Category Archives: Gun Violence Prevention

NYS Governor Cuomo, Joined by speaker Pelosi, Signs Red Flag Gun Violence Protection Bill

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, signed the Red Flag Bill, which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest in the nation gun laws and makes New York the first in the United States to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention. (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a ceremony on Monday, Feb. 25, signed the Red Flag Bill which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. This legislation, also known as the extreme risk protection order bill, builds on New York’s strongest in the nation gun laws and makes New York the first in the United States to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention. More information is available here.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV), a statewide advocacy organization, applauded Governor Cuomo for signing the legislation into law, which establishes a court process for removing firearms from individuals who pose a serious threat to themselves or others. The bill passed both houses of the legislature with bipartisan support on January 29.

Rebecca Fischer, NYAGV Executive Director, who stood with Governor Cuomo at the signing ceremony in New York City, stated, “Today, New York State has again made it a priority to protect our communities by enacting this life-saving gun violence prevention law.  Our children should be able to learn without the fear of gun violence in their classrooms.  Governor Cuomo and the legislature recognize that to keep New Yorkers safe, family, school officials, and law enforcement need a tool to remove guns from people in crisis. New York’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law will help prevent gun violence and protect our communities, schools, and homes.”

Additional measures passed by the State Legislature in January that await the Governor’s signature include: extending the background check period, a ban on arming educators, a ban on bump stocks, a statewide gun buyback program, and authorization to check out-of-state mental health records of gun permit applicants.

About Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO/“Red Flag” Law) —  S2451 (Kavanagh) / A2689 (Simon):  

In many cases of gun violence — including mass shootings, interpersonal violence, and suicide — the shooter’s family members or school officials see warning signs before the fatal act of gun violence occurs. However, they often feel powerless, and are unable to intervene — even with law enforcement support — before tragedy occurs. ERPO addresses this gap and creates a legal framework that respects due process and each individual’s rights while preventing gun violence.

If, upon a petition from a family member, school official, or law enforcement official, a court finds the individual is likely to harm him- or herself or others, the judge may issue an initial ERPO, and the individual will be required to surrender any guns to the proper authorities and will be prohibited from purchasing guns. After a second hearing, the judge may extend the order for up to a year — at which point it will expire, unless a petition is filed to renew the order.

Those subject to ERPOs will have an opportunity during the year-long ERPO period to petition the court and present evidence as to why the order should be lifted. If the order expires and is not renewed or if the order is lifted, guns surrendered will be returned to the individual and all records of the proceedings will be sealed.

During 2018 and 2019, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence educated and organized communities across New York State and led a coalition of legislators, advocates, law enforcement, students, educators, faith leaders, and healthcare professionals to urge passage of New York’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law. (www.nyagv.org)

Attending the signing ceremony were Mark Barden who lost his 7 year old son Daniel at Sandy Hook, and Linda Beigel Schulman and her husband Michael Schulman, who also lost a child to gun violence.

Speaker Pelosi acknowledged the importance of grass roots support to enact sensible gun control measures and praised New York State as a model for engagement of local activists and courage of legislators, noting that two important bills will be coming up in the House this week.

Gun control advocacy groups including Everytown for Gun Safety  are urging people to contact their Representative to urge support for HR 8, the Background Checks bill.

Here are highlights from the transcript of the remarks:

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you all. Let’s give a big round of applause for John Jay for hosting us today. To Linda Beigel Schulman and her husband Michael Schulman, God bless you for taking a terrible tragedy and taking that energy and taking that pain and turning it into something positive. Scott’s spirit does live today. I believe that. And congratulations to Linda Beigel Schulman. Let’s give her a big round of applause.

We also have with us today, Mark Barden who lost his son Daniel—seven years old—at Sandy Hook. I don’t know that I would have the strength that Mark had to carry on and I know I wouldn’t have had the strength to do all the work he has done. He has been a national spokesperson on this issue. And these made a tremendous difference. Let’s give him a round of applause.

To all the survivors and their families, to the advocates, to the moms who demand action, you’re getting through. I’d like to recognize my sister Maria Cuomo. She calls herself Maria Cuomo Cole…who produces documentaries, did a documentary on Newtown telling the story of Sandy Hook and it was a great vehicle to get the facts.

To all my colleagues in government who are here today, especially to Senator Kavanagh and Assemblymember Simon who carried the bill…[who]  were masterful in making government work. And to have Speaker Pelosi with us today—how great is that?

Speaker Pelosi, you carry all our hopes and dreams. You have given us strength and hope in the middle of the darkness. Speaker Pelosi is a champion for democracy, not just Democrats, she is the champion for democracy. And she is standing up to an Administration that constantly flaunts the Constitution, that has deceived the American people, that tramples their rights, that seeks to divide this nation every day on every issue, and Speaker Pelosi, God bless you for the job you do. Now New York is proud of what we’ve done on the issue of gun violence. After Sandy Hook happened, which was next door in Connecticut, 26 people killed, young children killed in a school. New York stood up and said no more. The nation said, “oh no Sandy Hook was an exception. That was just a once in a lifetime, that will never happen again.” And New York said that’s not true; it’s not an exception and something has to be done, and we know it’s a hard issue, and we know it’s a difficult issue, and we know it’s an emotional issue, but something has to be done because literally we are losing human life.

And when they said in the nation, “well no, it’ll never happen again,” we said “yes, and we’re going to do something.” And that was our quest and that was our conviction as New Yorkers, and we passed the SAFE Act. And we were right, Sandy Hook was not the last, it was not an exception. In many ways, it was only the beginning of a terrible scourge that went across this nation and it’s only gotten worse. One after the other, one more violent than the other, one more nonsensical than the other. And we said no more. Let’s use common sense and we passed the SAFE Act, and the SAFE Act made sense. Yes, people have a right to a gun if they are legitimate hunters, legitimate sportsmen, but not a person who is mentally ill, not a person who has a criminal background. Why would you ever put a gun in their hands? 

The SAFE Act banned assault weapons, banned high capacity magazines, it extended the background check to private sales. Why? Because otherwise the system is a joke, and right now the fight that the Speaker is going to have in Washington this week is exactly on this point. if you don’t have a background check on private sales, you have nothing. All it means is if you can pass a background check, you walk into a store and you buy the gun. If you can’t pass a background check, you buy the gun privately. It’s that walking to the store, you walk down the block and you go to a gun show or you buy it from a private individual and you pay a little bit more because they know that you can’t pass the background check, but you can still buy a gun. It is a total loophole that swallows the law. The reality is there is no background check in this nation if you want to buy a gun because there are so many guns. And you can buy a gun privately. It is a joke. And the SAFE Act said not in New York. We’re going to extend the background check to the private sales also. So, anyone who has a gun needs to go through a background check.

And today my friends New York is proud to pass a first in the nation the Red Flag Bill that empowers school teachers to do something when they believe something bad is going to happen. And we empower school teachers not by giving them guns, which is the president’s idea. I mean, how ludicrous a concept? Arm the teacher, so when the bad person comes into the classroom there can be a shootout in the classroom. I mean it is really ludicrous and nonsensical. No. Arm and empower the teacher with the law.

So when the teacher sees there is a problem or a family member sees there is a problem, and believes that a person could be a danger to themselves or others they can go to a judge. And say, ‘judge, please do an evaluation.’ It is common sense. If you believe that was going to happen, why would you sit back and do nothing? You protect the individual’s rights because you go to a judge. And there is a court-ordered evaluation. Over half of the school shootings, the teachers now said there were signs. There were signs in the person’s behavior and the destructiveness. Students who were suicidal. Over half the time there was signs. And if that teacher or that administrator had recourse and could have gone to a judge and said: ‘please do an evaluation. I think this young person needs help. Please help them.’ How many lives could have been saved? And that’s why this bill is in the spirit of Scott and the testament to the work of Linda Beigel Schulman and Michael Schulman. God bless you.

And while New Yorkers are proud of what we have done, we are also a very realistic people. And we know we cannot solve this gun problem within the borders of this state because guns come over boarders and the lines on the map are meaningless. This has to be done nationally. It has to be done federally. This is a uniquely United States problem. We lose more people to gun deaths than most developed nations. The first year of President Trump’s administration, we lost 40,000 people to gun deaths. The highest number in 50 years since the federal CDC was taking numbers. Hopefully the Speaker’s good work this week is going to start us on the road to end this carnage. Madam Speaker, what New York offers you is proof to the myths that you will hear in Washington this week and that’s what it really is. You have the opposition is about fear and lack of facts and lack of information. And when they say to you Madam Speaker, “this is a slippery slope, once the government starts to regulate guns, that’s a slippery slope and then they’re going to take all of our guns. This is just the camel’s nose under the tent.”

Six years ago, we passed the SAFE Act. Six years ago. We have six years of experience. Hunters still hunt. Sportsman still have their guns. But criminals don’t and the mentally ill don’t and the slippery slope never happened and government never came to take anyone’s guns and it worked.

And after six years, Madam Speaker, today there are 130,000 thousand people on a mental health database who could’ve bought a gun the day before the SAFE Act but now can’t buy a gun because they are not mentally stable enough to have a gun. One hundred and thirty thousand names. And, Madam Speaker, when they talk and debate about, “well these private sales are not really the problem,” after the SAFE Act private sales have to go through the NICS background check. Thirty-three thousand people have bought guns through private sales. Of those 33,000, 1,000 sales have been stopped because the person did not pass the background check. That’s one out of every 33 gun sales. That is a bigger deal and that’s why it works, Madam Speaker, and the proof is on your side.

The SAFE Act saved lives and didn’t infringe on anybody’s rights. The Red Flag bill, I have no doubt, will save lives and doesn’t infringe on anybody’s rights. It is common sense. It is logical. It is factual. We just have to get past the politics and get past the fear because Americans are better than this. We are smarter than this. We are more proactive than this. And we’re losing too many lives to ignorance and politics in this nation and it has to win and that is the battle that our Speaker starts this week.

I applaud my colleagues in state government. I applaud the advocates who worked so hard. I applaud the parents with the deepest of respect for carrying and turning your loss into a benefit for others. We wish our speaker Godspeed as she works to end this ugly chapter in Washington. Ladies and Gentleman, let’s give a New York welcome.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Good morning everyone. Thank you for your kind welcome, Governor Cuomo, thank you for your invitation to be here today, for your kind words of introduction. Let us salute Governor Andrew Cuomo for his tremendous leadership on this and so many other issues. Thank you, Governor Cuomo.

I join Governor Cuomo in saluting the parents who are with us to Mark, Linda thank you both for channeling your grief into action to save other lives. I’ve seen Mark around the country over the years, he has been a relentless champion. And Linda to hear you say today is a day that you could celebrate, that makes a difference that warms our hearts. It’s an eloquent message unsurpassed. Thank you Linda for your family’s leadership in this

I join the Governor not only in saluting them but saluting Senator Kavanagh, Assemblywoman Simon and all of the state legislators who are here, thank you for your courage in passing the legislation. I say to my colleagues in the Congress frequently, the survival of our children is much more important than your political survival. The Governor indicated the courage that it takes to pass this legislation. So once again let us salute Senator Kavanagh, Assemblywoman Simon and all of the state legislators who played such an important role in sending this legislation to the Senate.

And Governor thank you for being a leader and inspiration and relentless persistent advocate for this legislation. I was pleased and honored to join you, when you signed the landlord legislation last May, that prevented domestic abusers from obtaining firearms. Moms Demand Action was an important part of it, but all of the outside mobilization. Internally I’m sure the legislators in this state as well as our colleagues in the Congress recognize that our inside maneuvering is essential and we’re responsible to do the best possible job to get the best, strongest possible result. But without the outside mobilization this cannot, we cannot be effective. So let us thank all of the outside groups, for what they did to make this a success.

The Governor mentioned some of the statistics involved, was it George Bernard Shaw said the sign of a truly intelligent person is that they are acknowledge statistics and statistics tell the story, but the personal stories, personal stories really change the minds. And the stories of the parents and the families and school children who were there, the March for our Lives, all of that is changing. This gun violence issue is a national health epidemic in our country.

Mr. President if you want to talk about emergencies, this is an emergency.

I thank you Governor and I thank New York State for being such a leader on this issue. My colleagues I don’t know if Nydia Velazquez is here with us, a lot of traffic getting over here, but she and all of the New York members have been so great on this issue. Mostly all.

In Congress, to follow your lead and keeping guns out of the hands at risk for themselves and others whose extreme risk – protection orders – and empower the full force of communities to act, otherwise known as Red Flag. Now let me say, when we talk about Red Flag and people with certain challenges, 99 percent with any diagnosis are safe, law-abiding people in our country. As we do this, we just want to identify – prioritize to save others, then save lives after the person themselves. And they also say that when we vote on the bill this week we will pass the bill on the floor of the House.

