A fight among Albany leaders over changes to the comprehensive gun control legislation known as the NY SAFE Act almost held up agreement on the state budget, but then state lawmakers quietly forged a deal to enact those changes through the same budget. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
As state leaders were meeting to close a deal on the budget last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo was seeking changes to the NY SAFE Act, his signature legislative accomplishment of 2013.
The governor wanted to suspend the requirement that all magazines sold in New York State have a capacity of seven bullets or less. The problem is that no company manufactures seven-round clips.
"Many people read it for many, many, many weeks and didn't catch that inconsistency," Cuomo said on March 18.
When it was disclosed that Cuomo was considering changing the law to once again allow 10-round magazines, the governor faced what some described as a painful, 13-minute barrage of questions from reporters.
Cuomo had been accused of passing the NY SAFE Act hastily, without proper vetting or public input.
"There was no haste," the governor said.
Two days later, state leaders held a press conference to announce a budget deal. There was no agreement on changes to the NY SAFE Act.
But as it turns out, a change was quietly tucked into the state budget. Lawmakers simply suspended the provision on magazines that was to take effect on April 15.
"We've decided to suspend that particular provision that prevents somebody from purchasing a clip that has the capacity for 10 bullets until such time as they are more commercially available," said Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.
Supporters of the law, who were not eager to take a vote that weakens the NY SAFE Act, defended the change.
"A complicated piece of legislation like this has things that you might have drafted differently. And we are taking steps to make some very technical, minor corrections in this law to make sure it works properly," Kavanagh said.
State Senate Republican conference leader Dean Skelos added, "I think the governor would prefer not to revisit it. It accomplishes, I think, what a lot of people were concerned about. There are not seven clips made."
There was another NY SAFE Act correction in the state budget regarding law enforcement who are now exempt. Republicans had wanted further exemptions for retired police officers, but those negotiations stalled.
The practical outcome is that the law has now been amended, and it was done so with little public outcry about secrecy.