By Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Our nation recently endured yet another horrible shooting in which two people were killed in Jacksonville. Once again, our hearts are broken for the lives that were lost due to senseless gun violence. Incidents like this have become tragically normalized and have exposed the desperate need to make serious reforms to our gun laws at every level of government. Yet despite public outcries for gun control, the Trump Administration and the NRA want to take us in the exact wrong direction. Just a couple weeks ago, Education Secretary Betsey Devos announced that she is considering allowing states to use federal tax dollars to buy guns for teachers. It’s an outrageous proposal that shows how far off base she and President Trump are on guns.
Here in New York State, the Republicans in control of the State Senate are not much different. They have refused to take any action despite repeated attempts by my colleagues in the Democratic Conference and I to force votes on common sense gun reforms. We have proposed strengthening New York’s background checks by giving authorities more time to screen gun purchasers and creating extreme risk protection orders which would take guns out of the hands of people deemed potentially violent by a judge. We’ve also proposed a bill that would ban bump stocks on assault rifles like the one used by the gunman in the Las Vegas shooting. All of these bills have broad support among New Yorkers, but the Republican Majority in the State Senate has blocked every one of them from advancing.
One would think that in a State as progressive as New York, we’d be able to pass common-sense gun laws. And in some cases, we have. When I was a County Legislator, we passed safe storage requirements for gun owners in Westchester. And in the State Senate, my colleagues in the Democratic Conference and I passed the NY SAFE Act in 2012, the toughest gun control laws in the nation. Among other things, the SAFE Act banned assault rifles and expanded background checks. But there is still so much more we need to do to improve gun safety in our state.
These are extremely unsettling times. The rise of Donald Trump has taught us that elections can never be taken for granted because the consequences are real. That’s why we have people like Betsey Devos making such outrageous proposals, and it’s why we have a Republican State Senate that won’t pass common sense gun control.
The good news is that we have the power to make change, and that power rests in our ability to choose our leaders at the ballot box. So, if you care about standing up to Donald Trump and the NRA, if you reject proposals like Betsey Devos’ and if you believe that New York should strengthen its gun laws, please vote this election season.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, is NY State Senator for District 35.