ALBANY — Four Northeast governors on Thursday announced a new coalition to work together to toughen gun laws in the wake of the Florida school shooting and congressional inaction.
The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island said citizens will not be satisfied by “baby steps” and “political crumbs” such as merely raising the legal purchasing age and banning so-called bump stocks that can turn guns into automatic weapons.
They said they will sign an agreement to share and collaborate on gun violence research and statistics gathering to fill in a federal void. Dubbing their group “States for Gun Safety,” they said they would invite other states to join and also will pressure Congress to act.
“Right now, you have the high school students showing more leadership than the leaders in Washington,” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a conference call, referring to the students of Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed last week.
He said other nations have confronted the issue of mass shootings and automatic weapons, but the U.S. has failed. He noted the U.S. outlawed machine guns in the 1930s, but said it has gone backward since by allowing the sale of military-style weapons, such as the AR-15.
Cuomo blasted the notion of arming schoolteachers, saying that’s what the National Rifle Association wants. “The goal is to not make schools armed camps,” he said.
The coalition, the governors said, would create a multistate task force to trace and intercept illegal guns in the region, share information about individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms, share intelligence about gun crimes and designate certain universities to form the first “Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.”
Other governors noted their states have some of the nation’s toughest gun laws — and lowest rates of gun violence.
“We want to send a powerful message to the entire country that it’s possible to strengthen gun laws and save lives,” said Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy also participated in the conference call.
“Gun violence is not a New Jersey problem, a New York problem, a Connecticut problem, a Rhode Island problem, or a problem for any particular state or region — it is a national problem,” Murphy added.
On the same day, National Rifle Association executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre denounced Cuomo and half a dozen other Democrats as “European socialists,” according to multiple reports. Addressing a conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee, LaPierre sought to portray Democrats who are pushing for tighter gun control as anti-freedom.
“If they seize power, if these so-called ‘European socialists’ take over the House and the Senate, and God forbid they get the White House again, our Americans’ freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever.”
Afterward, Cuomo issued a response accusing LaPierre and the NRA as “peddling lies.”
“If Wayne LaPierre is attacking you, you know you’re doing something right,” the New York governor said. “I am proud of my F rating from the NRA, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep New Yorkers and our children safe.”