The two tribes have set their respective baselines while New Yorkers yearn for compromise and actual, tangible change.
The Republican-held state Senate has thus far made its position clear. Billed as the way to keep kids safe, its legislative school security package, which passed March 6, has several strong ideas and mercifully doesn’t get New York educators any closer to possessing firearms on school grounds. It establishes funds for districts that want to hire school resource officers, and opened the definition to include retired or active duty police
officers, deputy sheriffs and/or state troopers, who would be allowed to carry weapons on campuses. The package also provides state education aid to districts acquiring safety technology or otherwise improving
security of facilities. A bill to create more funding for schools to hire additional mental health professionals was also included.
On its face, the Republican package does plenty to improve safety in schools. A Suffolk County initiative announced by Executive Steve Bellone (D) last week would allow districts to give access to existing surveillance systems to the police department, designed to speed up response times during mass shooter situations. The package and the new county scheme are outside of the box and forward-thinking ideas that are welcome for making students safer. The Republican plan passed with bipartisan
However, the only use of the word “gun” in a press release announcing the package from a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) is in reference to potential future legislation that would create funding for districts seeking more weapon detection systems. At the end of February, the state Senate voted down a package of measures introduced by the Democrats that aimed at addressing access to firearms.
That legislative bundle included stronger background checks, a ban on bump stocks and an “extreme risk protection” measure designed to keep weapons away from people who are determined by a court to pose a risk of harm to themselves or others. In other words, common-sense, bare minimum gun control measures that do nothing to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. A similar package made it through the New York State Assembly the same day.
“I am not encouraged that we’re there yet,” state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said when asked if he thought the discussion about guns at the state level was progressing among both parties.
“Schools must be safe havens where students can learn and teachers can teach,” Flanagan said in a statement announcing the Republican bills. “In New York, we must act swiftly and decisively to implement additional measures in schools throughout our state to give students, parents and teachers the resources and peace of mind that they deserve.”
He and his fellow local senator from the Republican conference, Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), have yet to respond to a request for comment through respective spokespersons asking if either intend to support the Assembly package.
If the Republicans are serious about creating “peace of mind” for schools and parents, the school safety measures are an excellent start, but the Assembly package should be passed too.