Republicans in the Nassau County Legislature have stonewalled a bill that would require gun owners to lock up their firearms in safety boxes, and punish those who don’t — but Democrats are hoping a state version of the legislation could soon become law.
Flanked by gun control advocates and school officials outside the Nassau County Legislature on Wednesday, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams and Legislators Debra Mulé and Ellen Birnbaum urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the state bill, which passed the Senate and Assembly earlier this month, as soon as possible. The press conference was held two days after a Baldwin fourth-grader brought a loaded handgun to Meadow Elementary School.
“The governor has demonstrated that he has passed some of the toughest gun laws, not just here in New York, but across the country,” Abrahams, a Democrat from Freeport, said. “We applaud that. We need this extra step to go one more step further, so that a bad situation that could’ve been horrific never is horrific for any family here in Nassau County.”
The bill, introduced by Manhattan State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat, would mandate the storage of all firearms in a lockable box in houses where there is a child younger than 16. Gun sellers would also be required to tell purchasers of that they must lock away their guns. Failing to lock up a gun would be a Class-A misdemeanor, according to the bill, punishable by up to three years in prison.
All South Shore State senators are co-sponsors of the bill. “These are not just another piece of furniture in a house,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said in an interview. “They deserve special scrutiny … and they have to be stored safely.”
State Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Democrat from Northport, called the Baldwin incident incredibly disturbing. “There is simply no reason for a ten-year old to have access to a weapon of war,” Gaughran said in an email. “We must continue to support common sense gun reform laws so that all of our children are protected."
The Meadow fourth-grader allegedly received the gun, a .40-caliber semiautomatic Glock, during a party at his uncle’s house Sunday, the Nassau County police said.
The NCPD said a lunch aide at the school saw the 10-year-old boy and his friend playing with a backpack that contained a heavy object. Once the aide looked inside the bag, they found the gun.
The student, whose name has not been made public, was brought to the principal's office and later charged with criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds. He is due in Family Court on April 5. No adult has been charged in connection with the incident.
Kaminsky said he was thankful that nobody was injured at Meadow Elementary School on Monday. “But I think we need to take a moment to reflect on this,” he said.
In 2016, and again last year, Birnbaum, a Democrat from Great Neck, introduced a bill similar to Kreuger’s, but the Republican majority has since not brought it up for discussion. “I really thought there was a need to protect our children … from the senseless gun violence we saw around the country,” Birnbaum said. She said Republicans have not given her a reason for not allowing a vote on her bill.
“It is unconscionable that the safety and protection of our children was not considered a top priority,” Mulé, a Democrat from Freeport who represents Baldwin, said. She commended the Baldwin school district for how it handled the incident and creating a safe environment for children. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Nassau County Legislature,” she added.
Frank Moroney, the Republicans' communications director, said in an email, "The local law that was filed by the Minority in the Nassau Legislature would not and could not be enforced in any meaningful way. The Majority believes that there should be a consistent uniform state-wide approach to such legislation. That is exactly what appears to be happening now."
Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin school district, said she supports the statewide legislation. “Regardless of your stance on guns, no free-thinking, civic-minded citizen or advocate for children could dispute that the safe storage of any and all firearms is imperative,” Camhi said.