ALBANY — New York schools won’t be allowed to arm teachers and administrators as a strategy to combat mass shootings, according to a measure signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The law specifically prohibits firearms to be carried in schools by “any teacher, school administrator” or others who aren’t licensed security guards or those who act primarily as school resource officers. Most school resource officers are police officers.
Violating the law would be a Class E felony punishable by two to five years in prison.
“While hundreds of districts across the country have decided to arm teachers in response to mass shootings, in New York, we said, ‘not here,’” said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who co-sponsored the bill.
“Arming teachers with guns can only lead to additional tragedies,” said Assemb. Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre), the Assembly sponsor of the bill.
Wednesday’s signing is the third straight day Cuomo has enacted more gun control laws passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The laws add to his legacy on the issue since he pushed through the extensive SAFE Act in 2013, weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
Earlier this week, Cuomo signed into law a ban on “bump stocks,” which turn rifles and shotguns into rapid-fire weapons, and on the 3D printing of guns. Both of those measures were already banned federally. Cuomo also extended the potential time for a federal background check in firearms purchasing from three days to 30 days, if the buyer isn’t immediately cleared by the FBI.
“Whatever the Legislature and the governor have done are not going to make the people of New York any safer,” said Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which works with the National Rifle Association. “The only people who obey these laws are the lawful gun owners … criminals by definition are law breakers.”
King also said the state shouldn’t dictate policy about who can carry a firearm into schools.
“Someone sitting in Albany or sitting in New York City has no idea what is needed or what the social mores are in these schools,” King said. “I think pronouncing that all of our schools are gun-free is a big mistake,” he said. “I hope this doesn’t come back to bite these politicians.”
Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming exempt school employees from bans on firearms in schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Idaho, Kansas and Wyoming require school employees who are armed to obtain permits to carry weapons concealed from view.
Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and South Dakota require employees who carry firearms to complete training programs.
Other states and school districts are considering arming employees under the theory that a “good guy with a gun” could deter or stop mass shootings. President Donald Trump has supported the value of a “good guy with a gun” to help curb the tragedies.
“The answer to the gun violence epidemic plaguing this country has never been and never will be more guns,” said Cuomo. “Today we’re expanding New York’s nation-leading gun safety laws to further protect our children. These measures will help slow the proliferation of guns by keeping unneeded firearms out of school zones and helping to ensure unwanted or illegal guns don’t fall into dangerous hands.”
Supporters of the measure have said allowing firearms to be carried in schools by untrained or poorly trained teachers and administrators could prompt thefts of the firearms and accidental shootings.
Cuomo on Wednesday also signed into law a measure to set standards for local “gun buy-back” programs in which police pay to accept firearms, many of which are unregistered or otherwise illegal.
“Gun buy-back programs work,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). “Providing people with a no-questions-asked opportunity to turn their guns in has helped dramatically reduce the number of legal and illegal guns on our streets, making our communities and our schools safer.”