ALBANY -- The confiscation of military-style assault weapons is unnecessary because New York imposed a ban on the semi-automatic firearms six years ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
Cuomo made the comment on a day when he challenged Democratic presidential candidates to embrace the strict gun laws enacted in New York in early 2013, just weeks after a schoolhouse massacre in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
He said the New York legislation, known as the SAFE Act, prohibits the sale of weapons that are “designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest period of time.”
While stopping short of expressing opposition to confiscation, he noted pushing for the seizure of such firearms is not on his agenda. He noted it would be challenging to seize such guns from their owners.
“Confiscation is different” than stopping sales, Cuomo told an interviewer with Rochester radio station WXXI. He added: “I don’t even know how you would do that. And what is the need to do it if they were already banned six years ago?”
He also maintained the New York legislation has placed no burdens on people who comply with firearms laws and regulations.
“There’s no legitimate gun owner who’s come to me in six years and said,”you infringed on my right,’” the governor said.
Cuomo’s comments drew a rebuke from Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, a gun rights supporter who advocates for the SAFE Act’s repeal.
“I guess all of the gun owners I know are viewed as illegitimate in his eyes,” Ortt said. “The gun owners who are my constituents have repeatedly talked to me about the SAFE Act and the infringement of their Second Amendment rights under this governor and this administration.”
Ortt said the SAFE Act has become one of the most divisive issues in New York legislative history, pointing out he still sees signs in his district calling for the law’s repeal.
The president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Tom King, who is also a national board member of the National Rifle Association, said when Cuomo was prompted for his position on confiscation he had no choice but to say he would not initiate such a move, because if he did it would be derailed by the courts.
“As far left and as liberal as he is, I don’t think he wants to be the first one taken to court for the total violation of civil liberties,” King said.
Nate McMurray, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, last year, has recently signaled his support for the confiscation of assault weapons.
Cuomo demanded that Democrats running for the White House sign a “Make America Safer Pledge,” and threatened to withhold his support from those who do not make that commitment.
Gun control has become a prominent issue for candidates on the campaign trail following last weekend’s mass killings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. While there is no known connection between the events, authorities say the shooters in both massacres were armed with semi-automatic assault rifles.
Cuomo also complained the stances of the Democratic candidates on the gun issue has been too vague. “I can’t even tell you what the position of the Democratic presidential candidates are and I follow this stuff every day,” he said.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.