ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo is urging U.S. lawmakers to follow New York State’s lead and pass legislation similar to the New York SAFE Act.
Cuomo released a statement Thursday, one day after another high school mass shooting incident in Florida that claimed the lives of 17 people.
In his statement, the governor said that in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook in 2012, the state passed a bipartisan measure that provided toughest gun safety legislation in the nation. He said that the SAFE Act not only banned weapons like the AR-15, but also prevents people who are a risk to themselves or to others from purchasing a gun.
“The SAFE Act has made our communities more secure, including by banning assault weapons like AR-15s and preventing people who are a risk to themselves or to others from purchasing a gun. As of December 2017, 75,000 people deemed to be dangerously mentally ill by a licensed mental health professional have been added to a database to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” Cuomo said.
Despite the governor claiming the SAFE Act to be bipartisan, it has not been without controversy or criticism. The legislation was challenged by gun rights groups in the state who claimed it violated New Yorkers’ Second Amendment Rights.
In October 2015 a Federal Appeals Court upheld the majority of the legislation, though it did rule that New York’s requirement that only seven bullets can be loaded into a 10-round magazine was unconstitutional. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal request to the 2015 decision.
Authorities in Florida say the school shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased the AR-15 rifle used in the attack.
Federal law allows people 18 and older to legally purchase long guns – including the AR-15 rifle – unless a state law prohibits its possession, such as the NY SAFE Act. And with no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database.
DATA SUGGESTS STRICTER GUN LAWS DO RESULT IN FEWER GUN DEATHS
While Guns Rights advocates have criticized New York for having some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, data compiled by the Violence Policy Center illustrates that there could be a correlation between state’s with strict gun laws and lower gun death rates.
Among the 50 states in the nation, the five states with the fewest gun deaths per capita, as of 2016, were:
- Massachusetts (3.55 per 100,000);
- New York (4.56);
- Hawaii (4.62);
- Rhode Island (4.64);
- and Connecticut (4.81).
Three of those five states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York) are rated among those with the strictest gun regulations in the nation. According to a June 2017 report by the Washington Post, those three states each have laws on the books related to assault weapons ban (including the AR-15), high-capacity magazine ban, prohibitions for high-risk individuals, prohibitions for individuals with domestic violence convictions, and mandatory universal background checks.
Hawaii also has laws on the books related to prohibitions for high-risk individuals, prohibitions for individuals with domestic violence convictions, and mandatory universal background checks.
Rhode Island has laws in place related to prohibitions for high-risk individuals and mandatory universal background checks.
It’s also worth noting New York State was one of only five states to see a notable decrease in its gun death rate in the eight year period covering 2009 to 2016, with a drop of 6.9 percent. The SAFE Act was also approved and put in place during that time period. Only Rhode Island was higher with a drop of 12.8 percent. The other tree states that saw a decrease were California, Connecticut, and Wyoming.
Among the 50 states in the nation, the five states with the highest number of gun deaths per capita, as of 2016, were:
- Alaska (23.86);
- Alabama (21.51);
- Louisiana (21.08);
- Mississippi (19.64);
- and Oklahoma (19.52).
None of the states ranked in the top 5 gun deaths list had laws in place regarding an assault weapons ban (including the AR-15), high-capacity magazine ban, or mandatory universal background checks. Louisiana also didn’t have a law in place regarding prohibitions for high-risk individuals. And neither Alaska, Mississippi, or Oklahoma had laws involving prohibitions for individuals with domestic violence convictions.
In addition to his comments on Thursday, Cuomo also directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Monday, February 19, in conjunction with a federal proclamation, to honor the victims of the Florida school shooting.