Will the real Democrats please stand up for gun control in NY State?
In this Sunday, Jan. 23, 2000 file photo, Andrew Cuomo, left, now New York governor, gets ready for a pheasant hunt in Savannah, N.Y., as New York assemblymen Dick Smith, center, of Buffalo, and Michael Bragman, right, of Cicero, stand with him. | Michael Okoniewski / AP

While reading a recent article in the New York Civil Service paper, The Chief, I could not help remarking on the lack of leadership from Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. I kept thinking, What if the governor really took sides—the Democratic side? What could we accomplish on so many fronts? Once again, apparent to anyone who has followed this governor’s stewardship, his lack of honesty and integrity has become an open wound.

This time, Cuomo’s position on gun violence and reform is especially disgraceful. Although he passed the SAFE Act five years ago in 2013, since then his leadership has gone missing.

Cuomo claims further legislation must come from the federal government. In light of the youth who took to the streets all over the country and around the world the weekend of March 24, Governor Cuomo should be ashamed of himself. Here is a quote from a Cuomo spokesperson: “We need federal action, and the lack of federal action on this is alarming.” Really, Governor? How about calling it what it is?—playing both sides against the middle.

As long as the governor continues to allow the Independent Democratic Council (IDC, so-called Democrat state senators who caucus with the Republicans) to give over their power to the Republicans, many genuinely progressive bills will never see the light of day, e.g., housing laws, single payer health care for all New Yorkers, or for that matter, extending the $15 minimum wage to Buffalo, Albany or Schenectady.

The Assembly has proposed and passed sensible gun reform legislation: A law that creates an extreme-risk protection order to be signed by a judge prohibiting people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others from possessing firearms; a law that extends from three days to 10 the amount of time someone must wait to purchase a weapon if a federal background check is not completed; and a law that bans “bump stocks” (devices that can modify single-shot rifles to fire multiple-round bursts).

The Republican and IDC-controlled state Senate rejected a proposal by Long Island Democrat Todd Kaminsky that would ban arming teachers in their classrooms, a solution proposed by Trump and others.

Now, let’s look at the “solutions” offered by the Senate side: Hire school resource officers—defined as active or retired police officers or state troopers specifically authorized to carry weapons in schools. School districts would receive up to $50,000 a year from the state as reimbursement. Simcha Felder, a Senate Democrat who caucuses with Republicans giving them control of the Senate, was able to get a bill approved by the Senate that would put a police officer in every school, public or private. The Senate also approved a bill to offer a distinctive license plate, “Guardians for Schools.” The $25 fee would go to school security programs.

All of the Senate’s proposals point to a further deterioration of a society that wishes to be safe and free from militarization. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that his house’s legislation would help keep weapons out of the hands of potential school shooters. “The point we’re trying to make is that more guns on top of students is not the answer,” he said, referring to the Senate’s armed officer-in-schools bills.

By continuing to play neutral, Governor Cuomo allows the likes of the IDC and Simcha Felder to cede control to the Senate Republicans, blocking legislation for the greater good of all New Yorkers.


Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.