By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY A bill to exempt retired law enforcement officials from a portion of the state's new gun laws is headed for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk after the Senate approved the measure early Friday despite disagreement among the chamber's Republicans.
If signed into law, retired police officers, peace officers and certain federal law enforcement agents wouldn't be subject to New York's ban on high-capacity magazines, so long as it was purchased for their official duties.
Under state law approved in January, magazines can't hold more than seven bullets, except at a gun range or competition.
The Senate passed the bill around 2 a.m., which drew criticism from nearly half of the Senate GOP, which shares control of the chamber with the four-member Independent Democratic Conference. The Democratic-led Assembly passed the bill in May.
The measure passed by a 49-14 vote and was sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden, a Brooklyn Republican who is a retired New York City police officer.
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, said the bill was put to a vote in the early hours of the morning to prevent public attention. He said the changes to the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act-which widened the state's assault weapons ban and implemented tougher penalties on illegal gun owners-have split Senate Republicans. He blamed the divide he blamed on Cuomo, the main supporter of the new gun-control measures.
"I'm glad Senator Golden can protect his family," Ball said during the Senate debate. "How about the victim of domestic violence in her home, who now doesn't have a home exemption?"
Golden said criticism of the time of the vote was unfounded because the bill was first introduced weeks ago.
Cuomo hasn't signaled whether he will support the bill.
The SAFE Act was shepherded through the Legislature in January by Cuomo after high-profile shootings last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and in Webster, Monroe County. The new law has hurt Cuomo's standing among gun owners-particularly those upstate-and led to lawsuits challenging it constitutionality.
Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, ripped the exemption and called on Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, to retire. Nojay has led a number of protests at the Capitol against the gun-control law.
"At this point, the only way to salvage the 2014 cycle for the Senate GOP is for his fellow Republicans to thank Skelos for his service and let him retire to spend more time with his family," Nojay wrote in an email.