New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to propose one of the country’s most restrictive assault rifle bans on Wednesday, as lawmakers across the nation reevaluate existing laws in the wake of December’s elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
Cuomo will broach the topic during his State of the State address at the state capitol in Albany, where he will lay out his legislative agenda for the year. The governor, a Democrat, as well as the Democratic-led Assembly, have pushed for stronger gun regulations in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, in which 20 children and six adults were murdered.
In a letter sent to legislative leaders on Monday, state lawmakers point out that episodes of gun violence have become uncomfortably common across the nation, to the point where it’s taken an event of almost unimaginable horror to launch a substantive, national conversation about the problem.
“We know that every day children are being murdered with guns and it hardly makes the news. Even mass shootings have been common enough that it takes an extraordinary horror to draw major news coverage. We also know that lax gun laws play a major role in contributing to the violence,” states the letter.
The lawmakers called for a series of new gun laws, including: requiring universal background checks on the sale of all guns, a strong assault weapons ban that outlaws the complete possession and sale of those weapons, banning the possession and sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting the purchase of hand guns and requiring that gun owners renew their licenses every five years.
Those proposals were echoed this week by the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York. In addition to the stronger gun regulations, the DAA called for the establishment of comprehensive mental health treatment and mandatory consecutive sentences for crimes that include firearms.
Although Cuomo recently suggested in a radio interview that confiscation of assault weapons “could be an option,” he hasn’t revisited it after some gun owners reacted with outrage. The comments even spawned a petition on the White House’s website that accuses Cuomo of violating New Yorkers’ constitutional rights, “while other states are embracing the need to defend our children at schools.”
Several pro-gun groups have said either arming public school teachers or increasing the police presence at schools is a more sensible solution to combating gun violence than enacting new laws.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," declared the NRA's Wayne LaPierre in a press conference a week after the Newtown shootings.
Cuomo met with lawmakers late into Tuesday night in the hopes of announcing a set of comprehensive proposals during his State of the State speech, according to CBS New York.
New York state already has some of the most restrictive handgun ownership laws in the country. But it may be paying off. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports New York is also among the states with the lowest gun-death rates, coming in fourth after Hawaii, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“Many of the states with the strongest gun laws also have the lowest gun-death rates nationwide. Conversely, many states with the weakest gun laws have the highest gun-death rates. While more research is needed to determine the precise relationship between state gun laws and gun-death rates, the data supports the common sense conclusion that gun laws are a significant factor in a state’s rate of gun deaths,” the law center reports.