Assemb. Andrew Raia, R-East Northport, was joined by 42 others in the Assembly opposed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's sweeping NY SAFE Act gun control bill, passed on Jan. 15.
Raia, whose district covers part of Dix Hills, said he has voted in favor of gun control legislation in the past, such as stronger penalties for illegal possession and mandatory locks, especially in households with children under 18. This time around, however, he said what he saw in front of him was "just not sensible."
In his rush to be the first state in the nation to tighten gun control laws after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Raia said the governor presented "defective legislation." The bill provides only an illusion of security, said Raia, and undermines law enforcement on school grounds.
"If anybody is going to sleep tonight thinking that their kids are going to be any safer in school as a result of this, we're only kidding ourselves," Raia told Patch Thursday.
Ten aspects of the bill need to be amended and put up for a re-vote, said Raia, adding that he thinks Cuomo will likely include the amendments in the budget.
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One major issue is that the legislation makes it virtually illegal for a police officer to step foot on school property with a gun. Police officers were also not exempt from the seven round limit imposed by the bill.
"Police officer's guns usually have 15 rounds; we literally took 8 out of their guns because we forgot to exempt them from the law," he said.
The gun registration requirements are also not comprehensive, said Raia.
"If you currently own these guns, you can keep them but you have to register them. The problem is they're only forcing the registration of guns that have a pistol grip like the AK-47 or the AR-15," explained Raia.
"The problem is that there are a whole other class of gun that don't have a pistol grip. They shoot the same bullets as the AK-47 and AR-15 guns, but, because they don't have a pistol grip, we don't even have to register them. These guns act the same way as a military type rifle and we're giving the public a false sense of security that we're actually banning and/or registering these guns when half of them won't even have to be registered."
Another flaw is in respect to the registering of ammunition. "It's still legal to go into another state and bring it back into New York without a background check because it would go against the commerce clause," said Raia.
Raia maintains that these major flaws were a result of haste. The governor bypassed a customary three-day waiting period, said Raia, which allows the legislators to read the legislation and for the public to comment. Most importantly, mental health experts were not consulted on what is also a mental health bill.
"[The mental health community] is very upset with this legislation because before they only needed to call the police [in the case of a gun emergency], now they actually have to call a county administrator and the two of them have to decide what to do," said Raia. "We've actually made the process worse."
Raia added that the mental health provision may also have the ancillary effect of discouraging veterans from seeking mental health counseling.
"Suffolk County has the largest number of veterans in the country outside San Diego, you have many returning form combat and it's readily acknowledged that every one of them has post traumatic stress disorder," said Raia. "They come home, they have their rifles, and that rifle's been their security blanket for their whole tour. There are going to be no vets seeking mental health counseling because they are worried that their gun will be taken away if they tell counselors have been having bad dreams."
Raia said he fully supports sensible gun control and will vote in favor of an amended bill. In the long run however, he believes effective gun control must be addressed at the federal level.
Added Raia: "The problem is it really needs to be the same legislation in all 50 states becaue as long as someone can go to Pennsylvania and buy a high capacity magazine and bring it back what good is it?"