By Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo appear unlikely to reach an agreement on new, tougher gun laws before year's end, the sides indicated Wednesday.
Cuomo has been negotiating with the Legislature on a potential deal to hold a special session on new gun regulations. With little progress on the horizon, Cuomo is going to focus on gun laws in his State of the State address on Jan. 9, his office said. The legislative session starts the same day.
Cuomo, a Democrat, hinted last week that a special session, which was rumored for potentially later this week, was unlikely. He said on an Albany radio show that "the only thing that's going to happen in the next few days is Christmas."
Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said Wednesday she was unaware of plans to hold a special session this week, saying "It seems like it might be unlikely."
A major snowstorm through upstate later Wednesday and Thursday would also likely thwart any special session.
Democrats and Republicans have indicated they are willing to work with Cuomo on the gun issue following the deadly shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and the shooting death of two first responders near Rochester on Monday by a convicted felon.
Stewart-Cousins said she was confident a gun-control package could be adopted early in the legislative session. Democrats are pushing for a series of bills, such as closing loopholes in the state's assault-weapons ban.
"The sooner we can start addressing some of the very obvious and commonsense laws, the better off we are," Stewart-Cousins said.
Senate Republicans, who hold the majority in the chamber, said they would seek compromise with Democrats, who control the Assembly.
"Senate Republicans are supportive of sensible measures that will keep New Yorkers safe in their homes, in their neighborhoods and in their schools," said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Republicans.
Reif said the measures would include "going after illegal guns, boosting mandatory minimum sentences, cracking down on criminals who use a gun in the commission of a crime, taking steps to enhance school safety, curbing gun-related gang violence, and keeping guns away from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others."
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, said Wednesday he supports efforts to curb access to guns by criminals and mentally ill people, but he warned against sweeping changes that would be infringe on New Yorkers' Second Amendment rights.
Ball said he was concerned that the state may "lose the opportunity to really zoom in on not only gun control, but 'nut' control, and what led, specifically in Connecticut, to allow this person who is highly unstable to have access" to guns.
Ball said that he will propose legislation to prohibit the public disclosure of information about gun permits after the Journal News, which is owned by Gannett Co. and based in Westchester County, published a list of local gun owners and their addresses. The newspaper defended the decision in a statement.
In an interview, Ball said it was unlikely the measure would pass the Assembly, but he said the legislation would highlight the need to protect the rights of gun owners.
"The asinine editors at the Journal News have once again gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on law abiding firearm owners throughout the region," Ball said in a statement.
The gun lobby in New York doled out about $122,000 in campaign contributions to lawmakers and their political committees over the past two years, a review by the New York Public Interest Research Group found.
The money went largely to Senate Republicans, including $27,500 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and $10,000 to Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, NYPIRG said.
The donations represented a small amount of the total that lobbying firms in New York contributed to campaigns in 2011, NYPIRG found in a separate report last June. The firms donated $1.8 million to campaigns, the group said in its report.
Tom King, president of the state Rifle and Pistol Association, warned lawmakers to not make any decisions on gun control in haste. He said Monday that he was confident that Senate Republicans, who mainly represent upstate districts, would not adopt any burdensome measures on gun owners, such as a possible confiscation program hinted by Cuomo last week.
"Any lawmaker who says passing another gun-control law will make the streets safer and the people can sleep better at night because they don't have to worry is very much uninformed," King said on WGDJ-AM (1300).