Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-Rome) was in the minority when the Senate voted 43-18 last night to approve new restrictions on sales of guns and ammunition.
Griffo represents the 47th district, which includes Massena, Potsdam and adjacent communities in St. Lawrence County, along with Lewis and Oneida counties.
Both of Griffo's colleagues who also represent St. Lawrence County, Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) and Betty Little (R-Queensbury) also voted against the bill, which had been pushed strongly by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and rammed through the Senate Monday night.
“I could not support the legislation which was fast-tracked through the Senate last evening,” Griffo said in a statement from Albany.
“The legislation that was voted on did not go through the usual legislative process, and certainly was never negotiated in front of the public and in the light of day. The late-night vote on such a critical issue violated the rights of New Yorkers to dialogue with their legislators about this important bill,” Griffo said.
Griffo also complained that the many provisions in the bill should have been separated into distinct bills.
“I have spoken out before about the tactic of lumping unrelated legislation into one bill as part of the horse-trading that goes on to secure passage of a bill,” the 47th District senator said. “We should vote ideas up or down on their merits, not combine them into one bill. The fact that this legislation had provisions that I have sponsored and supported in the past made my vote even more difficult. I co-authored the expansion of Kendra’s Law and was a co-sponsor of Mark’s Law so my record in supporting mental health issues is clear. We must ensure that those who need help have access to care.”
But despite his support for those parts of the bill, Griffo said he thought on balance the bill did not deserve his support.
“There were far too many pieces in the bill that punish law-abiding citizens. This law will require background checks for the simple act of buying a box of .22 ammunition. Anyone with more than seven rounds in an ammunition clip violates the law, even if the ammo is in an old currently legal clip sitting locked up inside the house. With provisions like that, I do not believe we are enhancing public safety in a meaningful way, or preventing criminals from getting guns, as much as placing new restrictions on honest, law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen.
“Although there was some compromise in the final product, I do not believe there was enough of an emphasis on getting illegal handguns out of the hands of criminals. Many constituents, who include workers at Ilion’s landmark Remington Arms plant whose jobs are on the line, have been very clear in their communications to me that any new public safety legislation must be fully protective of their Second Amendment rights.”
Griffo had sympathy for those who felt strong measures were needed.
“I understand the need for protecting the innocent members of our society and I support strong public safety measures. However, I am opposed to rushing a last minute agreement through the legislative process in the dead of the night. I also believe that this legislation did not, overall, make sufficient meaningful impact on public safety to warrant its restrictions on Second Amendment rights.
“We must continue to address the problem of illegal guns, issues with mental illness and problems with the mental health system and the culture of violence that permeates our society. I’m hopeful that in the weeks ahead the federal government as well as the state will engage in meaningful dialogue to make a real difference,” Griffo said.