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State sentors battle over school safety

ALBANY — The Republican-led state Senate on Monday approved bills intended to improve school safety in the wake of the latest school shooting massacre, but only after voting down a number of Democratic gun-control proposals and trading insults.

The Republican-backed measures included ones to place an armed police officer at all New York City schools; make it a felony to threaten mass violence at a school; make it easier for schools to obtain technology hardware and software; and require schools to conduct “active shooter” drills.

The package included more than a dozen bills, most of which faced little opposition. The problem, according to Democrats, was that the proposals didn’t address the key factor in school shootings: The proliferation and ease of obtaining guns.

One bill to allow residents to buy “guardians of schools” license plates, with funds going to provide metal detectors, sparked outcries from lawmakers.

Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) touched off the exchange when he called the idea that the plates would have an impact on school shootings “harebrained.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. James Tedisco (R-Schenectady), said the State Capitol and legislative office buildings have metal detectors and security personnel, but said Democrats didn’t want to allow schools to have the same protections.

Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) cut in, saying he would vote for the bill, but said Republicans should have been embarrassed to pitch it as part of the solution to gun violence.

“A bill to offer a distinctive license plate?” Gianaris asked. “Can we be any more embarrassed?”

One unsuccessful bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), would have prohibited the arming of schoolteachers, as some in the National Rifle Association have suggested.

The bill to post an armed police officer at every New York City school was approved, 46-14.

But it was seen as a long shot in the Democrat-controlled Assembly. One opponent, Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), said of the idea: “I think what you are describing is a prison.”

The bill sponsor, Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, didn’t speak on the floor during the debate.

State & Region