Capitol Watch: Call for debates in governor's race

Gov. Andrew Cuomo addresses the crowd at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park in 2018 in New York. 

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on President Donald Trump Monday to use his executive authority to ban assault weapons and allow authorities to seize weapons from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

“Let him sign an executive order that says I declare an emergency in the United States of America because innocents are getting gunned down, and here is my policy -- ban assault weapons, ban high capacity magazines, universal background checks, red flag laws," Cuomo, a Democrat, said.

And while he suggested the massacres over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, should not result in "finger pointing," Cuomo, a Democrat, argued Trump has "fomented hate" while failing to "practice what he preaches" on the need for greater tolerance and respect.

"For the president to say there’s no place for hate is one of the great hypocritical statements of all time," Cuomo told New York City radio station WINS.

Cuomo used the weekend of gun deaths to point to his controversial gun control legislation, the New York SAFE Act -- enacted in 2013 just weeks after the schoolhouse massacre in Sandy Hook, Connecticut -- as a model for the nation. He maintained the legislation has had the desired impact against gun crimes, as it banned military-style firearms and large capacity magazines.

Cuomo also dished advice to the Democrats competing for their party's presidential nomination, urging them to be a unified voice on proposals to address gun violence.

“Let’s see if we can have an election that makes a positive difference, and get the Democrats to sign onto one set of proposals, so the public is not confused with this Chinese menu of options," Cuomo said on an Albany public radio station.

Cuomo spoke after Trump condemned racism and white supremacy and threw his support behind legislation that would expand information sharing for the nation's system of background checks for gun purchases.

Trump's remarks got a much more favorable review from Rep. Elise Stefanik, R- Schuylerville. "I echo the President's desire to strengthen existing background checks for criminals and the mentally ill," said Stefanik, who scored an A rating from the National Rifle Association last year. "States and towns must be sharing the same data base to ensure that no one falls through the cracks."

Stefanik has been a critic of the SAFE Act. She has also opposed a national ban on assault rifles such as the ones used in the El Paso and Dayton killing sprees.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D -Niagara Falls/Buffalo urged the U.S. Senate to take up the legislation authorizing expanded background checks, a bill he supported when it was approved by the House.

Higgins also noted he is a co-sponsor of a proposed ban on the sale and transportation of military-style semi-automatic rifles and pistols, as well as high-capacity magazines. The congressman also cosponsors the "red flag" legislation that allows authorities to temporarily hold a firearm if a court determines a person to be a threat to others or to himself.

Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, urged the Senate to pass the background check measure. But in a tweet dealing with gun control legislation, made no mention of the proposed assault weapon ban. He has previously said he supports a ban on such firearms.

In Washington, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to terminate the Senate's August recess and return to allow a vote on the background check legislation.

Schumer said the measure would close a loophole that allows people who should be disqualified from owning guns to legally acquire one by buying from an unlicensed seller.

New York has among the most stringent gun control laws in the nation, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Last week, new legislation was approved to extend the waiting period for gun purchases in New York to 30 days if a background check conducted by the FBI remains inconclusive three days after an application is made.

A national ban on assault weapons expired in 2004 after being in effect for 10 years. The author of that legislation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, renewed her call Monday for the federal ban to be reinstated, saying, "We have to get weapons of war off our streets."

In Albany, the New York State Bar Association said its gun violence task force is preparing recommendations for changes to state laws and regulations on guns while "still protecting an individual's right to lawfully possess firearms."

   

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com.