Cuomo defends gun plan amid NRA criticism

Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his State of the

Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his State of the State message in the Convention Center of the Empire State Plaza in Albany. (Jan. 9, 2013) (Credit: Albany Times Union)

ALBANY -- As the NRA called him "America's most anti-gun governor," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday it would be a "dereliction" of duty if state legislators failed to enact tougher gun laws quickly.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said Republicans in the State Legislature should ignore political pressure from "extremists" and approve "common-sense" measures he thinks most New Yorkers want.

"Yes, you will annoy some extremists," Cuomo said. "But you will protect the people of your district, and the people of this state."


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The governor said negotiations are continuing with the state Senate and Assembly but would offer no timetable for an agreement. Legislative leaders have indicated a deal could be wrapped by this week.

Cuomo is pushing for a tighter definition of "assault weapon" to eliminate loopholes in the state's ban, which allows guns and accessories to be purchased separately so as to avoid the prohibition. He wants to limit gun magazines to a maximum seven rounds, which would be the lowest in the nation, and require background checks even for private gun sales. He also wants to eliminate the option of some counties to issue lifetime gun permits, instead making all permits renewable.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), in a videotaped message, said Republicans favor "limiting high-capacity firearm magazines," eliminating one possible sticking point.

Skelos has said he's open to Cuomo's proposals but wants a "balanced" approach that also cracks down on illegal guns and increases criminal penalties. He said it is possible leaders could present a gun-legislation package to rank-and-file legislators next week.

Cuomo said the disagreements were about "controls."

"The Republicans want less. I want more," Cuomo said.

He added that the Democratic-led Assembly is "sensitive" to increasing criminal penalties, though Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has said tougher sanctions would have to be part of any agreement.

One GOP source said Republicans would rather close the deal soon than have the gun initiatives become part of the state budget negotiations -- where the governor has considerably more leverage than legislators.

Cuomo made a fervent pitch for gun control during his State of the State address Wednesday, in which he urged lawmakers to "end the madness" of high-capacity, semiautomatic weapons such as the one used in the recent Newtown, Conn., school massacre.

"To be blind to this issue and the number of tragedies and the amount of bloodshed, I think would be dereliction of your public service responsibility," Cuomo said Thursday.

In response, the National Rifle Association, in a Web message to supporters, called Cuomo "America's Most-Anti-Gun Governor." It urged supporters to "oppose legislation that does nothing more than target law-abiding gun owners."

The group advocated urgency, saying "these proposals, being negotiated behind closed doors, will move quickly in Albany. Anti-gun forces realize they must move with haste to circumvent a full debate on these failed ideas."

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