Again, because of what you have done here to build the momentum, the outside, to make the case and now that all 90 percent of the public supports gun violence prevention by way of background checks and that includes many gun owners and many members of the NRA. They’re gun owners, they’ve taken background checks, and they think other people should too. That’s how you get to 90 percent by not only advocating, by explaining this is what the bill does so that they can’t characterize, as the Governor says they do, some of the leadership of the gun lobbyists do. So we go forward as a full supporter of the American people and we forget, pass bill and what it will do is encouragement and enactment of the extreme risk, protection order and what it will do here is prevent abusers, domestic violence abuse and stalkers from obtaining a gun. Provide funds to the CDC for gun violence prevention research, very, very important. They can do it but we have to provide the funds and insist that this administration do it. And so we have the capacity to save lives.

When we had the election, a lot of it was about health. The health of the American people and this is a health issue. The mobilization of young people and families of people effected by gun violence and other groups again are essential, in electing people who have the courage to make the challenging vote to save lives.

So I thank all of the people of New York. I thank the Governor for his commitment, his dedication, and his relentlessness on this issue. I want the families to know that this will not end here. We have more to do but it’s not about taking guns away from people, it’s just making sure that the law is effective in making, do a background check in a timely way and extend the time.

We have two bills this week one is about background checks and extending the time period. Now if you don’t get a no in 72 hours, it’s a yes so were extend the time on that. But again, all of this, by listening, hearing what really will save lives. Because sadly, the tragic events of mass shootings demand a great deal of attention, rightfully so. But every single day, and every single night in our country, people are killed by guns, senselessly, unnecessarily, and we want to make sure that we reduce violence in our country.

So again, I thank all of you. I’m very proud of the whole Congress of the United States, but our members who will have the courage to vote correctly when we come together this week. Tonight we’re taking the bill to the rules committee, tomorrow the rule will be on the floor in order to vote on the rule. On Wednesday we’ll pass the bill, the gun violence prevention by background check. Thursday we will have the bill to extend the time. But starting the week here in New York, making this gun violence prevention week, not officially, but legislatively, it just sends a very, very, very strong message. So thank you for that.

And by the way, just incidentally, okay, you can clap for that. While we’re together here I just want to say what else we’re doing this week. I don’t want to take away from the gun violence prevention, but it’s about the constitution, and the Governor spoke about that. Tonight we’ll also go to rules committee to put forth a resolution to overturn the president’s declaration

Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, and Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, from Texas, a border state, is taking the lead on this. And that will go to rules committee tonight, and the floor of the House tomorrow to be voted on. And this is not about politics, it’s not about partisanship, it’s about patriotism. It’s about the constitution of the United States of America. It’s about our beautiful constitution, beginning with the preamble, “We the People of the United States,” and as soon as that preamble ends, the very next words are Article One, the legislative branch, co-equal to every other branch, the executive branch, the judicial branch, spelling out in the text the powers of the Congress of the United States, the power of the purse being one of them. So this is not, this is not about partisanship. This is about saying we must honor our oath of office. To let the executive branch get away with this assault on the constitution, we would be delinquent in our duties to the oath of office we have taken.

And defile the core, the heart of the constitution, which is the separation of powers, co-mingled branches of government as a check and balance on each other. So this is going to be quite a week, when we talk about what our constitution really says. What it says about the separation of power, what it says about the rights of people to have gun ownership, but the rights also of us to have some say in the protection of the American people by advancing gun violence prevention. So all of you are super patriots who are doing this because you are upholding the constitution of the United States. As you protect and defend that constitution, you protect and defend the American people.

NYS Governor Cuomo Uses State of State Message to Define Justice Agenda

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is what a progressive state looks like.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. 

In stark contrast to the federal government’s dysfunction and the self-destructive tactic of using the shutdown to extort a political prop, the Governor is laying out a blueprint to move forward, while shielding New Yorkers from Washington’s devastating federal attacks. It is aimed at strengthening the middle class, safeguards the environment, improves the health of communities and invests in building an infrastructure for the 21st century. For the ninth consecutive year, the Budget is balanced and holds spending growth below two percent.

“In December, in the face of the nation’s biggest social crisis, and with the federal government seeking to undo generations of progress, Governor Cuomo laid out his legislative agenda to enable the Legislature to commence action on these top priorities immediately upon convening.” In this State of the State Address, the Governor called on the Legislature to swiftly and immediately act on these priorities in the first 100 days of session.
 
“In the face of unprecedented challenges on a national level and a federal government at a complete standstill, New York will deliver on the most productive agenda in our history and build on our record of accomplishments,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a true Justice Agenda that ensures our neediest schools receive an equitable share of funds, advances historic criminal justice reform, safeguards our health care, protects the rights of women in our state from the federal government, and leads the nation in fight against climate change and contaminants in our environment and our water. While extreme conservatives in Washington govern by division and fuel dysfunction, New York State will raise the beacon of progress and take action to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Here is a summary of the initiatives (it is long, but New Yorkers should see the detail of the agenda):

  • The FY 2020 Executive Budget is $175.2 billion on an All Funds basis.
  • State Operating Funds is $102.0 billion, growth of 1.9%
  • Health and Education spending grows at 3.6%, Executive Agencies at 0.8%.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE
  
Continue the Phase-In of Middle Class Tax Cuts: The Budget supports the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts. Under these reforms, rates will continue to drop to 5.5 percent and 6 percent when the cuts are fully phased in – an up to 20 percent cut in income tax rates for the middle class – and produce a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State’s lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years.
 
Extend the Millionaire’s Tax: To protect the progress that has been made in enhancing progressivity and ensuring tax fairness for New York’s middle-class, Governor Cuomo is proposing a five-year extension of the current tax rate on millionaires. This will preserve an estimated $4.4 billion annually otherwise unavailable to make vital investments in education and infrastructure to secure New York’s future economic prosperity.
 
Make Permanent the Property Tax Cap: Governor Cuomo made a first-ever property tax cap a hallmark of his first campaign for Governor and a priority of his administration’s first year. Since the implementation of the tax cap in 2012, growth has averaged approximately 2 percent and the tax cap has produced approximately $25 billion in taxpayers’ savings. The Governor proposes that New York preserve and make permanent the property tax cap, as he has advocated in the past.
 
Close the Carried Interest Loophole: Because of an egregious loophole in federal law, some of the wealthiest people in the country, including hedge fund managers and private equity investors, are paying lower tax rates on their income than many middle class families. This “carried interest” loophole results in a substantial cost to middle-class New Yorkers, with the State losing about $100 million every year. To ensure that the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share, Governor Cuomo will take a landmark step to close the carried interest loophole under New York State law and effectively eliminate the benefits of this loophole under the federal tax code.
 
Fight for the Full Deductibility of State and Local Taxes: Governor Cuomo fought the federal tax bill every step of the way while it was under consideration in Congress. After its passage, New York joined together with three other states to sue the federal government over this illegal and targeted assault. The Governor will continue to fight against this law and the threat that it poses to New York State, and he urges the new Democratic House of Representations stand together and demand that the SALT deduction is fully restored.
 
Continue Lawsuit Against Federal Government Challenging Unconstitutional Tax Law That Targets New York: Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from Washington’s drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction. The lawsuit argues that the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states, that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states. The Governor and Attorney General Letitia James will continue in their fight to overturn the law’s unprecedented and unconstitutional limitations on SALT deductibility.
 
Building 21st Century Infrastructure
 
Invest an Additional $150 Billion in the Nation’s Largest Infrastructure Program: Governor Cuomo has made an unprecedented commitment to invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Beginning in FY 2020, these capital projects will rebuild transportation and mass transit systems, drive economic and community development, create new environmental and park facilities, and support our sustainable energy future.
 
Reduce Traffic Congestion in NYC and Fund the MTA: This year, the Governor will implement congestion pricing to establish a reliable funding stream to transform the transit system and reduce congestion in Manhattan. By charging fees for vehicles to move within the most congested area of New York City and then reinvesting those funds into transit improvements, this plan will combat gridlock and deliver to New York City’s residents and visitors the world-class transit system they deserve. 
 
Establish Accountability for the MTA: The MTA is a bureaucracy that lacks any accountability. The board of 17 members gives no single person a clear majority of nominees and there are 32 unions representing MTA employees that exert significant political power over the elected officials who appoint the board members. To overhaul this bureaucracy and fix the system, the Governor will work with the Legislature to establish clear authority over the MTA, while continuing to solve the need for dedicated funding and splitting capital funding shortfalls between New York City and New York State. Only with clearly designated authority and adequate funding can the MTA can be overhauled into the efficient and effective transit system that New Yorkers deserve.
   
Expand Design-Build and Enact Other Efficiencies to Expedite Construction Projects: Governor Cuomo’s $100 billion infrastructure program is arguably the nation’s largest and boldest. Key to the program’s success is the Governor’s decision to deploy the design-build method on complex projects, saving taxpayers time and money by making a single contractor responsible for both a project’s design and its actual construction. To ensure efficiency across State projects, the Executive Budget includes legislation authorizing the use of state-of-the-art methods such as construction manager at-risk and construction manager-build, while expanding design-build to additional agencies.
 
Continuing New York’s Bottom-Up Economic Development Strategy
  
Invest $750 million for Round Nine of the Regional Economic Development Councils: In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to develop long-term regional strategic economic development plans. Since then, the REDCs have awarded $6.1 billion to more than 7,300 projects. This strategy has resulted in 230,000 new or retained jobs in New York. The Executive Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for a ninth round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.
 
Invest in Communities Across the State Through the Fourth Downtown Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families. Participating communities are nominated by the State’s ten REDCs based on the downtown’s potential for transformation. Through three rounds of awards, each winning community was awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization. The Executive Budget provides $100 million for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round IV.
 
Ensuring A Quality Education for All
 
Require Districts to Distribute State Aid in a More Equitable Manner to Their Neediest Schools: Although the state distributes 70 percent of its funding to the neediest districts, the districts do not always distribute funding to their schools in an equitable manner. In fact, some school districts have schools with significantly higher needs receiving less than the average school in the district. Governor Cuomo proposes to require that these school districts devote a portion of their 2019-20 school aid to increase the per-pupil allocation in those high-need schools. This increase in allocation will help ensure that funding intended to help improve educational outcomes for the neediest students reaches those students.
 
$1 Billion Education Aid Increase: State support for school districts will have increased by $8.1 billion (42 percent) since FY 2012. Over 70 percent of this year’s increase goes to high-need school districts. Foundation Aid is increased by $338 million.
 
Expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget includes an additional $15 million investment in pre-kindergarten to expand high-quality half-day and full-day prekindergarten instruction for three- and four-year-old children in high-need school districts.
 
Recruit 250 New Teachers in Shortage Areas through the We Teach NY Program: With the goals of diversifying and strengthening the teacher workforce pipeline, Governor Cuomo proposes to invest $3 million in the We Teach NY program, which will strategically recruit 250 new teachers to fill identified needed positions in New York classrooms in 2024.
 
Expand Master Teacher to High Poverty Schools to Increase Access to Advanced Courses: In 2013, Governor Cuomo launched the New York State Master Teacher Program to strengthen our nation’s STEM education, giving selected educators an annual $15,000 stipend for four years, professional development opportunities and a platform to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers. In order to recruit and retain outstanding educators in the highest poverty schools, the Executive Budget will provide $1.5 million to support 100 new Master Teachers who teach in high-poverty schools with high rates of teacher turnover or high rates of relatively inexperienced teachers.
  
Protect Student Loan Borrowers: There are approximately 2.8 million student loan borrowers in New York that have tens of billions of dollars in outstanding student loan debt, which is serviced by about 30 student loan servicers. The Governor will advance sweeping protections for student loan borrowers by requiring that companies servicing student loans held by New Yorkers obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and regulations governing other significant lending products such as mortgages; banning upfront fees; requiring fair contracts and clear and conspicuous disclosures to borrowers; and providing penalties for failing to comply with the law.
 
Creating Economic Opportunity for Every New Yorker
 

Launch the $175 Million Workforce Initiative: Governor Cuomo will launch a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments that will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of growing industries — with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy, health technology, and computer science. These funds will also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement.  

Expand Employer-Driven Training Opportunities by Enhancing the Employee Training Incentive Program: Governor Cuomo proposes to expand the Employee Training Incentive Program to provide more training options to more industries by enabling employers with dedicated training shops to draw on in-house expertise in delivering approved training, and by extending ETIP tax credits to internship opportunities in additional high-tech industries.
 
Protect Workers from Union-Busting Activity by Codifying EO 183 into Law and Expanding its Protections to Local Governments: New York State has a long and distinguished history of standing by union workers. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to advance his support for unions by introducing legislation that not only codifies EO 183 into law, but expands its protections to local governments to ensure that more union workers are protected.
 
