Two days after a Meadow Elementary School fourth-grader brought a loaded handgun to school, Nassau County Democrats and gun-control advocates urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would require all guns to be locked in a box or cabinet, or equipped with a trigger-locking device if someone under 16 is in the home.
“The governor has demonstrated that he has passed some of the toughest gun laws, not just here in New York, but across the country,” County Legislator Kevan Abrahams, a Democrat from Freeport, said. “We applaud that. We need this extra step to go one more step further, so that a bad situation that could’ve been horrific never is horrific for any family here.”
If the proposed legislation became law, those who did not secure their firearms would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to three years in prison. The bill, which was cosponsored by all of the state senators from the South Shore, passed both houses of the State Legislature last month, but as the Herald went to press on Monday, had not been delivered to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Shari Camhi, the Baldwin School District superintendent, said she supported the legislation. “Regardless of your stance on guns, no free-thinking, civic-minded citizen or advocate for children could dispute that the safe storage of any and all firearms is imperative,” Camhi said at the news conference. Baldwin parents, as well as school officials from Freeport, Uniondale, Roosevelt and the gun-control group Moms Demand Action, joined her.
On March 25, a Baldwin 10-year-old was found with a .40-caliber semiautomatic Glock in his lunch bag, which he allegedly took from his uncle’s house. The Nassau County Police Department said a lunch aide spotted the boy and a friend peeking into the bag with the gun.
The student, who is not being named because he is a minor, was later charged with criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds and is due in Family Court on April 5. At deadline, no adult had been charged in connection with the incident.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat, said he was thankful that no one was injured at the school. “But I think we need to take a moment to reflect on this,” Kaminsky said in an interview. The statewide bill, he added, could have prevented the child from obtaining the firearm. “These are not just another piece of furniture in a house,” he said. “They deserve special scrutiny . . . and they have to be stored safely.”
State Sen. Johns Brooks, a Seaford Democrat who represents parts of Baldwin, said the bill is consistent with common-sense solutions to reduce gun violence. “Accidents and unintended tragedies can easily occur without proper safeguards and responsible safety measures,” Brooks said in an email.
State Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Northport Democrat, said in an email that what happened at Meadow was disturbing. “There is simply no reason for a 10-year-old to have access to a weapon of war,” he said. “We must continue to support common-sense gun reform laws so that all of our children are protected.”
The statewide legislation is not the first attempt to require gun owners to lock up firearms. In 2016, and again last year, County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum filed a similar bill that was stonewalled by the Republican majority in the Legislature.
“I really thought there was a need to protect our children,” Birnbaum, a Great Neck Democrat, said, ”from the senseless gun violence we saw around the country.” Republicans, she said, have not indicated why they blocked the legislation.
“It is unconscionable that the safety and protection of our children was not considered a top priority,” County Legislator Debra Mulé, a Freeport Democrat who represents Baldwin, said. Mulé commended the Baldwin School District for its handling of the incident, and for creating a safe environment for children. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Nassau County Legislature,” she added.
Frank Moroney, communications director for the county Republicans, said in an email that Birnbaum’s legislation could not be enforced in a meaningful way. “The majority believes that there should be a consistent, uniform, state-wide approach to such legislation,” Moroney said. “That is exactly what appears to be happening now.”
State Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Great Neck Democrat, called for the state bill to be enacted as soon as possible. “What happened in Baldwin was a terrible wake-up call that highlights how critically important it is that we enact safe storage legislation to keep guns out of the hands of children,” she said in an email. “We can’t afford to wait any longer.”