Gov. Cuomo proposes taking guns away from domestic abusers

Legislative Gazette file photo

In his upcoming State of the State Address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will propose taking handguns, rifles and shotguns from New Yorkers convicted of domestic violence.

In the last three years, Cuomo has begun releasing his major policy initiative for the coming year ahead of his actual State of the State speech, which is scheduled to be delivered on Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

In this first policy priority, unveiled Wednesday, the governor states that “given the inextricable link between domestic violence and lethal gun violence,” his legislation would require all domestic violence crime convictions, including misdemeanors, result in the immediate removal of all firearms from the home and also add new legal measures to permanently keep firearms out of the hands of abusers.

In 2016, firearms were used in 25 domestic homicides in New York.

“This year will be remembered as the year of reckoning, when both the tragedy of mass shootings and cultural and institutional harassment of women became impossible to ignore,” Cuomo said.

Under Governor Cuomo, New York has passed the controversial New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act in 2013, considered by many to be the toughest set of gun control laws in the nation. That set of laws came just one month after the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first graders and six teachers and staff members were killed.

Cuomo said Wednesday, however, that New York does not have sufficient laws in place to automatically mandate removing every type of firearm from individuals involved in domestic violence — an issue he says is closely tied to gun violence and deaths.

Cuomo noted that in nine of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, including Las Vegas and the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, the shooter had an existing record of committing violence against women, threatening violence against women, or harassing or disparaging women.

The governor’s proposal would close three “loopholes” in state law.

Currently, judges issue orders of protection in domestic violence cases after an individual is arrested, but before they are convicted. These orders result in the suspension of firearm licenses. However, these orders are issued at the judges’ discretion and may not happen in every domestic violence case. To ensure consistency, Cuomo is proposing legislation requiring that all judges mandate the surrender of all firearms — hand guns and long guns — and suspend any firearm license until the case is resolved.

The governor’s proposal builds on legislation previously advanced by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Senators Diane Savino, Brad Hoylman and other members of the Legislature.

The law as it stands now prohibits the possession of firearms for individuals convicted of felony or “serious” offenses. However, this excludes certain misdemeanor offenses involving domestic violence, such as assault and battery crimes or strangulation.

Cuomo’s proposal, which will likely include more details when he speaks about it during the State of the State on Jan. 3, will include all domestic violence misdemeanors on the list of prohibited offenses.

New York state law also requires the surrender of hand guns when there is an order of protection issued by a judge or when a mental health professional disqualifies a person from owning a gun.

However, this statute does not always apply to rifles and shotguns. Cuomo’s proposed legislation would change that.