Increase Criminal Penalties for Wage Theft: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to increase criminal penalties for employers who knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to more closely align with other forms of theft.
   
Ensuring Access to Affordable Housing
 
Enact Historic Legislation to Strengthen Rent Regulation: This year, the Governor proposes aggressive rent regulation reforms, including ending vacancy decontrol, repealing preferential rent, and limiting building and apartment improvement charges. These changes will preserve the rent regulated housing stock, strengthen tenants’ rights to affordable housing, and ensure New Yorkers safe, quality affordable housing.
 
Limit Security Deposits to Reduce Housing Barriers: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to limit security deposits to a maximum of one month’s rent across New York State, making New York’s security deposit limits among the strongest in the nation This law will serve to ensure that burdensome security deposits will no longer serve as a barrier to entry for anyone trying to find a new place to live.  

Help Families Build Credit and Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores: In New York State, most landlords conduct background credit checks on potential tenants, which often leads to rejecting applicants with low credit scores or an insufficient credit history. To ensure all New Yorkers have a fair shot of accessing affordable, quality housing, Governor Cuomo will issue regulations prohibiting state-funded housing operators from automatically turning away applicants with poor credit or histories of bankruptcy. Instead, the State will require that all potential tenants and homeowners be holistically evaluated to determine the circumstances behind their credit history and their ability to pay rent on a forward-looking basis.  

Enact Source of Income Protections to Support Fair Housing for All: In certain parts of New York State, landlords can reject applicants based on their lawful source of income, disproportionately impacting households that rely on non-wage income or income assistance and those who use vouchers to obtain housing for their families. The Governor will work with the legislature to amend the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income statewide to ensure that such lawful income is not a blanket barrier to housing, reducing financial instability for New York’s most economically vulnerable individuals.
 
Combating Poverty
  
Support ESPRI Communities and Establish ESPRI Representation on REDC Workforce Development Committees:  In 2016, Governor Cuomo created the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) to combat poverty and reduce inequality. ESPRI is an important component of the Governor’s anti-poverty agenda, and this year Governor Cuomo proposes to build on the success of these State and local partnerships to address poverty, supporting more community-based efforts through continued funding of ESPRI. Governor Cuomo will also continue to support efforts by the REDCs and the economic development community to broaden and deepen their commitments to local anti-poverty efforts and he will ensure an ESPRI representative is included on each region’s Workforce Development Committee and involved in the review process for the Governor’s new Workforce Development Initiative.
  
Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity: Building on historic investments to combat food insecurity, Governor Cuomo will establish a goal to reduce household food insecurity in New York State by 10 percent by 2024. In order to achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing the following actions: create a food and anti-hunger policy coordinator; simplify access to SNAP for older and disabled adults; enhanced resources and referrals in clinical settings; participate in SNAP online purchasing pilot; and expand food access in Central Brooklyn.
 
Supporting the Rural and Agricultural Economy
  
Continue the Revitalization of the Great New York State Fairgrounds: The State Fair drives $100 million a year in economic activity in Central New York and thousands of jobs. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has invested more than $120 million dollars in two phases over the last three years to remake the New York State Fairgrounds. To continue the transformation of the State Fairgrounds, the State will make additional renovations and upgrades to enhance user experience. The Governor’s commitment continues to make the fairgrounds a year-round destination.
 
Fund Key Programs to Support New York’s Farmers: The agricultural industry is full of variability and uncertainty. As a reflection of the Governor’s resolve to support New York’s farmers, this year’s Executive Budget will continue funding the specialized technical assistance, industry promotion, and research investments statewide to reduce farms’ exposure to economic and climate inconsistency.
 
SOCIAL JUSTICE
 
Advancing Criminal Justice for All
 
Bail and Pretrial Detention Reform: Governor Cuomo is advancing legislation that will end cash bail once and for all, significantly reduce the number of people held in jail pretrial, and ensure due process for anyone awaiting trial behind bars. This series of reforms will include a mandate that police issue appearance tickets instead of making arrests in low-level cases, eliminate money as a means of determining freedom, and institute a new procedure whereby a district attorney can move for a hearing to determine whether eligible defendants may be held in jail pretrial, for which the judge must find reasonable cause to believe the individual is a danger to themselves or others.
 
Improve Transparency in the Discovery Process: As only one of ten states where prosecutors can withhold basic evidence until the day a trial begins, Governor Cuomo’s plan will bring New York’s discovery process into the 21st century by requiring both prosecutors and defendants to share all information in their possession well in advance of trial.  Defendants will also be allowed the opportunity to review whatever evidence is in the prosecution’s possession prior to pleading guilty to a crime.
 
Ensure the Right to a Speedy Trial: Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation that ensures criminal cases no longer drag on without accountability. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo will guarantee that all necessary discovery procedures are completed quickly, and that no New Yorker is unduly held in custody as they await their day in court.
 
Abolish the Death Penalty: Although the New York Court of Appeals ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 2004, capital punishment was never fully repealed in statute.  To address this disparity, Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation to permanently strike capital punishment from the law to guarantee that this draconian punishment is never again practiced in the State of New York.
 
Transform the Use of Solitary Confinement in State Prisons:  New York has dramatically reformed and reduced the use of solitary confinement for people who engage in misconduct within state prisons. The Governor is directing DOCCS to accelerate the momentum of solitary confinement reform by limiting the length of time spent in separation, building dedicated housing units for rehabilitation and integration following a disciplinary sanction, and expanding therapeutic programming to reinforce positive and social behavior.
 
Establish Compassionate Release: The Governor will establish a process of compassionate release for incarcerated individuals over the age of 55 who have incapacitating medical conditions exacerbated by their age.
 
Enact a Comprehensive Re-entry Package to Improve Outcomes for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals: Governor Cuomo will enact a four-point plan to ease the burdens placed on individuals who have paid their debt to society and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed.
 
Legalizing Adult Use Cannabis
 
In January 2018, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to launch a multi-agency study to review the potential impact of regulated cannabis in New York. The study, issued last July, concluded that the positive impact of a regulated cannabis program in New York State outweighs the potential negative aspects. Building on extensive outreach and research, Governor Cuomo is proposing the establishment of a regulated cannabis program for adults 21 and over in the FY 2020 budget that protects public health, provides consumer protection, ensures public safety, addresses social justice concerns, and invests tax revenue.  Specifically, the program will: 

  • Reduce impacts of criminalization affecting communities of color.
  • Automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal records.
  • Implement quality control and consumer protections to safeguard public health.
  • Counties and large cities can opt out.
  • Restrict access to anyone under 21.
  • Generate approximately $300 million in tax revenue and create jobs.

Advancing Reproductive Justice and Women’s Equality
  
Pass the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and Enshrine Roe v. Wade into the New York State Constitution: Governor Cuomo will work with the legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act within the first 30 days of the 2019 Legislative Session, codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade into State law. This law will ensure the right of people to make personal health care decisions to protect their health, in addition to their life, and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. Upon passage of the RHA, the Governor will advance a concurrent resolution to enshrine the principles of Roe v Wade into the New York State Constitution. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify affordable access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
 
Improve Access to In-Vitro Fertilization and Fertility Preservation Coverage: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to expand access to coverage for IVF, as well as medically-necessary fertility preservation services. This legislation will specifically mandate that large group insurance providers cover IVF and will also require large, small, and individual group insurance providers to cover egg-freezing services for women with certain health conditions, including those undergoing cancer treatment.
 
Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Racial Disparities: Based on recommendations from the Maternal Mortality Taskforce established by Governor Cuomo in 2018, the Governor will advance a series of policies to reduce maternal mortality and racial disparities in New York State, including creating an education and training program to reduce implicit racial bias in health care institutions statewide, expand Community Health Worker programs, enacting legislation to create a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Board, creating a data warehouse to provide near real-time information on maternal mortality and morbidity and to inform targeted quality initiatives, and convening an Expert Workgroup on Postpartum Care to develop recommendations targeting the critical time immediately after birth.
 
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class to Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution. With this change, Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution will read: No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this State or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, sex, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution, or by the State or any agency or subdivision of the state.
 
Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Governor Cuomo will advance the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which will build on Jenna’s Law to include more meaningful sentence reductions and encompass crimes committed not only against, but also at the behest of, abusers. The Act will also permit a small population of currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release due to their prior victimization.
 
Eliminate the Statute of Limitations for Rape: While New York removed the statute of limitations for Rape in the First Degree, a five-year statute of limitations remains for Rape in the Second Degree and Rape in the Third Degree. Therefore, in 2019 Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to remove the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree.
 
Increase Protections Against Harassment in the Workplace: Building on the nation’s most comprehensive sexual harassment package signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2018, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment, protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints, and ensure workers know their rights, by requiring all employers to conspicuously post a sexual harassment educational poster in their workplace.
 
Modernize New York’s Pay Equity Law: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to close the gender pay gap in New York. This year, Governor Cuomo will build upon that effort by championing the passage of a salary history ban. In addition, the Governor will advance legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to require equal pay on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, and other protected characteristics, and expand the requirement that equal pay be provided for all substantially similar work, adding flexibility in recognition of the complexity of the issue.
 
If You Can See It, You Can Be It 2019—Girls in Government: Governor Cuomo will create an opportunity for girls to learn about the impact they can have through politics through the new Girls in Government initiative, a non-partisan program to encourage girls in grades 8 through 12 to get involved in government and public policy. The program will introduce girls to the machinery of advocacy and public policy and teach young girls about public affairs and issues that matter to them personally and in their community. They will witness first-hand the inner workings of state government and meet with elected officials and senior staff.
 
Creating a Safer New York
 
Establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders to Save Lives: Governor Cuomo will continue to champion the Red Flag Bill, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill, which would prevent individuals determined by a court to have the potential to cause themselves or others serious harm from purchasing, possessing, or attempting to purchase or possess any type of firearm, including handguns, rifles, or shotguns. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest-in-the-nation gun laws, and, if passed, would make New York the first state to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
 
Extend the Background Check Waiting Period: Governor Cuomo continues to support legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
 
Ban Bump Stocks: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close existing statutory loopholes to prohibit ownership or sale of a bump stock. As evidenced by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks can be equipped to semi-automatic weapons to simulate machine gun fire with deadly consequences. Bump stocks serve no legitimate purposes for hunters or sportsmen and only cause unpredictable and accelerated gun fire, and there is no reason to allow for their continued sale in New York State.  

Pass the Child Victims Act: Having advanced the Child Victims Act, Governor Cuomo is fighting to enact the bill and provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice. This legislation will increase the length of time during which a child sex abuser may be held criminally accountable, allow abuse victims to commence a civil lawsuit at any time until they reach age 50, and ensure that each and every survivor has an opportunity to seek justice by creating a one-year window for victims whose claims have previously been time-barred to bring suit.  

Enact Comprehensive Safety Reforms for Large Passenger Vehicles: The horrific tragedies involving modified stretched limousines in Schoharie County in 2018 and Suffolk County in 2015 filled every New Yorker with a deep sense of empathy and sorrow for the victims and their loved ones. Governor Cuomo proposes a number of statutory reforms to both protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to flout the law, including an outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York State.
 
Authorize Speed Cameras: In order to reinstate the bill signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2013 authorizing the City of New York to develop a system to advance school zone highway safety utilizing camera technology to record and enforce speeding violations, the Governor will put forward a proposal to reinstate and expand the speed camera program in New York City.
 
Enacting the Democracy Agenda
 
Allow Universal Absentee Voting: Governor Cuomo will push to amend the constitution to make absentee ballots available to any eligible voter, no matter their reason for wanting one. 
 
Enact Statewide Early Voting: This proposal would combine early voting with electronic poll books, making make it easier for poll workers to keep track of voting records and verify voter identity and registration status. 
 
Permit Same-Day Registration: Governor Cuomo is proposing amending the constitution to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot box. 
 
Automatic Registration: Today New Yorkers are given the opportunity to register to vote when interacting with State agencies and they must affirmatively ask to be registered. The budget will include a proposal to reverse that process and register eligible New Yorkers to vote unless they affirmatively ask not to be registered. Automatic voter registration will not only boost voter registration and turnout in this state, it will also strengthen our democratic process. 
 
Make It Easier to Register to Vote: In order to ensure voter registration is as simple as possible, the Governor is proposing that all automatic voter registration opportunities be available online, and that New Yorkers are able to apply to register to vote on the State Board of Elections website if they choose to do so. 
 
Make Election Day a Holiday: An inability to take off of work should never be a barrier to voting. For this reason, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to ensure that every worker in New York State receives, as of right, paid time off to vote on Election Day.
 
