2005-12-14 / Features

Dems Block Stringent Gun Laws; Move Closer To GOP On Pervert Confinement

by john toscano

Pataki berated the Democrat-controlled Assembly last week for refusing to join in his crackdown on gun traffickers.
Pataki berated the Democrat-controlled Assembly last week for refusing to join in his crackdown on gun traffickers. Governor George Pataki berated the Democrat-controlled Assembly last week for refusing to join in his crackdown on gun traffickers, but on the same day the lower house of the legislature signaled agreement on his call for civil confinement of sex offenders and proposed several bills that would get tougher on perverts.

Speaking on the day after the burial of New York City Police Officer Dillon Stewart, who was killed with an illegal firearm, the governor taunted Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Dems with suggestions that opposition to his tough gun legislation could lead to situations similar to the one that brought about the 35-year-old cop’s death. Pataki stated, “I hope now that they will realize that the failure to pass this legislation has very real consequences.”

A spokesman for Silver responded, “Don’t grandstand and play politics with this, but come and negotiate this with us.” He had pointed out that the Democrats earlier this year had passed tough measures that the senate Republicans had blocked.

Chauncey Parker, Pataki’s criminal justice coordinator, explained that Pataki and the senate don’t support the Assembly bill because it has a loophole that permits some gunrunners to get probation.

Meanwhile, months after Pataki and GOP lawmakers called for stronger sex offender laws, the Assembly Democrats unveiled a bill to keep predators isolated from other mental patients transferred from prisons to hospitals and another to increase the penalty for raping a child to life imprisonment.

On the gun control front, Pataki has proposed mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of peddling more than one gun. But the Democrats’ legislation would allow gunrunners caught with fewer than 20 guns to get probation.

Pataki flat out rejects this position as the wrong approach, arguing that someone caught with 19 illegal firearms should not be subjected to the same punishment as shoplifting a small, inexpensive item.

Parker pointed out that criminals would be smart enough not to get caught with more than 19 illegal guns.

On the sex offender confinement issue, Silver told the Daily News that the package of bills the majority introduced was more comprehensive than anything so far introduced by the opposite party.

There was some hope of both sides coming together on the issue after Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos from Nassau County praised Silver’s new position.

“I’m glad the Speaker has seen the light and will pass a solid bill that is going to protect our neighborhoods from violent sexual predators,” Skelos told the Daily News.

Silver, denying he was caving in to any pressure, said the proposals came out of a series of Assembly hearings.

Pataki had brought the civil confinement issue to public notice several weeks ago by sending the most dangerous sexual predators to mental hospitals rather than put them back on the streets when their prison terms ended. The courts ruled against this procedure when it was challenged. The sex offenders used as a test case remain in mental hospitals while the appeal Pataki filed against the court ruling is pending.

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