by Joseph Spector
Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders may exempt film productions in New York from the stringent assault-weapons ban passed last month.
Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, told reporters Wednesday that the state is not expected to make major changes to the gun-control law adopted Jan. 15. But they could amend the law so Hollywood productions are exempt from the assault-weapons ban.
"We haven't talked about the details of it, but the basic concept of should you be able to use these types of guns in movies? The answer is yes," Cuomo said. "We spend a lot of money in the state bringing movie production here, post-production here. So obviously we would want to facilitate that."
Cuomo said he and lawmakers are mainly looking at "technical corrections" to the controversial law. He said the Hollywood exemption may not even be necessary, but state leaders are considering it.
"I don't know that it's a real issue because they don't use real guns," Cuomo said. "Apparently, they have blanks or phony magazines or something. So I don't know that legally it would even be classified as an assault weapon if it's a phony gun, but people want certainty and there's no reason not to make a change like that, to give an industry comfort, especially when it's an industry that we want doing business in the state."
Gun-rights groups are holding a major rally Thursday at the Capitol, calling for a repeal of the hastily passed law, which expands the state's assault weapons ban, requires added registration of weapons and reduces the number of bullets in a magazine from 10 to seven. They are also planning to sue the state to have it tossed.
Thomas King, president of the state Rifle and Pistol Association, said: "Wait until the people hear that" about the Hollywood exemption.
He said such an amendment would play into people's concerns that the wealthy and powerful get special treatment. He said he expects 100 buses for Thursday's rally, which starts at noon.
"Typical," King said of the potential film exemption to the weapons ban. "If you live in New York City and you try to get a pistol license, you have to either be a celebrity, a big donor or some kind of notable person. That's the way everything works in New York."
Silver said one oversight in the law is that police officers need to be exempt from the assault-weapons ban. Cuomo's office has also acknowledged that the change is needed.
In recent years, New York has expanded its tax breaks to the film industry to lure productions to New York City and upstate. Cuomo said earlier this month that applications for post-production work in New York soared since last July after incentives were increased.
In his proposed budget, Cuomo is recommending the state extend for five years its $420 million a year tax-credit program for film productions.
Silver said he didn't expect significant changes to the gun law, and the exemption for Hollywood makes sense.
"We have a big industry producing movies in New York and there should be an exemption for actors in organized movies, productions, using it on the set," he said.