By Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY - Senate Republicans introduced a set of gun-control proposals on Saturday, including tougher laws against the sale and possession of illegal guns.
The measures call for stiffer penalties against those who use guns in crimes and a first-degree murder charge for those who kill emergency responders in the line of duty.
"We need to target illegal guns so innocent people don't become targets for criminals who have them," Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said in a statement. "The statistics prove that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes involve the use of illegal guns."
The proposals come as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to lay out his own gun-control plans in his State of the State address on Wednesday and as Democrats seek a tougher assault-weapon ban in New York.
Senate Republicans did not address assault weapons in their proposal, even though their colleagues in the Independent Democratic Conference said Friday they would seek the toughest assault weapon ban in the country. The five-member IDC and Senate Republicans agreed in November to share control of the 63-member chamber.
The deadly shootings in Newtown, Conn., and in Webster, Monroe County, involved semi-automatic rifles. Twenty children and six adults were killed last month at an elementary school in Newtown, while William Spengler on Christmas Eve shot four firefighters, killing two, in the Webster ambush.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, told Gannett's Albany Bureau last month that Democrats and Cuomo are in general agreement over a stronger assault-weapon ban. Cuomo said last month the current ban has "more holes than Swiss Cheese."
Current law prohibits semi-automatic rifles if they have a certain combination of add-ons, such as a pistol grip. High-capacity magazines manufactured before 1994 remain legal.
Some Democratic lawmakers last month called for stronger bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. They proposed tougher background checks on gun sales.
"We have to close these deadly loopholes in our law," Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, said in a statement Thursday.
Senate Republicans, who represent areas mainly upstate and on Long Island, said their proposal focuses on illegal guns. They cited statistics that showed nearly 90 percent of firearms used in gun crimes in New York City and 70 percent statewide come from out of state. They said that last year 3,443 illegal guns were seized in the city.
Republicans said they would limit plea deals in illegal gun arrests and boost mandatory minimum sentences. Penalties would be increased for those who use guns in the act of a felony.
For those who fatally shoot first responders, they would be charged with first-degree murder, which would come with a lifetime jail sentence without parole.
The proposal also calls for a public registry of violent felons released from prison. Penalties would also increase for weapon possession on school grounds, and there would be longer sentences for illegal gun sales, including at residences with children.