Eliminate Restrictions on Voting Before Noon in Upstate Primaries: Governor Cuomo will fix unequal ballot access across the state by ensuring that voting hours are extended for primary elections upstate to match those voting hours across the rest of the state. 
 
Fight to Ensure that All New Yorkers Are Counted in the 2020 Census: In 2019, Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive campaign to protect the integrity of the 2020 Census and to ensure that every New Yorker is counted.
 
Enacting Ethics Reform
 
Adopt Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Cuomo will advance a comprehensive package of campaign finance reform legislation to combat the unprecedented influence of big money in politics and empower the voices of all New Yorkers.

  • Public Financing of Elections: There is no incentive in today’s campaign finance system for candidates to focus on ordinary donors. Large donors provide large donations which drown out the voices of ordinary people. Public campaign financing is the remedy to this problem. By enacting a 6:1 public financing matching ratio for small donations, candidates will be incentivized to focus on small donors.
  • Lowering Campaign Contribution Limits: Governor Cuomo is proposing lowering contribution limits for all candidates. By implementing these reforms, and creating a strong public financing system, New York will dramatically reduce the influence of money in politics and return to a government by the people and for the people.
  • Ban Corporate Contributions and Fully Close the LLC Loophole: Ever since the Citizens United decision in 2010, corporate money has overtaken our elections system. It is time for New York State to finally say enough is enough. Governor Cuomo will fix this problem once and for all by banning all corporate and LLC contributions. It is time to restore the power to the people, and take it out of the hands of dark money and special interest donors.
  • Strengthen Disclosure Laws that Expose Dark Money in Politics : In June 2016, Governor Cuomo advanced ethics reform legislation to address the impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). The Governor cautioned about the increase of dark money in politics and promised to “strengthen disclosure requirements and mandate that groups report the identity of anyone exerting control over them.” In August 2016, the Governor signed into law New York Executive Law § 172, which requires disclosures of political relationships and behaviors widely recognized to be influential but which operate in the shadows. Now, with the lessons of the 2018 election in hand, the Governor proposes strengthening this law in a variety of ways to assure all New Yorkers have critical information about who is actually speaking to them. Further, the Governor is seeking to streamline the reporting process for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations, including by providing a mechanism for organizations to apply for a statutory exemption before the start of a reporting period.

Require Financial Disclosures by Local Elected Officials: This proposal will require these local elected officials to submit basic financial disclosure information to JCOPE, just like their state counterparts, so that the people of New York State can have the information they need about the people they choose to represent them at all levels of government.
 
Build a Dynamic, User-Friendly Database of Economic Development Projects: In an effort to increase transparency and modernize the information available on State economic development efforts, the Governor is directing Empire State Development (ESD) to build and host a searchable online database that will give the public more current and relevant information on projects that receive ESD assistance. When deployed, the new database will provide the public with more recent information on projects and combine the data from many static, program-specific reports into one dynamic, user-friendly website.
 
Ensuring Immigrant Rights
 
Pass the Jose Peralta DREAM Act: Governor Cuomo will pass the Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers. The Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act will give undocumented New York students, who are deserving of the same advantages given to their citizen peers, access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as state administered scholarships. 
 
Codify Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About Immigration Status: In 2017, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 170, prohibiting State agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an individual’s immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Building upon further amendments to the Executive Order, Governor Cuomo proposes codifying the protection of the amended EO 170 into law.
 
Protecting LGBTQ Rights
  
Pass the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act:Governor Cuomo supports the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), solidifying protections against discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes against people on the basis of gender identity.
 
Banning Conversion Therapy: Governor Cuomo supports legislation to expand the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under the education law to include engaging in, advertising for, or allowing someone under one’s direction or oversight to engage in conversion therapy with a patient under the age of eighteen years. 
 
Ban the “Gay Panic” Defense: Governor Cuomo will again push to close the loophole in New York State by passing legislation to ban gay and trans panic defenses.
 
Make Surrogacy Legal in New York State: New York State law presently bans the practice of gestational surrogacy, and creates destabilizing uncertainty about who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via other reproductive technology like artificial insemination or egg donation. The Governor is proposing legislation to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts to permit gestational carrier agreements.
 
Serving Our Veterans
 
Support for Transgender Troops: New York will stand with all veterans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This year, all New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs staff will receive LGBTQ cultural competency training to help understand how to best serve LGBTQ veterans. DVA will also work with LGBTQ-focused organizations to make sure that each and every LGBTQ veteran receives individualized assistance in a safe and supportive environment, including by helping LGBTQ veterans upgrade their service discharges so that these brave veterans will be able to access healthcare, education, financial compensation, and other benefits they have earned.
 
JUSTICE FOR ALL NEW YORKERS
  
Protecting Quality, Affordable Health Care
 
Codify Health Care Protections and Coverage Guarantees for New Yorkers: In light of the continued federal attacks on the ACA, Governor Cuomo believes it is essential that New York codify key ACA provisions, including the state’s health insurance marketplace, as well as enhanced State regulatory protections into State law. This is critical to stabilizing the health insurance market and inoculating New York from any further federal attacks on the health care system.
 
Take Action to Achieve Universal Access to Health Care: Governor Cuomo is establishing a Commission on universal health care to be supported by Department of Health and Department of Financial Services, and comprised of health policy and insurance experts to develop options for achieving universal access to high-quality, affordable health care in New York. This review process will consider all options for expanding access to care, including strengthening New York’s commercial insurance market, expanding programs to include populations that are currently ineligible or cannot afford coverage, as well as innovative reimbursement models to improve efficiency and generate savings to support expanded coverage.
 
Fighting to End the Opioid Epidemic
 
Protect New Yorkers from Predatory Practices: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to 1) require that out-of-state facilities be licensed in their home state and accredited by a nationally recognized organization, and 2) prevent predatory out-of-state providers from targeting justice involved individuals by working with courts to immediately connect individuals to in-state treatment programs and by advancing legislation to protect in-state court ordered treatment. He will also direct OASAS to implement regulations that require out-of-state marketers comply with OASAS requirements when marketing in New York State. With these actions, New York will implement the strongest practices in the nation to protect its residents, forcing predatory treatment programs to look elsewhere to fill their facility quotas.
 
Expand Access to Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is an important advance in Medication Assisted Treatment, which, like methadone and injectable naltrexone, is used in combination with counseling as appropriate to help people reach and sustain recovery from Opioid Use Disorder. To expand use of buprenorphine, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Health to require all hospitals statewide to develop protocols for their Emergency Departments to address Opioid Use Disorder based on the standard of care for treatment or referral for treatment.
 
Expand Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice Settings: To expand access to treatment in prisons and jails, Governor Cuomo has directed OASAS to distribute over $4 million to support addiction treatment services in over 50 facilities. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will expand access to Medication Assisted Treatment by providing $1.2 million to support the establishment of up to three new MAT programs in State prisons.
 
Increase Access to Naloxone: Governor Cuomo will direct DOH to advance legislation that expands Good Samaritan laws to apply to workers in restaurants, bars, and other retail establishments. In addition, Governor Cuomo will increase access to naloxone at SUNY and CUNY by ensuring that naloxone is provided as part of every dorm first aid kit, or available for the Resident Assistant on duty every night in every SUNY and CUNY dorm.
 
Launch a Comprehensive Substance Use Prevention Blueprint for Schools: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York State will launch a statewide collaborative to streamline all prevention resources and develop best practices, standards, and metrics for substance use prevention into a focused “Prevention Blueprint” that will assist schools to follow a comprehensive, evidence-based and data-driven approach to prevention. OASAS shall work in collaboration with the State Education Department, Department of Health and the Office of Mental Health to develop the Prevention Blueprint for use in the 2020-21 school year.
 
Creating Healthy Communities
  
Protect New Yorkers from Unknown Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Governor Cuomo will introduce new legislation authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health and the Department of State to develop regulations establishing an on-package labeling requirement for designated products, indicating the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals, developing a list of the more than 1,000 carcinogens and other chemicals that will trigger labeling, and identifying the types of consumer products that will be subject to the new regime. DEC and DOH will be further empowered to require manufacturers to disclose the chemical contents of consumer products in sold or distributed in New York State and explore possible additional measures to protect consumers.
 
Control Health Threats from Tobacco: Governor Cuomo is proposing comprehensive legislation to combat the rising use of tobacco products. This legislation includes:

  • Raising the Minimum Sales Age for Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products from 18 to 21: Most underage youth obtain tobacco and vapor products from friends who are over 18 and can legally purchase products. Raising the minimum age will remove sources of tobacco from high schools.
  • Ending the Sale of Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products in Pharmacies: Health care related entities should not be in the business of selling tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death in New York State. Ending the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies will reduce the availability, visibility, and social acceptability of tobacco use, especially to youth.
  • Clarify the Department of Health’s Authority to Ban the Sale of Certain Flavored E-Cigarette Liquids: Flavored combustible cigarettes, except menthol, were banned by the FDA in 2009 to reduce youth smoking as they were frequently used as a starter product.  Most e-cigarette users said their first e-cigarette was flavored. Flavors, such as sweet tart, toffee, and bubble gum, make e-cigarettes more attractive and make e-cigarettes more attractive to youth. Legislation is being introduced to provide the Department of Health the authority to ban the sale of flavored liquids that target youth use of e-cigarettes.
  • Restricting Available Discounts Provided by Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Retailers: New York has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, but manufacturers and retailers have developed tactics to reduce prices, such as “buy one, get one free” discounts. These tactics directly target price-sensitive consumers, including youth. Restricting discounts on tobacco and vapor products will strengthen the impact of New York’s tax on tobacco and disincentivize tobacco use.
  • Introduce a Tax on E-Cigarettes: Tobacco use is reduced or prevented when the price of tobacco products is high. Youth are particularly sensitive to price increases on tobacco products. New York State has one of the highest taxes on combustible cigarettes and one of the lowest youth smoking rates in the country. The same rationale is expected to apply to taxation and youth use of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids.
  • Require E-Cigarettes to Be Sold Only Through Licensed Retailers: Currently the sale of e-cigarettes is almost entirely unregulated. Restricting the sale to licensed retailers will allow the current enforcement infrastructure to ensure that minors do not purchase tobacco products.

Invest in Community-Based Supports for Aging New Yorkers: Governor Cuomo proposes investing $15 million in community-based supports for aging New Yorkers. This needed targeted investment in NYSOFA’s programs and services will help serve more older adults and will help them maintain their autonomy, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and delay future Medicaid costs. Working with the Department of Health, NYSOFA will develop specific metrics to evaluate the success of this investment.
 
Create the Family First Transition Fund: The state will leverage the investment of private foundation funding to create a Family First Transition fund that will provide resources to local departments of social services and foster care agencies to have the resources needed to prepare for the implementation of the Family First federal legislation. This investment will allow New York State to adequately prepare for the implementation of Family First and will position New York to continue to prioritize the needs of its most vulnerable children and families and ensure the local departments of social services are fully equipped to meet those needs while maintaining compliance with important federal benchmarks.
 
Continuing New York’s Environmental Leadership
 
Launching the Green New Deal:  Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.  
 
Establish $10 Billion Green Future Fund: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance a $10 billion Green Future Fund to support clean water infrastructure, renewable energy and clean transportation, and open space and resiliency. This fund includes $5 billion in total for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—building upon the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and effectively doubling the state’s investment in clean water over the next five years.
 
Continue Historic $300 Million Environmental Protection Fund: Governor Cuomo proposes maintaining the State’s historic $300 million EPF. This investment will prioritize programs to protect New York’s water bodies, promote stewardship projects in parks and on other state lands, revitalize municipal waterfronts, and build community resilience to climate change—all while creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
 
Expanding the Bottle Bill to Include Most Nonalcoholic Drinks: In order to reduce litter and provide relief to overburdened municipal recycling entities who are struggling amidst changes to the global recycling markets, Governor Cuomo will expand the Bottle Bill to make most non-alcoholic beverage containers eligible for 5 cent redemption, including those for sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee. 
 
Prohibiting the Use of Plastic Bags: To address the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, Governor Cuomo proposes a statewide plastic bag prohibition with certain exceptions.

2019 State of the State Book Available Here

With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19

Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March Alliance with board members including Sulma Arzu-Brown, Debra Dixon-Anderson, and Freedom Shannon and Giovanni Taveras of the New York State Veteran’s Chamber. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Women’s March Alliance, the official organizer of the March on NYC since 2017, will stage its third annual march on Saturday, January 19. Line up begins at 10 a.m. with the march kicking off at 11 a.m. on 61st Street and Central Park West (main entrance on 72nd and Columbus). The march, which is expected to draw 100,000 participants, will run along Central Park West south around Columbus Circle, east on 59th Street then south on 6th Avenue.

The complete map route is available at https://womensmarchalliance.org/2019-womens-march-on-nyc.

