Gun issue to test State Senate coalition
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When State Senate Republicans and renegade Democrats formed a coalition to control the chamber, they expected to face an immediate test of their bipartisanship over minimum-wage laws or perhaps campaign finance.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has worked cooperatively with Republicans during his first two years in office, but has never pushed them on guns. In fact, he generated headlines when he sided with them this year to end New York's participation in a federal ballistics database, saying it was ineffective and too costly.
He also didn't put any political capital behind "microstamping" to trace bullet cartridges, which Republicans opposed but many Democrats, particularly Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck), had advocated.
In his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Cuomo talked about cracking down on illegal guns, but not on semiautomatic weapons in general.
The Cuomo administration has rushed to try to make New York the first to pass legislation since the Newtown shootings that left 27 dead, including 20 children. He said he would unveil "a full package" of proposals in his State of the State address on Jan. 9.
He should have no problem in the Democrat-led Assembly, which has backed stronger gun laws. "If this can't motivate us, what can?" Assemb. Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn), leader of the Black and Hispanic Caucus, said of Newtown.
Pushing a different approach, Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), tweeted the same day: "All I hear about is 'gun control.' How about 'How we deal with & care for the mentally ill in our society?' Isn't that the bigger issue?"
Historically, the GOP-led Senate hasn't taken up the Assembly's assault-weapons legislation, focusing more on illegal guns. Republicans lost outright control of the Senate this fall, and Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has forged a coalition of 30 Republicans and six Democrats to run the 63-seat chamber.
Skelos will be "co-leader" with Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), head of a group called the Independent Democratic Conference, and there are no agreements yet on an agenda, they said.
But Klein quickly embraced the idea of toughening gun laws, saying the "IDC wholeheartedly supports swift, meaningful action."
A Skelos spokesman said: "If there is a law that could prevent the tragedy that took place in . . . Connecticut from happening here, we have a responsibility to pursue it."