Even with some of the strongest gun laws in the nation, Gov. Cuomo is looking to make this issue a priority now that Democrats have taken over the state Senate.
There was one and only one reason to go slow, to avoid this issue — politics. As every candidate knew, any push for more gun regulations would bring a strong negative response.
But the state Assembly and Senate will convene this coming January in a new landscape, one altered by the many victims of mass shootings that have come with increasing frequency. And legislators are going to be considering some new measures in a political climate that no longer automatically concedes this issue to the National Rifle Association and its servants in office.
Instead of shying away from talk about gun control, several candidates around the nation confronted this head-on and won. Instead of conceding the publicity wars to the well-funded gun lobby, groups seeking more and better safeguards spent what was needed.
And while other states and the federal government still have a long way to go to catch up to New York on this issue, the opportunity to lead the way, to fulfill the desires for safety that are clearly measured and stated in every public opinion poll, especially in those assessing the desires of gun owners, should provide inspiration.
Those who have long advocated more legislation know where to start, with something known as “extreme risk protection orders,” ones that would allow authorities to confiscate guns from those that a judge determines could pose a threat. This in essence calls the bluff of those who have long argued that what we have is not a gun problem but a mental health problem, that we need to do more and spend more to identify those who might pose a threat, and make sure that there is proper intervention.
That’s what this does and if those who have opposed more restrictions in the past really believe that mental health is at the root of much of our problems, then they will support these measures.
Another law deserving quick approval is the imposition of a much longer waiting period to buy a firearm. As those who have studied this in other jurisdictions have found, this is not just a delay between the time someone tries to buy a gun and takes it home. It gives authorities the time they need for thorough background checks that might turn up information that would disqualify someone from owning a gun.
That’s not too much to ask. Nobody needs to have a gun instantly. So this, too, will be educational. The Senate stopped such a measure just because it could, with no explanation necessary. Now, those who have been opposed to these and other common sense efforts will have the chance to join in the cause, to improve public safety or show that there are legitimate reasons not to.
The Legislature should put together a package of bills early in the session to provide an example for other states that might be interested in doing what New York already has done, and seeing how far it plans to go.