The theme for this year’s Woman’s March, taking place in New York City on Saturday Jan 19, could well be “I am woman. Hear me roar,” especially after the dramatic successes culminating in the 2018 elections that saw a record number of women running for office and elected – women now one-fourth of Congress, and there are four more women governors.

And in New York, the successful takeover of the Senate gives new hope for a progressive agenda, topped with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act.

But the Women’s March Alliance organizers worry that sheer exhaustion and complacency might rightly set in after all that happened to produce the success of  2018, but that there still so much work to be done, not the least is: Now you have heard our roar, act.

“We want to make sure we don’t stop fighting. We are half way there. We can’t stop now. We have to move forward,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March Alliance. “The theme for the march is ‘Your Voice Your Power.’ We have seen what happened in 2018  Elections. New York cannot stand back. New York leads nation in progress.” (The actual hashtag for the march is #YourVoiceYourPower)

Indeed, that there is still so much work to be done is reflected in the cavalier attitude Trump and Republicans have to shutting down government, with no clue and no care of the ramifications on women and families that go beyond withholding pay to 800,000 federal workers as well as contractors,from food safety to food stamps, from mortgages to small business loans, from housing vouchers to veterans benefits. They even stood by while the Violence Against Women Act expired.

And then there is the unbelievable cruelty being inflicted on millions of families across the nation who may have an undocumented immigrant among them but American citizen spouse or children, or the four million Dreamers whose lives are in limbo. Think of the desperate migrants as the Trump Administration tries to overturn domestic violence and gang violence as a basis for asylum; the forced separation of families; the families of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees here for decades under Temporary Protected Status who have been told they will be deported. Think of the families ripped apart. That’s a woman’s issue, too.

Now Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to take funds allocated for rebuilding communities devastated by climate disasters in Puerto Rico afflicted by Maria, in California after the wildfires, in Florida and South Carolina after Michael. And then there is the humanitarian crisis created by Trump’s anti-immigrant policy that has led to two children dying while in US custody, and hundreds of children rendered orphans, thousands more traumatized by their condition.

But this is New York State, and thankfully, there is finally full control by Democrats. On January 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the State Legislature is expected to pass the Reproductive Health Act, strengthening abortion access by codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade in state law, after 12 years of trying but failing. But this action cannot be taken for granted. There is still need to push the politicians to act –and not take such landmark for granted..

This is no time to be complacent – the regressive forces are not complacent, they are seizing the opportunity of a hard-religious right majority on the Supreme Court, to push through personhood amendments that essentially give more rights to a fetus than the mother carrying it. Women have actually been prosecuted for miscarrying and such laws could be applied to punish women for behaviors that are deemed harmful to a fetus. Essentially, women would become slaves of the state, not considered entitled to the same right of self-determination as a man. Big Brother doesn’t begin to describe government’s intervention..

If Roberts’ Court rules that the fetus has “personhood” rights under the Constitution,  all abortions would be illegal — even in states like New York that overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose.  (See the full series of editorials in the New York Times, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/28/opinion/abortion-law-pro-life.html).

So this year’s march has its own urgency: to cement and recommit, to make sure that the electeds carry out what could be called a woman’s agenda but encompasses so much because women’s issues are so broad.

Here’s a partial list: gun violence prevention, universal health care, universal pre-K, affordable college, climate action and environmental justice, immigration reform, pay equity, parental leave, criminal justice reform… Way too many to fit into a soundbite,  a poster or a tweet.

But if you still need a motivation, consider this: the 2020 presidential election is already underway, and the way women candidates for office are once again being evaluated according to a different standard (“likeability,” “shrill”).

The danger of complacency needs to be recalled: that’s what happened in 2016, when too many believed that Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman to head a major party ticket meant that America had entered a post-feminist era, just as Obama’s election was supposedly a post-racist era. Okay to stay home out of some manufactured outrage, just because you could; okay to throw a vote away on an independent candidate, because of course the most qualified candidate, who stood for gender rights, civil rights, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic justice, would win. We saw how that went.

The march, which will include opportunities to register to vote (and local elections in 2019 are important), is a call to action to get things done while we have the “honeymoon” of the new electeds and the fear of God in the incumbents – because they think they can do anything they want and ignore the voices of 2018 because the electorate won’t remember in 2020.

It is important, as well, to keep the networks and the alliances intact, for the affirmation and validation that the marchers give to one another. And because 2020 is right around the corner.

Indeed, the greatest threat to the Women’s movement is complacency (and fatigue) after the hard-won victories of 2018.

“We must be fearful that people have become comfortable, because that’s what happened in 2016 – we were the popular vote, we still are the popular vote, we don’t want to get comfortable and let the crazy seem like the status quo & normal,” said Freedom Shannon, a member of the board of WMA which describes itself as “a nonprofit alliance of human rights supporters who seek to close the social, political and economic gender divide.”

“We are changing what it means to be a woman in our society. We have marched to being one in five in Congress, but we need to come out January 19 to honor those who have come before us, to show those in countries that cannot assemble, what democracy looks like, and pave the way for future generations,” Shannon said. “On January 19, we will unify our voices so we amplify enough to be heard by the people in power and soften their hearts so they can act without prejudice.”

The organizers at a press conference introducing the event stressed that WMA is completely separate from Womens March Inc. which organized the Washington March in 2017 and is holding a rally in New York City also on January 19. That organization raised controversy of being anti-Semitic when leaders expressed support for Louis Farrakhan.

Siemionko notedWe are a local grassroots team of volunteers hosting this event for the third year in a row, and we do not have nor have we ever had an association with Women’s March, Inc. or its founders.”

She continued, “Our mission is to include and advance women regardless of faith, sexual identity and preference, race, cultural and religious background or political affiliation.”

Siemionko was firm on insisting that WMA is inclusive, and that like all the other sister marches that took place in 2017 and 2018 in cities across the nation, all grew organically, as local grassroots organizations reflecting their communities.

She stressed how WMA went out of its way to accommodate the Jewish community, including organizing the march so it would start within walking distance of a large segment of the community on the Upper West Side. “We wanted to honor those Jews who want to honor Sabbath without taking public transportation, but can march to support women’s rights.” In addition, Siemionko will be participating in a panel on January 17 at the Stephen Wise Synagogue.

“The confusion happened when Womens March Inc, the official march of DC, decided to break ground here in NYC. Unfortunately that happened at time when irresponsible wording was used to insult different communities.

“One of the reasons we became part of WMA since its inception is that anti-Semitism, racial discrimination, LGBT discrimination had no place here, especially in New York City, the most diverse place in the nation, in the world,” said Debra Dixon Anderson, director of operations of the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a WMA board member, “and we appreciate all different walks of life.”

WMA is the only organization that has a permit from New York City for a march on January 19.

Enter at 72nd Street to Central Park West, or enter from Central Park. There will be a 15-minute kickoff at 11 am (not a rally), then the march will get underway at 11:15, go south past Columbus Circle, east on 59, then south to 44 Street. Check the site for details.

There will be a female Indian chief to bless the march, female drum bands, brass bands, acrobats, DJs, and activists.

In conjunction with the event, people will have a chance to see “Eyes of the World,” a giant, collaborative mosaic, 5 ft tall and 18 feet wide, produced by thousands of contributors since the first Women’s March on New York City in 2017. that is on view at the Newburger Gallery in the lobby of SUNY Optometry (33 West 42nd Street), across from Bryant Park, noon to 9 pm.

“’Eyes of the World’ is a tangible and permanent reminder to the United States government that our eyes are constantly watching to ensure all policies embody human rights, advance civil rights, and promote the highest degree of equality,” write Joanne and Bruce Hunter, artists and creators of public art.

The message of the 2019 Women’s March should be: We won. Now act.

WMA 2019 Women’s March on NYC official Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1823403231077663/
WMA website: https://womensmarchalliance.org/
WMA 2019 Women’s March on NYC registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-march-on-nyc-official-tickets-49313994485
WMA donation link: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/womensmarchalliance

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NY’s Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul Paying Homage to Massacred Jews, Tells Synagogue: Live a more Publicly Jewish Way, Don’t Be a Victim; Push Hate Back Under a Rock

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul tells communal shiva gathering for Pittsburgh synagogue victims at Beit Shalom Torah, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim. Push [hate] back under a rock.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The reaction to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest against the Jewish community in American history, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, to be more Jewish, more visibility, not be (terrorized) into bunkers or invisibility.

Leading a communal shiva service, she said, “We will study, build community and not lose our focus as to what it is to be Jewish.”

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, addressing a communal Shiva gathering for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh said, “The word is resilience, a refusal to succumb to victimhood. That’s how we win out. Willingness to gather as a community …

“The shock, outrage, disbelief, overwhelming sadness and grief is overwhelming,” she said.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul addresses Beit Shalom Torah congregation at communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“How it happened? We don’t have political courage to ban weapons that allow such carnage.

“As to why? We know there is hatred, evil, but in t last two years, it has evolved… Evil lurking under surface, the serpents feeling they can rise up out from under rocks because leadership is willing to do the same. .. What was submerged is unleashed.

“What gives hope is the knowledge that no child is born anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. [We must] capture hearts and minds of next generation before they learn hate.”

She advised, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim, but embrace your heritage and embrace the ones not yet [tainted] by hate. Push [hate] back under a rock.

“On behalf of Governor Cuomo and 20 million New Yorkers, I express condolences to all of us because we are all heartbroken today.”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rabbi Kleinbaum noted that the first response after the news of the massacre in Pittsburgh came via text and email from Muslim and Christian leaders in the city.

She said that since the inauguration, she and members of the synagogue have held a vigil at the nearby mosque every Friday, to stand up for Muslims who have been vilified by Trump.

“We say to ourselves what would it have been like in Berlin, in Vienna, if non-Jewish Germans and Austrians stood with their Jewish neighbors.

And now, the Iman has said his members would come to the synagogue this Friday before Shabbat services.

“We are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Throughout the constant attacks and dehumanization from this administration, [Beit Simcha Torah] has been a source of faith and love. … Our duty is to stand with our Jewish brother and sisters. We stand with them, put our bodies on the line for their safety. … [We must] stamp out White Supremacy and anti-Semitism….Any attack on your community is an attack on ours.”

Rabbi Kleinman said, “We can replace hate in the world, the violence, with love.”

Sing “God Bless America” as a prayer, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum says at Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

She noted that the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was not only an act of anti-Semitism, but because the synagogue supported refugees to the US.

“Abraham was told to leave his home, go to a place he did not know and build and live there.

HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – provided finances to help Jews, and today, HIAS helps non-Jews become part of the American tapestry, “because we are Jews, we welcome the stranger, the immigrant,” she said.

“God forbid this act of violence deters us from that, puts us into bunkers. That’s what the terrorists, anti-Semities want…. We must respond to anti-Semitism with deepened strength of Jewish identity. We must not let fear, despair control us.

At the end of the service, members of the synagogue’s board read the names and something personal about each of the 11 victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered for no other reason than being Jewish. Most notably, was the personal remembrance of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years old, who was one of the first to treat people with HIV. The gentleman had grown up in Pittsburgh and was treated by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, until he left Pittsburgh in 2004. “He was the one to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He held us without gloves. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes.”

It is also notable that the first to treat the assassin at the hospital were Jewish, including a doctor who was a congregant at Tree of Life.

“I refuse to give up on the dream of what this world could be,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said, “[to be a victim of] the violence, hatred unleashed by this administration. I refuse to give up on the power of human beings. We who are Jews, have a deep and proud tradition. There are those who would want us to turn inward. Don’t believe that.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Before the immigration laws, a young boy whose mother couldn’t speak English, came with no money, worked very hard cleaning other people’s homes and would tell him, ‘God bless America,’ not because it was perfect but it was better than the place she fled. The son grew up in New York City, became one of the greatest songwriters. Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” not as a militaristic, triumphant chant. He wrote it as a prayer. He wrote it understanding her dream, coming to this country without skills, language or money, for her son to grow up away from a land that hated Jews. God Bless America. We won’t give up. And remember to vote. Sing it, as a prayer.”

And the congregation sang.

Founded in 1973, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is a progressive synagogue that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, ‎queer and straight, individuals and families who share common values. Hochul had participated in the opening of the building in 2016.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Governor Cuomo, Cardinal Dolan Participate in Interfaith Vigil for Victims of Hate

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo addresses an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims of the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.

Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:

Cantors Dan Mutlu and Julia Cadrain are joined by Reverend Bertram Johnson and Imans Shansi Ali and Tahir Kukaj in singing “I Will Build This World” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew.  Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.

“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history.  God Bless the state of New York.

“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.

“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.

NGovernor Andrew Cuomo: “There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head.  The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.

“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us.  And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.

“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.

“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.

