Gov. Andrew Cuomo

  • January 16, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Under increasingly outrageous attacks from the National Rifle Association, President Obama announced what The Huffington Post describes as “the most sweeping effort at gun control policy reform in a generation.”

    The president called for expanded background checks to include those obtaining guns from private sellers and gun shows, a ban on military-style assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets and a limit on high-capacity ammunition magazines. He also vowed to use executive orders to help stem gun violence.

    “In the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” Obama said. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” (The White House’s website includes more information about the proposals; click on picture for video of president’s remarks.)

    The administration’s proposals follow New York’s enactment of some of the nation’s toughest measures to curb gun violence. Among other actions, the NY SAFE Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, bans assault weapons and magazines that can hold more than seven rounds and requires instant background checks on all ammunition purchases.

    As noted here, and by The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, it is not only the NRA that is ratcheting up its attacks on efforts to curb gun violence. Extremists have jumped into the fray threatening violence over efforts to enact new gun control laws. As Blow wrote, they are employing incendiary language to stir up fear that the government is on the verge of trashing the Second Amendment and confiscating guns. He cites several examples, such as Fox News analyst Andrew P. Napolitano, who claimed that the Second Amendment was created to “protect your right to shoot tyrants if they take over the government.”

    Regardless of what extremists think of the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court has recognized an indiviudal right to own guns, but not it is not an unlimited right. Constitutional law expert Geoffrey Stone pointed out recently in a piece for The Huffington Post, that the Supreme Court majority in D.C. v. Heller, stated “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” and went on to note a string of common sense gun regulations that does not run afoul of the Second Amendment.

  • January 14, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Despite the reality that President Obama took no action during his first term to advance gun safety or sensible gun control measures, gun enthusiasts convinced themselves, with the help of right-wing pundits, that the president is not only a socialist but a budding tyrant preparing to confiscate gun owners’ arsenals from coast to coast. And this caricature has been a boon for gun manufacturers and sellers.   

    Over the weekend, The New York Times reported sales of guns, “which began climbing significantly after President Obama’s re-election,” have “soared” since the mass-shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the high-profile discussion of enacting gun safety regulations. An Iowa “independent gun dealer” told the newspaper, “If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week.”

    And now that the president and other lawmakers, such as N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo, Md. Governor Martin O’Malley and Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper, are taking steps to enact gun control measures, gun enthusiasts are becoming louder, some hysterical and others going ballistic.

    The National Rifle Association has been predictable and lame. The group blamed the arts, such as movies, for spurring gun violence and argued that more guns are the solution. In late December, the group’s Vice President Wayne LaPierre, said armed guards should be placed in the nation’s schools. James Yeager of a Tennessee company that apparently trains people to use weapons said in a YouTube video that if the president issued an executive order promoting gun safety that he would “start killing people.” Other chuckleheads have taken to the airwaves to threaten violence if the government were to take any action to curb gun violence.

    What this period of discussion about the nation’s obsession with guns and how to take some measured steps to curb gun violence has exposed, in part, is that the gun lobby is growing tired and extremists are jumping into the fray. Many of these gun lovers believe that the Second Amendment is absolute. First, very few things in life are absolute and certainly there are very few if any rights provided by the Constitution that are absolute. For instance, the First Amendment does not protect all speech and expression. Political speech is provided more protection than commercial speech, speech advocating illegal conduct is not wholly protected under the First Amendment. What about the Fourth Amendment. We know that not all government searches are illegal. Indeed the Fourth Amendment has a lot of exceptions for police officers, acting in good faith and under certain circumstances, to conduct searches and seize property that many would argue are unconstitutional.

    I could go on, but the point is that the Second Amendment does not forbid the regulation of guns. It is likely too much to ask of many of the rabid gun enthusiasts to read D.C. v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that held an individual does have the right to “keep and bear arms.”

  • September 29, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    When Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a marriage equality measure into law this summer it included language allowing religious institutions and other nonprofits to refuse to wed same-sex couples, but did not include an out for public officials, such as town clerks.

    But as The New York Times recently noted the town clerk in Ledyard, N.Y. is refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, citing evangelical Christianity as a bar against performing her official duties.

    “For me to participate in the same-sex marriage application process I don’t feel is right,” Rose Marie Belforti told The Times. “God doesn’t want me to do this, so I can’t do what God doesn’t want me to do, just like I can’t steal, or any of the other things that God doesn’t want me to do.”

    Belforti’s refusal to issue a marriage license to Deirdre DiBiaggio and Katie Carmichael, however, did not set well with the couple of ten years, who told the newspaper they were not going to let the discrimination stand.

    The national civil liberties group, People For the American Way Foundation, and the New York law firm, Proskauer Rose LLP have lodged a letter with Ledyard town officials calling on them to force Belforti to start issuing marriage licenses pursuant to the state’s Marriage Equality Act, or resign her position.

    The letter states, in part, “Ms. Belfoti is no longer issuing any marriage licenses – an essential duty of her elected office – at the town’s direction, or, at a minimum, with the town’s acquiescence. The actions of both Ms. Belforti and the town are in violation of New York law.”

  • July 4, 2011

    New York’s dramatic approval of marriage equality, as important to the advancement of equal rights as it was, should not lull progressives into the belief that the nation is on the verge of overcoming its prejudices against the LGBT community and ready to embrace equality for all.

    As a piece in today’s New York Times notes, the four Republican state senators who joined with state Democrats to approve the measure, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly signed into law, are facing a multi-million dollar effort to unseat them by a Religious Right outfit called the National Organization for Marriage.

    And Scott Lemieux, an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose, writes in an article for The American Prospect that despite the plaudits from pundits on the marriage equality victory in N.Y., supporters of equality will need to keep all options open, including the courts. He says the “past warns against complacency.”

    Lemieux continues:

    In the words of political scientists Philip Klinkner and Rogers Smith, the history of civil rights is “an unsteady march” in which incomplete victories and outright reversals are common. Both before the Civil War and after Reconstruction, voting and other civil rights for African Americans were curtailed substantially. After an initial trend of liberalization in certain states in the 1950s and 1960s, it became almost impossible to further expand access to abortion laws until the Supreme Court intervened in 1973. Public and elite opinion seemed to be turning against the death penalty in the late 1960s, but a decade later, a majority of states had the death penalty and executions were on the rise.

    UCLA law school professor Adam Winkler, writing for The Huffington Post, says it’s long past time for President Obama to show some boldness on the matter of marriage equality.

    Saying that July 4 is for “commemorating the boldness of our founders, whose Revolution was anything but a foreordained victory,” Winkler writes:

    Today we stand at a crossroads. Will we allow gays and lesbians to finally become full partners in the American experiment, or will we continue to repress and discriminate against them?

    That is the question Americans, especially President Obama, must ask. Like the founders, we should determine the answer by looking at polling results or pondering how it will affect the next election. We should ask instead what our answer means for our core principles. We should ask how we can live up to the spirit of ’76.