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Cuomo Says Possible SAFE Act Changes Aren't a Rollback

10:00 AM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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By Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau

ALBANY, NY-- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday pushed back against the suggestion that he's looking to roll back a key provision of New York's new gun-control laws as lawmakers expect state budget negotiations to carry into the weekend.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, revealed Tuesday that legislative leaders had been discussing a change to the state's new limits on magazine capacity, with the talks being wrapped into negotiations on a $136 billion budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts April 1.

Cuomo faced a barrage of questions on the potential gun-law change Wednesday, which he insisted would be nothing more than a "technical change" to correct an "inconsistency in the law."

The Democratic governor said he and lawmakers are considering allowing the sale of magazines with a capacity of 10 bullets, but would only allow them to be loaded with seven bullets in most cases. The January law includes an "inconsistency," Cuomo said, which allows magazines to be loaded with 10 bullets at gun ranges and in competitions, but wouldn't allow the sale of magazines that hold more than seven after April 15.

"That is an inconsistency, because if I can have 10 bullets in a magazine when I'm at the range or in a competition, I have to be able to have a magazine that can hold 10 bullets," Cuomo told reporters.

The Democratic governor was the main supporter of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, which passed Jan. 15 and included the magazine limit and a broader ban on assault weapons.

Cuomo has come under significant criticism from gun-rights groups and firearms owners, who criticized the process in which the bill was passed -- without any public hearings and with a "message of necessity" from Cuomo, which allowed it to come to a vote without a three-day waiting period.

Cuomo dismissed the suggestion that the "inconsistency" had come from passing the bill "in haste," and said the potential change shouldn't be interpreted as a roll back of one of the gun law's key provisions. When asked why the issue with the bill wasn't spotted before it was passed and signed in mid-January, Cuomo said finding errors in law is a normal part of the legislative process.

"When you do a complicated piece of legislation, once it's out and once it's second-guessed and once it's viewed in total hindsight, you will find grammatical errors, you will find confusing things in a bill," he said. "The gun bill was worked on every day for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks."

Silver told reporters Wednesday that finalizing the state budget may carry into the weekend as lawmakers and Cuomo seek to reach compromise on a variety of issues.

"I think you're probably looking at Saturday and Sunday at best," Silver said after an hour-long meeting with Cuomo and legislative leaders behind closed doors.

What initially appeared like straightforward budget talks has morphed into a series of issues unrelated to the $136 billion spending plan proposed by Cuomo on Jan 22.

They are discussing providing $350 rebate checks to families, decriminalizing a small amount of marijuana in New York City, extending higher income taxes on millionaires, changing the gun-control law passed last month and increasing the minimum wage.

"The governor put them out," Silver said, "and those issues are important to various segments of the state, various members of our conferences and it's important and it's important to do it as part of the budget.

Cuomo also said legalizing professional mixed martial arts bouts is being discussed. The state instituted a ban in 1997.

Sen. Jeff Klein, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, said he was hopeful a budget deal could be reached shortly.

"There's a lot of things on the table still," said Klein, D-Bronx.

The budget proposal also calls for increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016.

Silver dismissed criticism that the minimum-wage increase will be phased in over three years. Assembly Democrats passed a bill earlier this month to increase it to $9 an hour in January.

"I think that anybody who looks at the end result of $9 in two years, I think you got to call it a success," Silver said. "We're doing a tremendous amount for minimum-wage workers."

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