In response to the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre, lawmakers nationwide are calling for gun law reform, including the banning of assault weapons. But months before Adam Lanza went on his killing spree, a Queens politician proposed what he called the “toughest gun law in the nation.”
The bill, introduced in August by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica), would significantly increase the penalty for illegal possession of a weapon, taking it from a Class A misdemeanor carrying a one-year prison sentence to a Class B violent felony with a five- to eight-year term.
“In the short term, it will not be modified. We think it is strong as is,” Smith’s spokesman, Paul Nichols, said Wednesday. “But we are open to new ideas as talks about gun control progress.”
Smith’s bill was referred to the Rules Committee on Aug. 24. He plans to reintroduce it in January for the new session, according to Nichols. “We were hoping for a special session on gun control, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen before the end of the year,” he said.
The legislation had drawn support from elected officials such as outgoing state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica), who plans to introduce a companion bill in the Assembly in January.
“I definitely think this legislation is appropriate,” Scarborough told the Chronicle Monday. “We need to get these guns off the street and out of the hands of the wrong people. We need to protect our citizens.”
But not everyone agreed that Smith’s legislation is the best solution. City Councilman and state Sen.-elect James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), for example, said when the bill was introduced that he opposed the one-size-fits-all approach to justice, meaning that “a first-time offender should not be given the same punishment as a career criminal.”