40 New York Counties Call For Repeal Of State's Tough New Gun Laws

Forty counties in upstate New York have passed resolutions condemning the state's tough new gun laws, passed quickly in the wake of Sandy Hook. Still, the law and its main architect, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, remain popular with voters, especially around New York City.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel. And now, the end of our series Guns in America. This week, we've taken you to Georgia, where Charles Foster Jr. was shot and killed in the early hours of 2013.

BLOCK: To Wyoming which leads the nation in suicides, many by gun.

SIEGEL: And today, we finish in New York. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a tough new law expanding the state's assault weapon ban and limiting large capacity magazines to seven rounds.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: We are not victims. We can strike back, and we can defend ourselves, and we're going to put rules in place that actually protect innocent people and society.

BLOCK: But more than 40 counties in upstate New York have since passed resolutions calling for a repeal of those rules. And yesterday, critics filed a federal lawsuit, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: There was little time for public debate before lawmakers in New York voted on the state's new gun law, but regular New Yorkers like Casey Jordan have been expressing their unhappiness ever since.

CASEY JORDAN: I think that the only appropriate way to deal with this is repeal the law, go back to the drawing board and come up with a law that actually accomplishes what they are supposed to accomplish.

ROSE: Jordan vented his frustration at a meeting of the Onondaga County legislature in Syracuse earlier this month. Moments later, they voted 14 to favor of a resolution calling for a repeal of the new gun law.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL)

ROSE: The Onondaga County resolution doesn't carry any legal weight, neither do the dozens of similar resolutions passed by other counties and towns. But their supporters hope they do send a message to the state capitol in Albany. Maggie Brooks is the county executive in Monroe County.

MAGGIE BROOKS: I don't believe punishing law-abiding citizens adding burden to those that are trying to comply with the law solves the problem.

ROSE: Brooks, who's a Republican, says the law misses the mark because it creates new permit and registration requirements without doing enough to get illegal guns off the streets.

BROOKS: Let's take a step back. Let's repeal. Let's really go out and address the concerns of people in the community. That's really what we're asking the governor to do.

ROSE: Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo does not seem inclined to repeal one of his signature legislative achievements. But earlier this week, Cuomo did announce that lawmakers have agreed to roll back a key provision of the law, one that would have banned the sale of magazines that hold more than seven rounds. Cuomo says New Yorkers can still buy 10-round magazines, but they can only be fully loaded at gun ranges or shooting competitions.

CUOMO: There is no such thing as a seven-bullet magazine. That doesn't exist. So you really have no practical option.

ROSE: But that revision isn't enough to placate the governor's critics. Yesterday, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and others filed a federal lawsuit. They argue the new law is unconstitutional because it infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense and other legal purposes. That's a widely held opinion in upstate New York where hunting is a big part of the culture.

TIM DOUGLAS: I appreciate everybody coming here to support the Second Amendment.

ROSE: Tim Douglas was a vendor at a gun show last weekend in Saratoga Springs. He says lawmakers from New York City are forcing their views on the rest of the state.

DOUGLAS: For people that live in the city and the senators down there, they don't get what's going on up here in this state. They don't get the way we live up here.

ROSE: But if you look at the state as a whole, the new gun law is still popular. Polls show that more than 60 percent of voters approve. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

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