ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday threw his support behind an Assembly proposal that would extend the waiting time to buy firearms in New York.
The proposal would extend the waiting period for the purchase of guns to “up to 10 days.” Currently, anyone seeking to purchase a handgun, rifle or shotgun in New York must undergo a criminal background check. Often, that takes only a few minutes and the purchase can proceed immediately.
If the instant federal background check doesn’t clear the way for the sale for various reasons, including questions raised about the purchaser, current law allows a delay of up to three days to possess the firearm. Cuomo would delay that for up to 10 days.
The proposal doesn’t change the process to get a pistol permit in New York, which involves extensive background checks and references, and often takes six months to complete.
“This change starts with doing everything in our power to keep guns out of the hands of people too dangerous to have them,” said Cuomo, who led the passage of the 2013 SAFE Act a month after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. “I am seeking to make the SAFE Act, which is already the strongest gun safety law in the country, even stronger.”
In his budget plan, Cuomo has already proposed forcing abusers in domestic violence cases to surrender any weapons they own as a safety measure for victims.
The 10-day waiting period proposal gains considerable momentum with Cuomo’s support as the issue is among many being negotiated in the 2018-19 state budget, which is due by April 1. Under state law, governors have extraordinary leverage over the legislature to pass an on-time budget, which could mean added pressure on the Senate’s Republican majority to accept the measure.
The Senate’s Republican majority declined to comment Sunday.
The Republicans have proposed several measures in response to the continued series of school shootings, but the GOP bills focus on making schools safer from shootings.
Last week, Senate Finance Committee chairwoman Catharine Young (R-Olean) said gun control — a particularly dicey political issue for Republicans in New York — would be sent to the negotiating table for further talks. That prompted Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) to label the Republicans’ overall spending proposal “a fake budget” because it transferred sensitive issues to closed-door negotiations with Cuomo and the Assembly speaker.
“Earlier this month, under Speaker Heastie’s leadership, the Assembly passed a bill to increase the background check waiting period to up to 10 days, as well as a host of other bills to help prevent and reduce gun violence in New York,” said Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). “They are common-sense measures and we hope they become law.”
That momentum is needed in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Similar proposals have already been rejected by the Republican majority when Senate Democrats tried to force their passage in “hostile amendments” to other legislation. Each time, the Republican majority ruled out the proposals.
But the fractious Democrats are united on this issue. The SAFE Act was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), leader of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference. The eight-member IDC works with the Republicans and helps them maintain a narrow majority in the Senate.
“Senator Klein . . . and every member of the IDC supports building upon those laws by extending background checks to 10 days to make sure firearms do not wind up in the wrong hands,” Klein spokeswoman Candice Giove said Sunday.
“Cuomo is seizing the moment, if a month late, to advance two ideas that play pretty well — keeping guns from domestic abusers, which has found favor even in some pretty conservative states, and an extended waiting period like California has,” said Robert Spitzer, distinguished professor at the State University of New York at Cortland and author of books on gun control nationwide and in New York. “The practical problem is that the Assembly and the Senate are pretty far apart in their approach to new gun laws … And since Cuomo is coming late to these proposals, there’s no great cost to him if they fail to be enacted, which seems likely.”