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Pols: Baldwin gun incident shows need for safe-storage law

The measure passed by the State Legislature and supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo creates penalties for gun owners who do not properly store firearms or use gun locks if they live with children under 16.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder speaks about a

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder speaks about a student who brought a loaded handgun to Meadow School in Baldwin on March 25, 2019, as Nassau Executive Laura Curran looks on. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Three of Nassau’s Democratic legislators pointed Wednesday to the case of a 10-year-old who brought a loaded handgun to a Baldwin school as underscoring the need for a state law requiring that firearms be stored safely.

“While we all breathed a sigh of relief after this incident was resolved peacefully through the efforts of school staff and law enforcement professionals, it should never have come to that point in the first place,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said in a statement.

The child, a fourth-grader at Meadow Elementary School, was charged with a felony after a lunchroom monitor on Monday spotted him showing the contents of a blue fabric bag to another student during lunchtime.

The monitor looked into the bag, saw the gun and alerted the principal, who in turn called police. Authorities said the gun was a .40-caliber semiautomatic Glock, with one round in the chamber and more in the magazine.

The boy, whose name was not released because he is a minor, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds. He is due back in Family Court on April 5.

Nassau police said Wednesday they are continuing to investigate the incident. On Monday, county officials said that the gun was unregistered and that the boy told authorities he received the gun Sunday during a party at his uncle's house.

Police, the Nassau County district attorney's office and the school district have declined to give additional details.

Abrahams, joined by legislators Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) and Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), said they expect Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign a bill mandating safe gun storage that passed the state Senate and the Assembly earlier this month.

Cuomo is fully behind the legislation, a spokesman said Wednesday.

“New York is a national leader on gun safety, and with this reform, we are once again standing up to the gun lobby to protect our communities," Tyrone Stevens said in an emailed statement. "This bill is a big step forward, building on legislation we’ve previously implemented to require the safe storage of firearms, and the Governor supports it.”

The measure creates penalties for gun owners who do not properly store firearms or use gun locks if they live with children under 16, according to the Senate’s website.

Violators could be charged with Class A misdemeanors, the website said. Under state law, convictions could result in a maximum sentence of from 1 to 3 years' probation, as well as fines.

These kinds of firearms safety statutes generally are known as CAP laws — an acronym for Child Access Prevention — and "have been associated with lower rates of unintentional gun deaths among children," according to the legislation awaiting Cuomo's signature.

A total of 27 states already have enacted laws requiring guns to be safely stored, Birnbaum said. So have seven municipalities in New York State, she said.

New York City, for example, mandates that gun owners use locks when the firearm is not with them, according to the San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

New York State Police guidelines for gun owners say locks should not be able to be pried open, and require numeric combinations, keys or electronic keys, the nonprofit said.

While both the state Senate and the Assembly are run by Democrats, only the Senate has enacted another measure that would restrict makers of toy guns to brightly colored, transparent or translucent products, a legislative aide said. An Assembly spokeswoman and the Cuomo spokesman had no comment.

The Nassau County Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday criticized the Republican-led majority for failing to enact a gun safe-storage measure that Birnbaum said she first proposed in 2016. A spokesman for the GOP majority was not immediately available.

Birnbaum said, “While I am pleased that Governor Cuomo is expected to sign statewide regulations into law, it is shameful that the majority caucus abdicated its responsibility to consider a common-sense solution that would help keep guns out of the hands of children and others who should not have access to them.”

With Ellen Yan

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