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Cuomo could introduce gun control legislation next week

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CANTON - Assemblyman Kenneth J. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said he believes Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will introduce a gun control legislation package next week.

Mr. Blankenbush’s comments come after Wednesday’s fiery State of the State address where Mr. Cuomo declared tougher gun laws a central part of his 2013 legislative agenda, including “the toughest assault weapon ban in the nation.”

Mr. Blankenbush cautioned he is only hearing “rumors” within the Assembly, but he plans on “taking extra clothes” when he returns to Albany on Monday for the session in case the debate over gun control continues for several days.

Mr. Cuomo outlined seven points he plans on addressing this year. In addition to a stricter assault weapons ban, the governor wants to ban all high capacity magazines, including those made prior to 1994, require federal background checks for private gun sales and the sale of ammunition, enact tougher penalties for illegal gun use, keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and ban the direct sale of ammunition over the internet in the state.

“We need a gun policy in this state that is reasonable, that is balanced, that is measured. We respect hunters and sportsmen; this is not taking away people’s guns. I own a gun, I own a Remington shotgun. I’ve hunted, I’ve shot. That’s not what this is about. It is about ending the unnecessary risk of high capacity assault rifles,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, who is introducing her own bill designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill today, said she welcomes Mr. Cuomo’s leadership.

“It sounds like he’s focusing on accountability and tougher penalties for those that violate the law, and focusing on something that I find to be very important, which is keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and those that are mentally unstable,” Mrs. Russell said.

Mrs. Russell’s bill would also limit the amount of information that is made public about pistol permit carriers.

But Mr. Blankenbush said the debate about gun control is far from over.

“Ninety percent of our emails and phone calls are against what the governor is proposing,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “We’ve got to look at this as more of a comprehensive problem. I think the bigger problem we have is a mental health problem.”

Mr. Blankenbush said he will be looking closely at the bill proposed by Mrs. Russell, which is an expansion on “Mark’s Law” (S.4717B) proposed by Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, last year. Both the original bill and Mrs. Russell’s “expansion” aim at increasing the penalties for people who provide guns to criminals or the mentally ill.

While Mr. Blankenbush was in favor of Mark’s Law last year he said, “The more you attach to it the more it gives people an opportunity to say no to it.”

But, Mrs. Russell said, “It’s very likely that the governor will pick up several of the issues that I’m addressing in my legislation and include it in his gun control package.”

Mr. Blankenbush said he hopes the governor and the state Legislature doesn’t get tunnel vision when it comes to gun control.

“If you look at that issue, it’s not just a gun control issue,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “We’ve got to look at this as more of a comprehensive problem.”

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