“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.

Some 1250 people attended the Interfaith Prayer Vigil for those massacred at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh at Central Synagogue, built in 1872, the oldest continuously operated synagogue in New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter.  He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’

“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’

“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’

“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers.  Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.

“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.

“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.

“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.” 

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children,” said Rabbi Angela Buchdahl © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.

Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.

“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.

“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”

The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel reading the Sunday after the deadliest attack on Jews in America began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”

Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel reading the Sunday after the deadliest attack on Jews in America began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pastor Amandus Deer  noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.”  “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”

Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”

Tearing ribbons, lighting candles and saying prayers to remember the victims of hate at the Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited.  Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that  one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “

The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.

Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.

The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NYS Governor Signs Legislation Removing Guns from Domestic Abusers; Seeks to Extend Background Check Waiting Period to 10 Days

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signs legislation removing guns from domestic abusers and seeks legislation to extend the background check waiting period from three to 10 days. “In a time when gun violence continues to relentlessly torment communities across the country while our federal government refuses to act, New York must lead the charge to end this epidemic once and for all.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor also Announces Legislation to Extend Background Check Waiting Period from Three Days to 10 Days

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation to remove guns from domestic abusers and close a loophole in state law that will ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms, not just handguns. The Governor also announced he is advancing new legislation to extend the waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System from three days to 10 days.

“In a time when gun violence continues to relentlessly torment communities across the country while our federal government refuses to act, New York must lead the charge to end this epidemic once and for all,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this legislation, we can sever the undeniable connection between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence, and continue to build upon the strongest gun laws in the nation.”

“My mother dedicated her life to helping victims of domestic violence and our family started a home to help these survivors,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.“We’ve seen firsthand the fear created when a gun is present in the home of an abuser. This new law today is a dramatic step forward eliminating the vulnerability of these women and their children. While the federal government fails to address the issue of gun violence, we continue to fight to keep guns out of the hands of those who could devastate our communities and our residents.”

Removing Guns from Domestic Abusers

Previously, New York law narrowly prohibited the possession of firearms for individuals either convicted of a felony or a limited number of misdemeanor “serious” offenses, excluding many misdemeanor offenses that are undeniably serious. This bill (S.8121 Phillips/A10272 O’Donnell), which the Governor signed in ceremony today, expands the list of “serious” crimes that require the loss of a gun license and the surrender of all firearms to ensure no domestic abuser in New York retains the ability to possess a firearm once convicted of a disturbing crime.

In addition, this legislation will preclude any individual wanted for a felony or other serious offense from obtaining or renewing a firearm license. Under previous New York law, despite being subject to an arrest warrant, an individual was still legally eligible to obtain a firearm license even as police worked to locate and detain them. This change ensures that the law enforcement who are actively seeking to arrest a wanted individual, as well as innocent bystanders, are not needlessly endangered by a wanted individual who has been able to obtain new firearms.

Extending the Waiting Period

Governor Cuomo has introduced legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Current federal law requires gun dealers to conduct the NICS background check on a potential purchaser prior to selling a firearm, which immediately provides the dealer with one of three possible notifications. These notifications include “proceed”, “denied”, or “delayed”. In the case of a “delayed” response, the dealer must wait three days before the sale is eligible to go through, even though the FBI continues to investigate these individuals past the three-day timeframe. Oftentimes, by the time it has been determined that the potential purchaser was, in fact, ineligible, the individual has already been sold the firearm upon completion of the three-day waiting period. Extending the waiting period to ten days would allow sufficient time to complete the expanded background check and builds on legislative efforts to ensure that only those eligible to own a firearm are able to do so.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Today, New York continues its inspirational leadership in addressing the gun violence epidemic by enacting legislation that recognizes the deadly connection between intimate partner abuse and the tragedy of gun violence. Yet, while New York leads, Republicans in Congress refuse to act. As gun violence and domestic abuse exact a daily toll of horror and heartbreak in communities across the country, saving lives and protecting families shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Democrats know that there is a commonsense, bipartisan path forward and we will continue to press for progress on this critical issue.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “I am proud to stand with Governor Cuomo as he signs legislation to remove all guns from domestic abusers. These measures will close dangerous loopholes in our gun laws and enhance public safety. There is simply no reason why one who has committed an act of domestic violence should maintain ownership of a firearm. Since the Republican Congress has failed to address the national epidemic of gun violence, I commend Governor Cuomo’s leadership in working to enact reasonable gun safety legislation that will protect New Yorkers.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said, “We know that individuals with a history of domestic violence are five times more likely to murder an intimate partner when a firearm is in the house. This bill, to remove guns from domestic abusers, is just commonsense. I was proud to stand with Governor Cuomo today as he signed this important bill that will save lives into law.”

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said, “Gun violence is a plague on our nation and our city that too often shatters lives. The steps being announced today will help keep firearms away from those who should never have access to them. We must do more and Congress must act at the federal level. Nonetheless this effort is a good start and shows New York is leading the way to tackle this horrible problem.”

“Domestic violence affects all communities,” Congressman Adriano Espaillat said. “ commend Governor Cuomo on today’s announcement to remove guns from domestic abusers and close a loophole in New York to ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms. Domestic violence impacts each of our communities, and today we are standing united with victims, survivors and families of domestic abuse to say enough is enough. I vow to continue my work in Congress to end domestic abuse and violence. Today’s landmark legislation is a historic step in our efforts to protect the victims of domestic violence and help keep individuals and our communities safe.”

Connie Neal, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence said, “The connections between domestic violence and gun violence cannot be clearer. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the members of the New York State Legislature who voted to take a strong stand to remove firearms from domestic violence offenders. The urgency to act was irrefutable, and New York has now made a significant step forward in preventing domestic violence homicides. Because of Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we will now have a strong safeguard in place for protecting countless New Yorkers.”

Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said“The numbers are very clear. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm, and domestic violence assaults involving a gun are far more likely to end in death. By requiring domestic abusers to surrender their firearms, Governor Cuomo closed a glaring loophole in state law. I applaud the Governor’s action, as his advocacy for common sense gun laws will help save the lives of vulnerable people all across our state and prevent family fire.”

“As our nation grapples with how to confront the spread of gun violence, we are proud to work and live in a State who has such a leader on this issue: Governor Cuomo,” said Amy Barasch, Executive Director of Her Justice. “At Her Justice, where we provide free legal assistance to thousands of victims of partner violence every year, we know all too well how dangerous guns are in the context of abuse in the home. This new legislation will ensure guns are taken out of the hands of more convicted domestic abusers. Thank you, Governor, for moving us forward.”

Cicely Fields, Domestic and Gun Violence Survivor said, “As a domestic violence survivor, I am a living testimony to why the signing of this bill today is so important. I know firsthand the connection between domestic violence and gun violence is undeniable, as my abuser was able to possess a firearm that injured me within inches of my life. The wound may have healed, but I will still be physically damaged for the rest of my life and my four children, who rely on me for support, will continue to suffer due to the actions of this domestic abuser. I thank Governor Cuomo for ensuring the passage of this law.”

June Rubin, Volunteer Co-Leader for the New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said, “Today we took another important step towards protecting New Yorkers from gun violence. While this is a meaningful day, we know this legislation is just one of many steps needed to prevent future acts of gun violence. We look forward to working with lawmakers and Governor Cuomo on future steps such as the passage of lifesaving Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation.”

“Under previous law, where people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor were able keep their firearms, the lives of both their victims and the general public were unnecessarily put at risk,” Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo, this legislation ensures that everyone convicted of a domestic violence crime is held to the same standard, guaranteeing that these dangerous individuals will lose their gun license and their firearms. This is common sense legislation that was long overdue, and we applaud the Governor for seeing it through.”

“Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser owns a firearm,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “I thank the Governor for signing this legislation into state law, which requires the removal of firearms from individuals convicted of domestic violence. This commonsense legislation keeps firearms out of the hands of those who are convicted of domestic violence, closes the gap in federal law, protects women, men and children from their abusers and will prevent further tragedies.”

Senator Diane Savino said, “This legislation continues our work to strengthen New York State’s nation-leading gun laws. We are closing a loophole that allowed people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor to keep their firearms, and by doing so we are further protecting the victims of domestic violence across this state. No one should have to live in fear of their abusers, and thanks to working with Governor Cuomo on this legislation, we are helping to ensure that they no longer have to.”

Under Governor Cuomo, New York has passed the strongest gun control laws in the nation and with the passing of this legislation, New York’s gun laws have been further strengthened to ensure that the well-known link between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence can be eliminated. In nine of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in United States history, including Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, the shooter had an existing record of committing violence against women, threatening violence against women, or harassing or disparaging women. In addition, when an abusive partner is permitted to access firearms, the risk that the other partner will be killed increases fivefold. In 2016, firearms were used in 35 domestic homicides in New York.

In addition to continued progressive improvements to New York’s gun legislation, Governor Cuomo led the creation of the “States for Gun Safety” coalition in February of this year to combat the gun violence epidemic in the face of continued federal inaction. Together with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, New York State entered into an agreement to trace and intercept illegal guns, better share information on individuals prohibited from buying or owning firearms, and create the first-in-the-nation regional gun violence research consortium. Massachusetts, Delaware, and Puerto Rico have also joined the coalition, which now represents over 35 million Americans.

See Bill Here and Memo Here

March for Our Lives in DC Signals New Focus for Gun Reform Activists: ‘Vote Them Out’

Gun activists at the March for Our Lives in Washington DC March 24, 2018 signaled a new focus: they are done entreating politicians to pass sensible gun control laws. They intend to Vote Them Out. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It doesn’t matter that Donald Trump and the NRA-toadies in the Congress had all skipped town ahead of the onslaught of an estimated 500,000 who joined the March for Our Lives in Washington DC calling for sane gun control. After Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, and the five school shootings that took place just since Parkland, the advocates for commonsense gun regulation are done trying to appeal and cajole lawmakers. The overriding theme of the event, called out in every interlude between the teen and t’ween speakers who so eloquently made the argument for banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips and universal background checks was “VOTE THEM OUT.”

The call would come from down a mile-long stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, and crescendo, until the buildings would shake.

Signs at the March for Our Lives, DC, signal a new activism: “It may be the 2nd Amendment, but in a second THEY WERE GONE.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gun control advocates are done expecting tragedy to prompt action to protect public health and safety. They are done asking. They are demanding change – whether it be the policy or the politician.

“Either represent the people or get out … Stand for us or beware: The voters are coming,” was the manifesto from Parkland student Cameron Kasky to lawmakers. “To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent and wait your turn: Welcome to the revolution.”

“Your children are the ones fighting for their rights.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The NRA has succeeded, despite easily 90% of Americans who want sensible gun regulations – keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, felons and terrorists, and want to keep weapons designed for war off city streets where 80 percent of Americans live – because they 1) buy politicians, but 2) because they manage to shepherd single-issue voters, fear-mongering the call for “sensible” gun regulation into “confiscate your guns” – and there are some 350 million of them in the hands of just 22% of the population (3% of gun owners own 50% of guns).


Why protect unborn children only to have them die in school © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Now, the single-issue voters will be gun regulation. That will be the litmus test for support or opposition to a candidate. And that’s okay, because it seems that those who embrace sensible gun laws tend also to support climate action, women’s rights, justice, health care and education. They tend to support diplomacy over war. They see gun control as a public health issue – an epidemic of lethal violence that must be addressed – and so also favor the other issues that support health and quality of life, or in the words of the Founding Fathers quoted on the stage: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And there will be 3.9 million high school seniors who will be eligible to vote, if not in the 2018 midterms, buy the 2020 presidential.

An army of volunteers were out with forms to register new voters here and in the hundreds and hundreds of “sibling” rallies held across the country – more than 800 in all including those that took place globally. (Several nations have issued advisories against traveling to the United States because of gun violence.)

Gun violence has affected 40 percent of all Americans © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This was quite literally a March for Our Lives. More children have been killed by gun violence in the five years since Sandy Hook than soldiers have died in combat since 9/11, reported Newsweek. According to Everytown, on average, there are 13,000 gun-related homicides a year (another 20,000 suicides); for every one person killed by a gun, two more are injured; seven children and teens are killed with guns every day. In 2015, Politifact confirmed a statement by Nicholas Kristof that “”More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 [1,516,863] than on battlefields of all the wars in American history [1,396,733].”

Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There have been 5 school shootings just since Parkland on February 14 – including the murder just two days before the March for Our Lives  of 16-year old Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School in Maryland, at the hand of a 17-year old former boyfriend, wielding his parents’ semi-automatic handgun.

