Eighteen days after the mass murder at the Tops grocery store, and fewer than four weeks from the Republican primary for governor, two GOP candidates who visited Buffalo on Wednesday called for better access to mental health care among other steps – not new laws restricting guns – as the better way to curb gun violence.
Andrew Giuliani, who introduced a six-point plan to curb crime, faulted Gov. Kathy Hochul’s strategy to require state police to file an extreme risk protection order under the state’s red flag law when there’s reason to believe a person could seriously harm others or themselves.
“The red flag laws that are on the books did not work,” Giuliani said at Buffalo City Hall. “I look at pouring resources into mental health. We do need to make sure that anybody with mental health issues does not have access to a weapon like that. I think that’s one place where the left and the right can absolutely agree.”
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Rob Astorino, while not singling out Hochul, also referenced mental health issues.
“What we’ve done has not worked," Astorino said. "It hasn’t prevented these kind of mass shootings or horrific events because unfortunately there’s no real cure all. Bad people tend to do bad things. And often times it’s hard to stop. I do think one theme, though, is we’ve had a breakdown in the mental health system.”
On Tuesday, Hochul, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie announced that 10 bills have been introduced in the Assembly and Senate to tighten New York's gun laws. The bills would, among other steps, require microstamping for new guns; eliminate grandfathering of large capacity ammunition feeding devices; strengthen the red flag law by expanding the list of people who can file for extreme risk protection orders; and require that an individual obtain a license, with a minimum age of 21, to purchase a semiautomatic rifle.
“I’m not sure adding new laws – when we have literally thousands on the books which haven’t worked or aren’t being enforced – is going to solve the problem,” Astorino said. “It might make people feel better … but we know the mental health system right now is broken and we’re not focusing on that at all.”
Giuliani opposes raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily the right solution," he said.
He called for "fully funding our law enforcement, so then that way we can do everything we can to take illegal weapons off the street."
"I’d much rather make sure that our law enforcement has the funds and the resources necessary to go after those illegal weapons rather than encroaching upon further Second Amendment rights," he said.
Giuliani’s plan to curb crime calls for:
• Providing on-site law enforcement at schools.
• Creating a $5 billion pot of money for local police departments.
• Repealing changes to the state's bail law.
• Removing district attorneys who he says have violated their oath of office by not prosecuting felony cases against those accused of resisting arrest and armed robbery among other offenses.
He called repealing changes to the bail law his No. 1 priority.
"Until there is a full repeal of bail reform on my desk I will not be funding their top priorities in our budget," Giuliani said, urging that judges gain wider discretion when deciding whether to impose bail on criminal suspects.
In addition to talking about criminal justice issues, Astorino also released a seven-point jobs plan for upstate.
Among other steps, his plan calls for:
• Reducing the state’s 10 income tax brackets to three with lower rates.
• Allowing counties to opt out of certain non-mandated Medicaid services and certain mandates imposed on local governments.
• Eliminating the 2% gross receipts tax on energy and the 18a tax assessment on utility ratepayers.
• Instituting a moratorium on any new regulations and eliminating any regulation deemed to have a high cost with little to no benefit.
• Changing the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process by reducing delays and redundancies and increasing timeframe predictability.
• Reducing the number of licenses and fees.
• Reallocating budget dollars to prioritize spending on New York's roads, bridges, upstate broadband and other infrastructure needs.
• Lifting the ban on natural gas exploration and drilling in the Southern Tier.
• Lifting bans on natural gas pipelines and natural gas hookups in new construction.
• Exploring locations for a new nuclear power plant in the northern part of the state, possibly in Massena.
As a way to accelerate technology start-up creation and grow the innovation economy, Astorino said he would offer individuals a state income tax credit to encourage private investing in qualified start-up ventures.
He also called for streamlining the tech-transfer process at state colleges and universities so students and professors can more easily commercialize their inventions.
His other proposals include passing a law to ban the enforceability of non-compete agreements – keeping more top talent in New York as it would open up greater opportunities for high-tech workers and entrepreneurs by eliminating unnecessary restrictions on the flow of talent between companies.
He said he would work with colleges, universities and local businesses and investors to build commercial innovation campuses near the colleges and provide incentives to recent graduates and other innovators to start and grow their ventures in New York.
Astorino said he would work to increase the number of skilled workers by creating regional councils of local educators and employers to help high schools tailor vocational education programs to match the needs and demands of local employers; making job-training investments directly to community colleges to streamline the training of new workers for local industry need; increasing coordination between community colleges, local school districts and local industry so students can be properly counseled on the present and future availability of jobs, the types of jobs, their pay and benefits, and the skills needed to do these jobs.
And Astorino said he would strengthen the agricultural heritage and economy by reducing taxes, fees and regulations on family farmers and supporting a pilot program where beginning farmers receive tax incentives to start a farm in the state.