ALBANY Good-government groups and rank-and-file lawmakers criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for pushing stricter gun control measures into law through secret meetings, allowing little time for legislative debate and no public discussion.
The Senate approved the package Monday. The House passed it Tuesday and the governor signed it into law less than an hour later, making New York the first state to pass tougher gun control laws since the Connecticut school shootings.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers complained they saw the bill for only 20 minutes to two hours before they had to vote. And several Republicans said in floor debates that Cuomo, a Democrat, pushed his bill to passage to boost his own political career.
Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, speaking for several good-government groups, said the legislation wasn’t given an adequate airing.
“We understand the need to act quickly, but the best supported policies are those that benefit from public discussion and a transparent process,” Dadey said.
Dadey said that of 56 sections in the complex bill, 51 won’t be effective for 60 days, several not for a year, and just two were immediate.
“All the big things we do seem to be done with a message of necessity,” said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, an upstate Republican. “Just because we are first doesn’t mean much. We need to be best.”
Cuomo on Monday issued a “message of necessity” to suspend the three-day waiting period required for all bills under the state constitution, the way he has for almost all of his major policy issues and budgets. Governors often use the measure created for emergencies to seize a deal negotiated behind closed doors before lobbyists, rank-and-file lawmakers, the media and the public can raise concerns which could unravel a deal.
In pushing stricter gun laws, Cuomo said the scourge of assault weapons violence constitutes a dire emergency and the government must act as soon as possible.
“I think the people of the state said they want something done and they want it done now,” Cuomo said in a press conference Monday night in which he detailed the bill for the first time publicly. “People are crying out for this ... enough people have lost their lives. Let’s act.”
He also said delay could mean a run on the purchase of assault weapons.
But Assemblyman David DiPietro, an Erie County Republican, said the governor pushed the package through because he wanted “to be on the six o’clock news.”
“Why are we being bullied into approval of this bill?” asked Assemblyman Steve Katz, a Hudson Valley Republican. “Solely, for the governor’s egotistical, misguided notion? ... Is there anyone in the nation other than he who cares if New York comes out first, or last?”
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Kingston Democrat, said most of the bills had been debated for years and opposition to the process seemed guided to be coming from lawmakers against greater gun control.