Marching for Jaelynn. There have been 5 school shootings just since Parkland on February 14 – including the murder just two days before the March for Our Lives of 16-year old Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School in Maryland, at the hand of a 17-year old former boyfriend, wielding his parents’ semi-automatic handgun. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It wasn’t just Parkland or Sandy Hook and school shootings represented. The speakers were representative of the spectrum of gun violence that is epidemic in America and no where else in the world: gang violence that steals so many lives in urban center cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, that snuffs out the souls in church, concerts, movies, shopping malls; the victims of domestic violence and robbery. And assassination, as the remarks of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 9-year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, recalled.

Crowd hears surprise guest Martin Luther King’s 9-year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King declare: “I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world – period.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said Yolanda Renee King. “I have a dream that enough is enough,” she said. “And that this should be a gun-free world – period.”

Then there was 11-year old Naomi Wadler from Alexandria, Virginia, who led the walk-out from her school for 18 minutes – 17 to honor those killed in Parkland and 1 more for the girl who was murdered from her school. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. Whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” she said. “For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”

Am I next? On average, gun violence kills 96 people a day. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On average, gun violence kills 96 people each day, who don’t warrant media notice. American women are 16 times more likely to be shot to death than women in other developed countries; When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the woman is 5 times as likely to be murdered. But in states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 47% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to EverytownResearch.org.

How many more? (in front of Newsmuseum’s First Amendment banner © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The speakers, an extraordinary array of the most extraordinary young people, described  their trauma, their loss of siblings, parents, best friends, the constant anxiety they must now live with (187,000 school children today have been witness to gun attacks in their schools, according to a Washington Post study; an entire generation since the 1999 Columbine massacre lives with Live Fire drills just as the 1960s kids drilled for nuclear bomb attacks; 40% of Americans know someone who has been a victim of gun violence). They made their case with such clarity, poise, reason and most of all, authenticity, you had to contrast that with the absurdity and stupidity that is heard from many of the current electeds, like Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.

Emma Gonzalez’ piercing 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

When Emma Gonzalez, with her poignant, piercing 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence that mimicked the time it took for the Parkland School Shooter to kill 17, injure 17 more with his AR-15 assault rifle and simply disappear amid the fleeing students, you had the feeling of seeing a future leader, much as those who heard Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley commencement speech. And so many more on that stage. And then there was Malala, in her taped message, who defied the terror attack on her by Taliban determined to prevent girls from attending school.

Priest makes a statement, ‘Never Again’. Alex Wind of Parkland asks, if teachers are armed, where will it end? Priests, pastors, rabbis? Ticket takers at the movies? Shopkeepers at the mall? “That’s what the NRA wants.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But more: you realized in a flash what was lost – to society, to civilization – the potential of what these young people could have been, their lives snuffed out by the dreck of our species. Did we lose a Steve Hawking, a Malala, an Obama, a Steve Jobs, a Bill Gates? And what of the hundreds of thousands who must live with life-altering injuries – what of the cost to society of their lost ability to fulfill their potential, of the cost of health care that might otherwise have been spent on education, professional training, investment in innovation? The high cost of trauma counselors after an event, of security officers, technology and construction to harden schools against gun violence (diverting scarce funds from computers and actual teaching), pales in comparison.

Teachers, unsung heroes on the frontline of wanton mass shootings, demand “Books over bullets.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

These Parkland survivor-leaders weren’t trying to appeal to politicians with reason or emotion, authenticity or compassion, as the Sandy Hook parents had futilely done. They are done with that.

The pacing of the production – mixing personal stories with PSA’s and data – even the NRA’s “greatest hits” – and top-notch entertainment that included Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt ; Miley Cyrus; Ariana Grande; Jennifer Hudson; Andra Day with Cardinal Shehan School Choir;  Common with Andra Day; Demi Lovato; Vic Mensa and an astonishing performance by the Stoneman Douglas drama club with a student choir of the song they wrote, “Shine”  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrZiB2jV7dw), was as fast and explosive as an AR-15 firing. The audience filled in the interlude with chants of “Vote Them Out” – except after Emma Gonzalez spoke, when the chant was “Vote Her In.”

They want to know why a minority of people get to threaten the vast majority of people.

March for Our Lives: Enough is Enough. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Enough is Enough, the speakers declared. Never Again, was the reply back, perhaps more hopefully, given that there are still more than 200 days before the midterm elections, and 250 days before a new Congress is seated. How many more will die until then? If the law of averages continues, 96 a day, or upwards of 24,000 lives will be snuffed out in this gun violence epidemic, with thousands of more suffering life-altering injuries, that sap their ability to fulfill their god-given potential.

Ballots stop bullets. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We’re done hiding, being afraid,” Ryan Deitsch, a survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, declared. “That’s not what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ This is the beginning of the end. This is the fight for our lives.

“REV up America: Register to vote. Then educate. Then vote.”

About a million people attending more than 800 rallies across the country and around the world, were inspired to take action. And vote.

Here are more photo highlights of the March for Our Lives in Washington DC:

Just Say No to Guns © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I want to play dodgeball, not dodge bullets” 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

More than 350,000 turned out for the March for Our Lives, Washington DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We’ll Vote” (and tweet, rally, march and protest) © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gun Owners Against the NRA © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Air Force Veteran at the March for Our Lives, DC. One of the PSAs features veterans who say that weapons of war they were trained to use have no place in civilian society. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dress codes are more regulated than guns” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is one of the elected who may be on the garbage heap of history because of gun control activists. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Students from North Carolina at the March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Students from Ohio at the March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“You can’t put a silencer on me” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any voters.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Signs of Our Times © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Signs from the March for Our Lives across street from National Archives where you can see original copies of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Warning signs © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I march to be the change” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I Remember You”: Backstage notes at March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Issues Challenge to Trump: ‘This is the Moment’ to Stop Scourge of Gun Violence

New York State Governor tells Trump: “The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to President Trump.

Dear Mr. President,

The old adage is right: “go with your first instinct.” Your White House meeting with bipartisan federal legislators right after the Florida massacre appeared and was unscripted and productive. You essentially had one question that summed up what every American was feeling: “why?” Why sell guns to young people who can’t yet buy a beer? Why sell assault weapons that are designed to kill so many people so quickly? Why not take guns from the mentally ill before they hurt someone or themselves? Why not make sure every gun purchaser goes through a background check?

There was no answer from the electeds assembled, because there is no answer – except the one you suggested – they are afraid of the NRA.

Major political change comes when a window of opportunity opens and a leader seizes the moment. There are brief moments in history where attention, passion and drive combine to unite the American people and overwhelm the forces preserving the status quo and create change.

The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment. The Republicans will follow your lead. Yes, they fear the NRA, but they fear the enraged citizen majority more.

In New York, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation had a similar moment. It was a moment of grief and pain and anger. Sandy Hook touched the hearts and minds of every day Americans. It was anyone’s child – it was everyone’s child. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook we passed the New York Safe Act – common sense gun safety. It has made a dramatic difference, it didn’t negatively affect any legal gun owners, and I believe it has saved lives.

Mentally ill and dangerous people shouldn’t have guns so we need universal background checks. When a person shows signs of mental distress or violence, there should be a provision for police to investigate and determine the facts – a “red flag bill.” Domestic violence offenders should not have guns. Assault weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands and not worth the risk. In 1938 we outlawed machine guns in this Country precisely for the same reason: they were too dangerous if obtained by the wrong person. Does anyone miss not owning machine guns?

For those of us who serve in government, if we are lucky, we may have a few moments that present a real opportunity to make a lasting difference. There are brief openings where transformational progress is possible and you have that opportunity now. The moments are rare and fleeting. They are leadership moments: don’t squander it.

The political advisers are wrong. NRA members will be nervous about any government change and intervention but they will ultimately realize a functioning system vindicates legitimate gun owners rather than demonizing all. If you lose this moment, I am sad to say there will probably be another shooting and the Country will be in the same place, and it will once again pose the question that you posed – “why?” “Why didn’t we do anything about this after Florida?” You have the responsibility to stop that from happening.

NY, NJ, CT, RI Governors Form ‘States for Gun Safety’ Coalition to Combat Gun Violence Epidemic

New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island Enter into Agreement to Create Multi-State Database That Will Share Information on Firearms, Law Enforcement Efforts and Supplement Federal NICS Database 

New Multi-State Coalition Will Trace and Intercept Firearms to Stop Flow of Out-of-State Guns

Nation’s First Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Will Conduct Studies to Better Inform Policy Makers

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and Congressman Steve Israel met with mothers who lost children to gun violence. Clinton proposed a specific agenda for sensible gun control. With Trump in the White House, Republicans in control of Congress, and the NRA stepping up its attacks making the prospect for federal help dim (Trump is cutting funding for background checks), New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey governors have formed a coalition to address gun violence at the regional level. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo today announced the formation of the new “States for Gun Safety” coalition to combat gun violence. In the face of repeated federal inaction, the coalition will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to better share information and tackle this devastating epidemic through a comprehensive, regional approach. The coalition will advance a multi-pronged effort that will create a multi-state database to supplement the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes as well as guns transported across state borders and launch the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium that will study the issue across multiple disciplines to better inform policy makers nationwide.

“Here in New York, we’re proud to be home to the nation’s strongest gun safety law. However, the federal government’s continued inaction on this issue has not only allowed the epidemic of gun violence to spread, but it has actually prevented the laws like the SAFE Act from being fully effective,” Governor Cuomo said. “Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses and pass responsible gun safety legislation, New York is joining with New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island to take matters into our own hands. Not only will this groundbreaking partnership take new steps to prevent illegal guns from crossing state lines, but by forming the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, we will be able to better inform policymakers nationwide on how to keep their communities safe.”

“We refuse to allow federal inaction to enact commonsense, gun safety laws endanger the lives of our residents,” Governor Malloy said.  “Despite the best efforts of powerful lobbyists from special interest groups, we will work together as a coalition of states to keep our communities safe.  We cannot sit back and let guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, and we cannot simply watch almost daily tragedy occur.  One thing remains clear: we would be better off if every state and the federal government enacted sensible gun safety rules.  We will not wait for Washington to act – the time for action is now.” 

“Gun violence is not a New Jersey problem, or a New York problem, or a problem for any particular state or region – it is a national problem,” Governor Murphy said.”However, we cannot wait for Congress to act. As states, we must work together to take the steps and enact the measures to protect our residents and our communities. But, even more importantly, a collective of states can take these steps together broaden the reach and impact of commonsense gun safety laws.”

“Rhode Island has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, but our nation has some of the world’s weakest. Kids in Florida and across the nation are taking action, and it’s not a surprise: We’ve forced them to lead because for years elected officials in Washington have refused to,” Governor Raimondo said. “We will stand up with our students and with parents to strengthen our gun laws and combat gun violence.”

As part of the coalition, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will share information about individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm within each state. By sharing this information, states can more effectively prevent certain individuals from purchasing a gun, obtaining a weapon and/or getting a gun permit. The agreement, in accordance with federal and state privacy protections, will provide state law enforcement agencies with details on the firearm purchase or permit denials for those who are disqualified.  People may be disqualified from owning a firearm for several reasons, including an arrest warrant, order of protection, debilitating mental health condition, or criminal history.

Despite the passage of gun safety laws restricting the purchase and carry of firearms across the four states, the lack of federal regulations preventing individuals from purchasing guns in other states and transporting them across borders has undermined state legislation. To combat this practice, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will direct their law enforcement intelligence centers to work cooperatively to trace the use of out-of-state guns in crimes and share information in order to intercept criminals transporting illegal guns across state borders. The four state fusion centers that will jointly share information under this agreement are the New York State Intelligence Center, the Connecticut Intelligence Center, New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, and the Rhode Island State Fusion Center.

The four states will also designate institutions of higher education to partner and create the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.  The consortium will be comprised of dedicated public health, social welfare, public policy, and criminal justice experts who will share and examine data to better inform policymakers nationwide. This groundbreaking consortium will fill the void left by the federal government’s 1996 ban on the use of federal funds to study gun violence which has obstructed research efforts across the nation, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

“We have to remember that the federal government has had a provision in place now for over 20 years that effective bars the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. So it has devolved to the states, now for over 20 years and our thought is perhaps if we can do it in a coordinated way, the more of us at it, hopefully the better result and meaningfully propelling things like smart gun technology,” Governor Murphy of New Jersey said during a telephone press availability with al four governors.

We can’t wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions, with good laws, let’s take it to the next level. Let’s work across our borders. Let’s not just advocate for better laws in our own state, but advocate for better laws in our region. Let’s not just try to make our own borders as safe as possible. Let’s try to make our region as safe as possible.”  We’ll reach out to other governors,” Governor Malloy of Connecticut said.

Building on these efforts, the states will also work to push the federal government to adopt common-sense gun safety measures. In order to protect families and communities across the region, the group will call on the federal government to swiftly enact universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a federal waiting period between the purchase and delivery of guns.

