She said her staff has since reviewed those emails, and 99 percent opposed the measures.
"Sportsmen - people who know how to use guns correctly - they should have had an opportunity to see the bill," Duprey said. "We literally got the bill at 10:30 Monday night. We worked 'til midnight, and then we had five hours to debate a very, very significant change in the law.
"The governor was wrong to put it all into one bill," she added. "Some of it is good - especially the measures that address mental health. But it is what it is, and now we have to live with it."
Little said lawmakers should have taken more time to debate the legislation. She said in a prepared statement that, as with Duprey, the "vast majority of constituents who called and emailed my office did so in opposition to the proposed gun control measures."
Little said the Senate didn't have a chance to consider how the legislation would impact lawful gun owners.
"This is a complex issue and people are passionate about it," Little said in her statement. "I respect the differing points of view and feel that more time would have been helpful in understanding the impact on those who hunt, target shoot, are collectors or have a firearm for personal protection."
Stec also took issue with the short time frame in which the bill moved through the Legislature. He said there wasn't enough time for lawmakers to have a "true dialogue about gun control, school safety and other ways to protect our loved ones."
Stec said New Yorkers also deserved a chance to review the legislation and offer feedback through public hearings.
"In the wake of the horrible events in Sandy Hook and Webster, there needs to be a meaningful discussion about gun violence in our communities that includes better mental health treatment and the content in our popular culture," he said. "It's a disservice to victims of gun violence that the bill hastily presented today missed the mark and avoided that important discussion in favor of political theater."
But Little said the bill does contain "a lot of good measures." She said she's glad the legislation would take steps to make sure people with mental health problems get the treatment they need, and she lauded measures that would strengthen penalties for illegal gun use, which she called the "real root" of the problem.
"Illegal guns account for 70 percent of gun crimes, so I was pleased to see a focus on strengthening those laws," Little said.
Duprey said she was disturbed by a measure that will require sportsmen to get rid of high-capacity magazines within the next year. She added that another part of the law will prevent a person from passing their firearms down to another family member after their death.
"If there's a death in the family, they can't leave guns in their will," Duprey said. "They can sell it to someone in another state. How awful is that?
"It's such a distortion of the whole issue."
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.