Thank you, thank you, thank you, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, State Senate majority coalition leaders Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver! You led while others squirmed.
Last month, first the Senate and then the Assembly passed companion pieces of gun-control legislation aimed at stemming the flow of illegal guns through the state and, we hope and pray, reducing the number of deaths by gun –– roughly six in 100,000 people, according to the FBI.
The measure, aptly titled the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, is touted as the toughest gun law in the United States. Cuomo signed it on Jan. 15.
The legislation came in reaction to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. President Obama called it the saddest day of his presidency. Men, women and children across the nation broke down in tears upon hearing the horrific news and seeing the innocent faces of such young children brutally gunned down, without warning, without reason.
Sandy Hook became a dividing line, a moment to pause and question who we, as a country, had become. Then, at the national level, the arguments began, as they so often do after such a murderous act. Liberals called for an immediate federal ban on the type of assault weapon used by Adam Lanza to perpetrate mass murder. And National Rifle Association leaders said, as they always do, that guns aren’t the problem. People are. What we need, the NRA said, are armed guards in every school who could gun down the mass murderers before they got to the children.
It was all sound and fury, the usual merry-go-round of news-cycle bluster. You began to believe, sadly, that, once again, nothing would be accomplished. We would maintain the status quo despite the deaths of so many innocents, not only on a cold December day in Connecticut, but in states around the country over the past two decades.
But then New York’s leadership –– our governor and our Legislature –– stepped up and did the right thing, passing gun-control legislation that will not eliminate the violence, but which is surely a step in the right direction, toward a safer society for all of us, most especially our children.