New York State Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County).
By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY, N.Y. - Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Monday that he expects significant changes to the gun-control law passed in January, specifically a provision that lowers the number of bullets in a magazine from 10 to seven.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated that the law passed Jan. 15 might face just some minor amendments. Skelos, the Republican from Nassau County, said he would hope there would be more substantial changes.
"I think they are going to be more than technical," Skelos told reporters of the changes. "I think we're going to look at the size of the clips, a number of other issues - protections within your home."
Skelos didn't offer specific fixes, but he suggested that the change in the number of bullets in a magazine should be addressed. Gun owners and stores have criticized the change, saying that manufacturers do not make guns with seven-bullet magazines.
"I don't think there's any reason to outlaw them, and we're looking at other changes," Skelos said. "But we also have to live within the reality of what the governor feels is appropriate or not. I believe the governor is going to be pretty firm about the seven bullets, unless it's in the home. And he's going to be firm on the so-called assault weapon ban."
The seven-bullet magazine was one of the key provisions of the law championed by the Democratic governor. He has argued that the lowered number of bullets in a magazine would help prevent mass shootings because it would require magazines to be changed more frequently.
Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, head of the Independent Democratic Conference, said he's proud of the gun law and said it would save lives. The gun-control law includes a tougher assault-weapons ban and requires more weapons to be registered with the state.
Cuomo and Silver indicated last week that they would seek an exemption for Hollywood for the assault-weapons ban, saying that film productions may sometime require assault weapons on set.
Skelos knocked the idea.
"I am not looking to protect Hollywood. I think the governor and the speaker are, but I'm not looking to protect Hollywood," he said.
Skelos has been heavily criticized by gun-rights groups for voting in favor of the law. They held a major rally outside the Capitol last week, but Skelos dismissed the criticism. He was among nine Senate Republicans, mainly those from Long Island, who voted for the measure.
"I think it's very interesting as we've tried to expand democracy in the Senate and move away from three men in a room, people seem to criticize," Skelos said. "It's my position, and we've done it on other issues, is to put as many bills as we think are appropriate out for a vote. And people have the right to vote, to aggressively oppose it, to say I was absolutely wrong."
Assemblyman Ray Walter (R-Amherst), who opposed the gun control bill, said it is highly unlikely Skelos will be able to change the seven-bullet provision.
"It's not going to get through the Democratic-controlled Assembly dominated by New York City unless the governor is pushing for it," Walter said.
2 On Your Side asked if there is any indication that the governor would consider a change like that.
He responded, "From his comments in the press, it doesn't sound like it. The only way there is going to be changes to this, I believe, is through the court system."
More than 30 upstate county legislatures in the state have passed resolutions in opposition to the law, saying it is unconstitutional and puts an additional burden on local governments.
A lawsuit seeking to block the law is set to be heard in state Supreme Court in Albany on March 11.
Some local governments have come out in support of the law, including the Westchester County Legislature and the Rochester City Council.
"The people of Rochester are safer today because the state legislature and governor have taken a stand against gun violence," the Rochester City Council and Mayor Thomas Richards, all Democrats, wrote in a letter to Silver dated Feb. 28.
Western New York gun rights activists were unimpressed by Skelos's attempt to increase the bullet limit, and they appear to be suspicious of lawmakers suddenly talking about changing a law they just supported.
"They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar," said Dennis Deasy, owner of the Niagara Gun Range in North Tonawanda. "And now they're trying to back step a little bit, trying to change things around trying to show (us), 'Oh, no, no, no. I'm pro gun. I just didn't understand.' They knew perfectly well what they were voting for. And if they didn't, then why the heck did they vote for it in twenty-two minutes?"