On June 21, New York City officials and gun-control advocates took to the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan to release a 2016 ranking of lawmakers on gun control votes in the state Legislature.
The rankings are based on lawmakers’ individual voting records on gun legislation in the Assembly and Senate since January 2013. Specifically, the rankings reflect a legislator’s stance and voting record on the 2013 NY SAFE Act, their votes on legislation to repeal portions of the SAFE Act, and their stance on gun storage legislation called Nicholas’ Law.
Lawmakers received one of four rankings: “fail,” “needs improvement,” “average,” or “above average” to show how their voting records compare to the gun control policy objectives of the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence advocacy group.
Out of New York’s 150 Assembly members, 44 legislators failed, 20 need improvement, two received “incomplete” grades and 78 were deemed above average.
Out of New York’s 63 senators, 23 failed, nine need improvement, two scored an average, and 27 ranked above average. The newest Senator, Todd Kaminsky, received an above average ranking based on his record in the Assembly.
The ranking of each individual state legislator can be viewed at the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence website.
“At the end of the 2016 legislative session and after last week’s massacre in Orlando, it is important that voters know where their legislators stand on gun safety,” said Leah Gunn Barrett, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “The 2013 SAFE Act strengthened New York’s gun laws by closing the private sale loophole and toughening the assault weapons ban. To remain a leader in gun safety, we must do more.”
New York City’s Public Advocate, Letitia James, cited a 2015 poll commissioned by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence that shows 75 percent of New York voters, and67 percent of New York gun owners, believe the public has a right to set “reasonable” regulations on gun ownership and gun use. The private poll also shows 64 percent of voters believe strengthening the state’s gun laws will improve public safety.
The Kiley & Company phone survey questioned 604 registered voters in New York State between April 14 and 16, 2015. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed were from upstate and 36 percent were from New York City, with the remaining 25 percent living in New York City suburbs. Twenty-nine percent of respondents lived in a household with a firearm while 67 percent of respondents lived in a household with no firearm.
“This scorecard is an important tool in educating New Yorkers on where their elected officials stand on one of the most critical issues of our time,” said James.
“Together, we must stand up to the NRA and take back our country from the scourge of gun violence.”
James called out the state’s legislators who repeatedly vote against gun control bills and yet offered their condolences to the victims and families in the recent Orlando massacre, telling them, “your sympathy is a hollow gesture.” Prayers and condolences are not enough, she said, because they cannot change gun violence in America; only their votes can.
Barrett, James and New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams encouraged state lawmakers to stand up against the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association.
“They continue to let the NRA do the devil’s work,” said Williams. He said state lawmakers who vote against gun control legislation are “pushing back without no logic at all.”
The day the legislators’ rankings were released at City Hall was also national ASK Day; a campaign organized by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics aimed at keeping children safe. The campaign urges parents to ask about the presence of guns in homes where their children play.
One-third of homes with children in the United States has a gun and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun, according to ASK.
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and their allies in city and state government are pushing for more stringent gun storage laws, restrictions on ownership for more domestic violence abusers, more inspections on gun dealers and microstamping, which allows investigators to better trace the guns used in a crime.
“To remain a leader in gun safety, we must do more,” said Barrett. “We will not give up.”