The multi-state coalition builds on years of progress spearheaded by Governor Cuomo to combat gun violence in New York. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Democrats and Republicans came together in New York to pass the nation’s strongest gun safety law in 2013. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, more commonly known as the NY SAFE Act, banned the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines and helps keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, all the while safeguarding the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.

In addition to the SAFE Act, New York has continued to invest in the SNUG and GIVE initiatives which engage with community members to help get guns off the street. Under SNUG, specially trained individuals are employed to reduce violence from occurring when tensions arise within their community, while also connecting high-risk individuals with essential social and support services. The GIVE initiative provides funding to support technical assistance, training, equipment, and personnel – such as prosecutors and crime analysts – to help communities reduce gun violence and save lives. The funding for both initiatives is administered by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Most recently, Governor Cuomo proposed new legislation as part of the 2018 State of the State which will remove all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes. Given the inextricable link between domestic violence and lethal gun violence, this legislation will require all firearms be removed from those convicted of domestic violence crimes, including misdemeanors.  It will also add measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who commit domestic violence with the goal of preventing additional tragedies.

“We’re not waiting for federal action,” said Governor Cuomo of New York, a former Attorney General who laid out an indictment against the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress over its measures that not only don’t mitigate against gun violence, but go backwards. “All of our states are already ahead of the federal government when it comes to laws on this issue. The Florida Parkland massacre, one would hope that it would spur responsible federal action but we’re not going to hold our breath and were not going to risk our children’s lives. Sandy hook happened, I remember speaking with Governor Malloy at the time, and since then 1600 people have died. After Sandy Hook was when New York passed the SAFE Act because people were so outraged and change comes when people demand change. After Sandy Hook, especially in this region of the country, people demanded change. Columbine 1999, since then there have been 200 school shootings, 25 mass school shootings, so no I’m not especially optimistic that the federal government will be a response.

“Let’s be honest, this a federal government has gone backward on the issue. President Trump has pledged allegiance to the NRA and he’s delivered for them. He defunded, in part, the NICS background check system, he stopped last February the Social Security Administration from providing information that the Obama administration put into place that would have given more information on mental health for the NICS system and the solution here is not rocket science. In many ways it’s harder because it takes political courage and this is not just about the NRA, this is a politically charged issue and I think we understate the opposition when we say it’s just the NRA. To be responsible on this issue you have to pay a political cost.

Governors on the phone all understand that. I have the political scars from what we did and that’s why it really is a test of leadership and I think right now you have the high school students showing more leadership than the leaders in Washington. What they said on TV was it shouldn’t be a democratic or republican issue, it’s an issue in life and death and they’re right.

“Your Florida elected officials showed up at the town hall like Senator Marco Rubio, who I think should be ashamed of themselves because he had nothing responsible to say and rather than proposing baby steps, which is the worst type of political pandering, he should have at least been honest and say we have nothing meaningful to propose on this issue. At least that would have been honest.

“To say this is a mental health issue is a sham and a fraud because if you really believed it was a mental health issue, then you have to say, the way to combat mental health is we will have s universal background check system to make sure a person who is mentally ill cannot buy a gun. We’re going to have a NICS system that has a comprehensive mental health database that is in the federal NICS system. You will then have to have a federal reporting system where people could actually report people to police, people who they believe has a mental health problem. Teachers would have to be able to call police, family members would have to be able to call the police and say investigate this person because I think they are mentally ill and they shouldn’t have a gun and they still have to answer why you wouldn’t support an assault ban. 1934, this nation outlawed machine guns because the nation said the risk outweighs the reward. The damage that can be done with a machine gun outweighs the individual’s right to own it. That is an assault rifle today. It’s doable, it’s feasible, we did it in this country. It’s just that we’ve gone backwards,” Cuomo said during the press call.

“The answer is not to make the schools armed camps. That’s where they’re going to go in Washington. Why? Because that’s where the NRA wants them to go. Because it means selling more guns. And the NRA is in the business of selling guns. Arm every teacher. Oh that makes sense. The only thing it would do is bring more guns into a school, more money for gun manufacturers, which is what the NRA is really trying to say…

“Today, we take the next step in the evolution of state action. We are limited by our borders so we can put in laws but then our borders are porous. Governor Malloy spoke about the I-95 corridor. That guns literally come up the I-95 corridor. Share your databases and your information so if a person can’t buy a gun in New York, they don’t drive to Connecticut or New Jersey or Rhode Island and buy the gun. Come up with a coalition of state actions. And then share that information. And that’s what we’re going to be doing. We have a mental health database in New York that now exists that didn’t exist before the SAFE Act that has 77,000 people who are on the database who are mentally ill who could have bought a gun in this state the day before the SAFE Act. Share that information.

“On Governor Murphy’s point about research, I was HUD Secretary in the Clinton Administration. At that time, the manufacturers said they could manufacture a smart gun. They could manufacturer a gun where the trigger read a finger print. We’ve done absolutely nothing on the research and the technology because they haven’t been forced to do it.

“So do what you can and that’s what we’re doing. This is not a substitute for federal action. And we hope and we will push for federal action. I would like to see the national democrats put a real sensible gun control bill on the table so that people have a real choice and we have a real debate because this is not about baby steps, this is not about bump stocks and moving the age from 18-21. Those are just political crumbs to throw forward to end the political discomfort for some of the elected officials. Let’s do something real and let’s make a difference. This has been handled by countries across the globe. We can handle it if we want to. If we have the political courage and the political will to do it. It’s that simple. But it’s that difficult.”

See also:

After Parkland School Shooting, New Youth Movement Calls for Sensible Gun Control;  Will They be Played by False Flags from Trump?

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

After Parkland School Shooting, New Youth Movement Calls for Sensible Gun Control; Will They be Played by False Flags from Trump?

Trump, Pence & Ryan at the State of the Union when Trump pledged his fealty to the NRA. The Parkland School Shooting has prompted a new student movement calling for gun reform. But will idealistic fervor be derailed in the political quagmire? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

You would think after the unimaginable carnage at a country music concert in Las Vegas, that would have been enough, at least to ban bump stocks which Republicans signaled they were receptive to. Then nothing. Well not really nothing: instead of banning bump stocks, Congressional Republicans adopted Conceal Carry Reciprocity, which would essentially negate every state’s gun control regulations (so much for sacred State’s Rights). Imagine someone whipping out a concealed semi-automatic handgun in the rush hour crowd at Penn Station. Even with the heavily armed national guardsmen who patrol, 50 could be dead in the spate of seconds before anyone even realized what was happening. Now imagine another 10 people whipping out their concealed carry guns and firing in all directions.

You would think after an ex-Air Force gunman, court-martialed for domestic violence, killed 26 people at a smalltown Texas church, there would have been legislation to beef up background checks, which the vast majority of Americans, including NRA members and Republicans support. Dream on.

You would think that after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Congress would have reauthorized the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2006, or enacted universal background checks. Or, given that Republicans and the NRA always fall-back to mental illness, not the easy access and availability of semi-automatic high-capacity guns as the cause of massive carnage, to stiffen restrictions against those with mental illness, including veterans with PTSD, to acquire guns. Oh yes, Obama actually did that, only to have Donald Trump and Senator Charles Grassley (who ironically reflexively called for more controls to prevent mentally ill from acquiring guns), to rescind the regulation. Or after the San Bernardino terror shooting, Congress would have adopted the “No Fly, No Buy” rule. Or after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, would have limited the capacity of ammo clips.

But no.

An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.  After each, there is a spurt of “thoughts and prayers” and then nothing.

Seventeen school shootings, 34 mass shootings, 2008 deaths from gun violence. That’s just the body count for the first 7 weeks of 2018.

As a New York Times editorial noted, “The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.

Instead, the only “solution” Congress seems to be interested in is mandating Conceal Carry Reciprocity nationwide, to “harden” schools and allow (even require) teachers to carry guns, effectively deputizing them as soldiers in this war-of-choice. (If that is the case, teachers should get battlefield pay.) The only response has been to do the NRA’s bidding: more guns.

But now, perhaps after this latest school shooting, something is different. Because the survivors are 17 and 18 year olds – a cohort of 3.9 million – who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election if not the 2018 midterms. They know how to marshal the power of social media and organize an ongoing campaign; they are articulate, passionate, and have the energy to keep this going. And they are still idealistic enough to think they can actually force politicians to do their will, naively unaware or underestimating the political perils.

It is reminiscent, in fact, of the anti-Vietnam youth movement of the 1960s. By the time it ended, 58,200 Americans had lost their lives in a decade of fighting a war predicated on politically expedient lies.

But this is war on the homefront. This is a public health scourge in our neighborhoods: guns kill 33,000 Americans a year, the equivalent of a 9/11 each month and injure another 100,000 each year whose lives, like the 14 injured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. will be forever altered – sports scholarships lost, college savings lost, career track altered.  Since Sept. 11, 2001, 95 Americans have been murdered on US soil by terrorists (every one an American citizen or legal resident), but in that same timeframe, guns killed 561,000.

Will this stab at activism be different?

My question is how soon will they become frustrated and beat down by the political song-and-dance? Or will they be snuckered by promises, as hollow as the bullets that the NRA defends that can pierce police protective vests?

Indeed, after traveling by bus for six hours to plead their case at the State House in Tallahassee, 100 of the Parkland students were promptly shut down by a swift 2 to 1 vote to table any discussion of banning assault weapons.

Trump, who made a show of visiting two victims in the hospital and praising first responders (not heroic teachers who now as part of their duties have to make themselves human shields, like the three  murdered in Parkland), said he might “consider” a bipartisan bill improving background checks, a statement so remarkable, it warranted front-page headlines.

He is talking about the Cronyn bill, which came out of the Texas massacre, but it only requires the military to do what they were legally supposed to have done: notifying the federal database of military who committed domestic violence and shouldn’t be able to buy a gun anyway. He made a show of ordering the Department of Justice to “examine” the possibility of new regulations banning bump stocks or any device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. But automatic weapons are already illegal for civilian use. And heaven knows how long it will take Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with such regulations. Meantime, Congress is off the hook from actually doing anything that resembles even a modest stab at gun control. No slippery slope there.

And even in his phrasing, “I will be open to a bipartisan bill” to improve background checks sounds like the same bullshit he used when he betrayed Dreamers.

The reality behind his bullshit is that Trump’s budget would cut 19% from funding for background checks, and thanks to George W Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, background checks have to be completed within just three days, and the records destroyed (that’s how the Charleston massacre was able to get his gun).

Over and over, Trump has pledged his fealty to the NRA, which apart and in concert with the Russians, did more to send him to the Oval Office than anyone or anything – $30 million in spending, split between pro-Trump and anti-Clinton campaigns. And even now, it compromises the bulk of his precious, unshakeable “base.”

In his State of the Union, he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities,” which sounded as if he might finally call for action to restrain the scourge of gun violence, especially after the two most monstrous massacres in history. Instead, his next line was, “We are totally defending our Second Amendment…”

The reality is, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than buy alcohol or access reproductive health care or register to vote; it is easier to get a gun license than a drivers license, to get a gun than register a car; there are more gun stores than grocery stores, McDonalds and Starbucks combined.

Young people, don’t be played! Here’s what should constitute gun reform:

  •             Restore the ban on assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition clips; ban bump stocks.
  •             Require universal background checks including gun shows and private sales and online sales; remove the artificial limit in time for the check to be completed or increase the waiting period beyond 3 day.
  •             Require training and licensing and a national database of gun registration; and renewal program for license and registration (just as for a car).
  •             Bar felons, domestic abusers, those diagnosed mentally ill, anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun, and those on a terror watch list (“No Fly, No Buy”)
  •             Tax purchases of guns and ammunition, the money going into a victims fund to pay compensation to survivors and for health care.
  •             Require gun owners to take out liability insurance, just as automobile insurance.
  •             Overturn Stand Your Ground laws; defeat Conceal Carry Reciprocity.
  •             Make parents responsible for safe storage of guns; liable and subject to manslaughter prosecution if their children use guns to kill.
  •            Treat gun violence as public health epidemic; end gag order on CDC to research gun violence and recommend protections.

Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland school survivors, properly called out the “bullshit.”

“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS,” she said in an impassioned and on-target speech. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.

“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

“If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”(Crowd chants) “Throw them out.” (Listen to her powerful speech)

Ironically, this new student movement may have a dreaded “unintended consequence” for Republicans: if the NRA lackeys are swept out of office in favor of politicians who enact true gun reform, that might also result in campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and requiring Disclosure of who is supplying money, finally breaking the shackles the NRA (which may well have funneled Russian money in the $55 million it spent in the 2016 campaign, including $30 million spent to elect Trump) has on lawmakers.

That would be killing two birds with one stone, not an AR15.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin