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Cuomo, Bloomberg urge federal action on guns

Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Five Towns Community

Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Five Towns Community Center. (Nov. 21, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that gun control was "fundamentally a federal matter," but added that he would seek to tighten what he called "significant loopholes" in the state laws outlawing assault weapons.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg demanded that Congress and President Barack Obama take action on guns, saying "gun violence is a national epidemic."

Their remarks came as funerals started for victims of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 dead, including 20 children and the shooter. Cuomo has been promising to address gun issues since the shootings in a Colorado movie theater last summer. He hasn't yet offered specific ideas.

"States can help . . . but the most efficient, effective vehicle is a federal law," the Democrat said. "New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation . . . But in some ways, it's to no avail because someone can buy a gun somewhere else" and transport it to New York.

Guns haven't been a major issue in Cuomo's first two years in office. The one controversy that arose was when the governor -- backed by Republicans -- successfully ended New York's participation in a national ballistics database, citing cost and ineffectiveness.

Cuomo is set to unveil his 2013 agenda when he delivers his State of the State address.

Bloomberg said discussions of mental health and school programs were "just ways to avoid the issue."

"Gun violence is a national epidemic . . . that demands more than words," the mayor said at a Manhattan news conference. "I think it should be illegal to have weapons whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people. I think it should be illegal to sell bullets designed to pierce armored vests. Those are designed to kill police -- that's all they are designed for."

Bloomberg, a longtime gun-control advocate, added: "Perhaps this slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School will at long last be enough" to spur action.

"I am hoping out of something so horrible that people will rise up and get off the couch and do something about this," said Malverne Police Chief John Aresta, whose uncle was killed during the Long Island Rail Road massacre in 1993.

Democrats in the State Assembly said New York's ban on semiautomatic weapons is flawed because manufacturers have used loopholes to configure guns to get around the law. They have passed a slew of gun-control measures in the past decade -- including a ban on large-capacity ammunition clips -- that have been blocked by the State Senate.

"We have to stop the proliferation of guns," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said Monday.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) focused on illegal guns rather than semiautomatic weapons.

"If there is a law that could have prevented this unspeakable tragedy, we should find common ground and pursue it," said Skelos spokesman Scott Reif. "In New York State the majority of gun crimes are committed by criminals who are using illegal guns, and therefore [Skelos] believes we should take steps to curb illegal gun use by increasing penalties and enacting mandatory minimum sentences."

With Chau Lam

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