Albany’s Response to School Shootings: Lots of Action, to Little Effect

Albany’s Response to School Shootings: Lots of Action, to Little Effect

The passage of the city schools bill, by a wide margin, also had political significance: Its sponsor is Senator Simcha Felder, the renegade Democrat from Brooklyn who conferences with Republicans to help them rule the Senate. Mr. Felder has been pressured to rejoin the Democrats, but has said that his decision to do so could come down to which party supports his efforts to get armed police officers in schools. And on Monday, Republicans did just that, by putting the bill up for a vote.

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The Republican package also included a bill that would create a “distinctive” $25 license plate, emblazoned with the words of “Guardians for Schools” over an image of a police officer with two children or a law enforcement badge. The money raised from the plate would used to beef up security in public schools.

The bill, sponsored by Senator James Tedisco, a Republican, caused a ruckus on the Senate floor on Monday after a Democratic opponent, Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, derided the idea as “so harebrained” and voted against it.

Mr. Tedisco rose immediately, calling Mr. Hoylman and other Democrats hypocrites for benefiting from security at the Capitol but not wanting the same for their constituents. “You have metal detectors,” Mr. Tedisco said, raising his voice and staring at Mr. Hoylman. “Why shouldn’t we raise money for them to have metal detectors so weapons can’t get in the school?”

Mr. Hoylman later called the Republicans’ measures “an empty gesture,” and said that he would soon introduce a proposal to ban the possession of rifles and long guns for any person without a hunting license under the age of 21. “After Parkland, there’s a growing realization that kids shouldn’t own firearms,” he said. “The shooter in Parkland was 19.”

Indeed, the legislation-at-loggerheads comes less than three weeks after the school shooting in Florida, an event repeatedly invoked on the Assembly floor on Tuesday.

“I am done battening down the hatches every time these massacres occur until we move on to other subjects,” said James Skoufis, an Democratic Assemblyman representing parts of Rockland County and Orange County, adding, “People are dying, children are dying, and it’s happening over and over and over again.”

The question of how much action will be taken may well depend on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who has praised his own efforts to battle gun violence, including the 2013 SAFE Act, which outlawed the sale of so-called assault rifles, like the one used in Parkland. Mr. Cuomo has offered mild support for some proposals from fellow Democrats, but has preferred to rail against lack of action by Republicans in Washington.

“We support further strengthening the strongest gun safety laws in the country, and look forward to discussing proposals to do that with the Assembly and Senate,” Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, said on Tuesday. “But as the governor said, to most effectively curb gun violence we need federal action, and the lack of federal action on this is alarming.”

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Mar 8, 2018 - -

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