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Silver: Tentative gun deal in hand, expect vote tonight

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) talks to reporters

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) talks to reporters after a news conference at the Capitol in Albany. (May 15, 2012). Credit: AP

New York leaders have reached a tentative agreement to strengthen gun control laws and could vote on it by Monday evening, the Legislature’s top Democrat said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said legislators and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reached a deal Monday afternoon. Though final details were still being discussed, lawmakers have been discussing laws to tighten loopholes in New York’s assault weapons ban, lower the maximum number of rounds in an ammunition magazine and increase penalties for illegal guns, among other things.

"I believe there will be a vote tonight," Silver said.

Although some legislators said final details were still being negotiating, a key senator agreed with Silver in saying a vote was on track.

"We're going to do it tonight," said state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), co-leader of the state Senate, along with state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who didn't immediately comment after a nearly five-hour closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans.

Bills are almost never brought to the Senate and Assembly floor without assurances it will win passage.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said the GOP successfully negotiated to include stiffer penalties for illegal guns and other anti-crime measures in the package.

"New York has had a ban on assault weapons," LaValle said, adding he likely would support the package of legislation. "Manufacturers had gotten around it, so we're closing the loopholes."

Previously, a gun had to include two characteristics to meet the definition of assault weapons, centering on types of grip, ammunition magazines and flash suppressors, among others. LaValle said only one characteristic would be needed to meet the new legal definition.

He said Republicans also fought some handgun proposals "we didn't think were necessary" for inclusion.

"Based on what I've seen, I'm inclined to vote for it," said state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), who earlier warned that a deal excluding tougher criminal penalties would have little practical impact.

Numerous legislators said the final sticking point was improving school security in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre — and helping schools pay for any additional measures.

“One of pieces that I felt was very important was that school districts would get reimbursement for security equipment that they place in schools such as cameras or other security measures," said state Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick). "I feel that’s a crucial part that’s important to be resolved.”

 Fuschillo added that details about various effective dates and "certain definitions” were still under discussion. 

Cuomo would have to waive the necessary three-day waiting period between printing a bill and voting on it, allowing the Senate and Assembly to take up the measure later Monday.

A Cuomo spokesman said no tentative deal had been reached yet.

To read about the Newsday/Siena poll on what Long Islanders think of guns, go here and here.


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