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Democrats denounce Cuomo concessions to Senate GOP on gun control law

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has agreed to suspend some

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has agreed to suspend some provisions of his SAFE Act covering ammunition sales. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is getting heat from liberal Democrats after he agreed to suspend significant elements of his signature gun control law.

Late Friday, Cuomo agreed with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to suspend indefinitely SAFE Act provisions that required background checks to purchase ammunition and the creation of a database for buyers of bullets and other ammunition.

Cuomo's office Saturday said it acted only because existing technology is not up to the task. The agreement "reiterates the administration's intention to implement a functional database when it is ready" because enforcing it sooner would cause "unmanageable disruption" for retailers, said a statement from Cuomo counsel Alphonso David.

The Senate had announced Friday that the agreement also included suspending the law's ban on Internet sales of ammunition, but that isn't so, according to a memorandum of understanding released Saturday. The GOP majority acknowledged the error.

Most of the other provisions, including the ban on military assault-type weapons and safeguards against allowing the mentally ill to buy and keep firearms, remain. Cuomo pushed through passage of the bill in January 2013, a month after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 27 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Despite Cuomo's explanations, the suspension caused consternation among pro-gun-control liberals.

"Less than three years since Sandy Hook and less than four weeks since the horrific shooting in Charleston, Governor Cuomo is ready to undermine his own signature gun safety law," said a statement from Bill Lipton, director of the Working Families Party.

The party endorsed Cuomo for re-election last year after he pledged to pursue a liberal agenda and work to help Democrats regain the Senate -- a promise the party says he later broke.

"Governor Cuomo has shown that what's most important to him is his alliance with Republicans," Lipton said.

The Democratic-led Assembly, which was not a party to Friday's agreement, is considering some kind of action against it, said Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

The agreement was signed by Flanagan and a top aide to Cuomo. It can't change the law, but it effectively affirms there will be no enforcement attempts for now of the sections on ammunition.

"This is an ill-advised end run around the Legislature and the Safe Act," Heastie said in a statement. "The law may not be 'suspended' by a memorandum such as this."

Senate Republicans who were criticized by their upstate base of voters for agreeing to the SAFE Act called the changes a victory for Second Amendment rights. The National Rifle Association called it a "step in the right direction."

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