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Gun Control

Linda Beigel Schulman, left, holds a photograph of her son Scott Beigel, who was killed by gun violence while speaking with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and gun safety advocates in the Red Room during a news conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Six years after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the SAFE Act, the Democratic-led state Legislature passed six bills Tuesday to strengthen New York's gun laws. 

The legislative package passed mostly along party lines. The six bills include a "red flag" law, which would provide a method for family members, law enforcement and school administrators to ask courts to remove guns from an individual determined to be a risk to themselves or others. 

Lawmakers approved a ban on bump stocks and a bill to prohibit schools from allowing teachers and other staff — with the exception of school resource officers — to possess firearms on school grounds. 

The package also included the establishment of a municipal gun buyback program led by the New York State Police, requires mental health background checks for out-of-state residents seeking gun permits in New York and mandate a 30-day waiting period to complete a gun purchase if a background check is inconclusive. 

Cuomo, a Democrat, backs the gun safety measures. His legislative agenda included a few of the proposals, including the bump stock ban and red flag law. 

Before the state Legislature's votes, Cuomo held a press conference with gun safety advocates and family members who lost loved ones to gun violence. He touted the passage of the SAFE Act in 2013 as "the most comprehensive, most aggressive safe gun agreement in the United States of America." 

With mass shootings still occurring, he believes more action is necessary. 

"You put the SAFE Act together with this red flag, what New York says is you can do this. There is a path forward. There is a solution," Cuomo said. "And we have six years of history to show that the planet does not stop spinning. People don't lose guns. It doesn't bankrupt an industry. None of those myths that they scare you with come true. They're just common-sense reforms." 

The gun laws, including the red flag proposal, were endorsed by Linda Beigel Schulman. Schulman's son, Scott Beigel, was a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He was one of 17 people killed in a mass shooting at the school last year. 

Later in the day, the state Senate adopted a resolution honoring Scott Beigel. 

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Linda Beigel Schulman has been pushing for adoption of a red flag law since her son was killed. She recalled meeting with Cuomo, who told her that he supported the proposal. 

"When we pass the red flag law, thanks to you and the Legislature, but so thanks to you, Scott's murder will now save lives," she said. 

The proposals were opposed by many Republicans. State Sen. George Amedore criticized the bump stock ban legislation because he believes the SAFE Act already bans bump stocks and the federal government moved to ban the devices last year. 

State Sen. Rich Funke, a Rochester-area Republican, panned the ban on arming teachers because of "unintended consequences." He believes the measure was poorly written and could affect students that are part of competitive shooting teams. 

On the creation of a municipal gun buyback program, Republican state Sen. Pam Helming said she supports the concept, but opposed the bill because it lacks funding. 

"Without the funding behind it, how can we host the programs?" she said. "If we want to have a truly effective program, we need to come up with the money behind it." 

Despite the GOP opposition, the bills sailed through the state Legislature. The state Assembly and Senate passed the bills by wide margins. 

Democrats defended the necessity of the measures, while adding that they weren't targeting law-abiding gun owners. 

"Let's be clear: We absolutely respect the Second Amendment," Senate Majority Leader Andrea-Stewart Cousins said, "but it doesn't mean we should allow dangerous people to have firearms." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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