Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to toughen gun control laws for those convicted of domestic violence crimes is getting praise from a local advocate for abuse victims.
The legislation, the first 2018 priority unveiled by Cuomo, would require the mandatory surrender of firearms by anyone convicted of domestic violence-related charges, including misdemeanors.
"It could be threats, pushing and shoving, it could be strangulation,” said Jaime Saunders, the outgoing executive director at Willow Domestic Violence Center. “When someone is involved in a court case, it can be pled down. So it could be a very significant event that gets pled down to a misdemeanor."
Current New York law prohibits the possession of firearms only for individuals convicted of felony offenses.
It’s up to a judge to decide whether someone's gun license is suspended when an order of protection is issued in a domestic violence case. Cuomo wants legislation making that mandatory. He is also calling for the surrender of rifles and shotguns in such cases. They are not always included in the firearm license suspension or revocation under current state law.
"This is not pro-gun or anti-gun, this is about common sense. We know through research that a firearm in the home where there is a history of domestic violence increases the risk of homicide twentyfold, twenty times,” Saunders said. "We're fortunate in Monroe County. Our law enforcement partners, as a matter of practice, when there is an arrest for domestic violence, will remove firearms that are known - and it's important to say the firearms that are known - they will remove them from the home. What's missing is that the perpetrator is then able to file to retrieve those firearms.
Cuomo said 2017 will be remembered as the year of reckoning, when both the tragedy of mass shootings and cultural and institutional harassment of women became impossible to ignore.
Both Cuomo and Saunders noted that nine of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history involved a shooter who had an existing record of committing violence against women.
According to the governor's office, firearms were used in 25 domestic homicides in New York State in 2016.