Proposal would take guns away from domestic abusers

Posted at 11:26 AM, Dec 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-13 18:10:54-05

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the first proposal of the 2018 State of the State -- to remove all guns from people who commit domestic violence crimes.

This legislation will require all domestic violence crime convictions, including misdemeanors, to result in the immediate removal of guns from their possession and add measures to prevent them from obtaining guns. 

"This will be remembered as the year of reckoning, when both the tragedy of mass shootings and cultural and institutional harassment of women became impossible to ignore," said Governor Cuomo.

According to the Governor's office, New York has passed the strongest gun control laws in the nation, but the state does not have laws in place to mandate the removal of guns from domestic abusers. 

In 2016, guns were used in 25 domestic homicides in New York. 

Right now, New York law bans gun ownership for people convicted of a felony or "serious" offenses -- but excludes misdemeanor offenders. In domestic abuse cases, judges issue orders of protection after an individual is arrested, but before they are convicted. These orders result in suspension of gun licenses. 

Karen Panzarella is a domestic abuse survivor.  In her case, she said she would have felt a lot safer had this legislation been in place all those years ago. “The judge did make him remove the firearms but he allowed him to put them at his friend’s house. And soon as they were put at his friend's house, I got threatening calls from his friend about that fact. So, I didn't feel comfortable that he knew where the firearms were and that they were accessible to him,” she said. 

But gun rights advocates are calling the legislation redundant. They say federal law already requires an offender to hand over all firearms. "If someone is subject to an order of protection you're disqualified from owning or possessing a firearm and that would consist of a pistol or a revolver and shotguns as well...any sort of firearm. There's no limitation under the federal definition,” said Peter Vasilion who is a family court and criminal defense attorney.

It's unclear how the governor plans to get it passed. He could use it as a bargaining chip during budget negotiations next year, or it could require a vote from the Legislature.