New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the legislature were ordered by a judge to justify by March 11 why they expedited passage of the state’s new gun-control law.
State Supreme Court Justice Judge Gerald Connolly asked for the explanation in a lawsuit claiming Cuomo and legislators abused their discretion in waiving the usual three-day period between the time a bill is introduced and when it’s voted on. The measure was presented to the Senate and passed on Jan. 14. It cleared the Assembly on Jan. 15, the day Cuomo signed it.
Connolly told the governor and lawmakers to file papers showing why he shouldn’t issue a temporary injunction blocking the new law from taking effect.
We The People of New York Inc., a Queensbury, New York-based group that says its goal is to hold elected officials accountable to the state and federal constitutions, filed the complaint Jan. 25, arguing the gun measure is unconstitutional and was enacted improperly.
In addition to Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, who share leadership of the state Senate were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
New York became the first state to pass legislation tightening gun regulations in response to the Dec. 14 Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre.
The measure closes loopholes in a state 2000 assault weapons ban, bars magazines that hold more than seven rounds of ammunition and makes it easier to keep firearms away from the mentally ill.
“We believe the law is, and the process was, valid and constitutional,” Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement
Cuomo has said speedy enactment was necessary to prevent a run on banned assault-style rifles while the bill was pending.
Expedited passage, through a so-called message of necessity, enabled lawmakers to eliminate the three-day waiting period.
Cuomo used messages of necessity five times last year and 29 times in 2011, according to an analysis by New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit watchdog group.
The 55-year-old Democrat used the messages to get lawmakers to quickly act in legalizing same-sex marriage in June 2011 and approving a pension overhaul last year that raised the retirement age for public employees to 63 from 62.
Robert Schulz, the lead plaintiff in the case, said the message of necessity for the gun legislation was a sham.
“There was no legitimate need for speed,” Schulz said in a statement today. “The people of New York should be very concerned about a governor and acquiescent legislature with a king-like approach to governing.”
The new law is known as the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or NY SAFE ACT.
The case is Schulz v. Cuomo, 1232-13, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County.