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NYSNYS NEWS: Assembly narrowly passed 'Nicholas's Law' gun measure named after Saratoga County boy shot dead by classmate playing with gun. Opponents call it Cuomo SAFE Act expansion.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Assembly narrowly passed 'Nicholas's Law' gun measure named after Saratoga County boy shot dead by classmate playing with gun. Opponents call it Cuomo SAFE Act expansion.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


ALBANY, N.Y. (June 16) In a surprisingly close vote, the Assembly passed "Nicholas's Law" late Tuesday, a gun safety bill named for Nicholas Naumkin, the 12-year-old boy shot dead by a middle-school classmate in Saratoga County in 2010.

Unofficial results showed the measure passed 77-58, just one vote more than necessary to pass the bill, after GOP lawmakers rose to condemn it as a violation of Second Amendment gun rights and an extension of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's SAFE Act that sharply expanded the law pertaining to criminal possession of handguns, rifles and ammunition.

Opponents said having easily accessible guns in the house is key to defending your home and not becoming a crime victim, and they worried the mandate to keep guns under lock and key would open up antique gun collectors and hunters to criminal charges.

"It says for 600,000 hunters, don't pick up a cup of coffee on the way, (and) don't use the rest room on your way back unless you bring your rifle with you," said Assemblyman Andrew Goodell (R-Chatauqua County), questioning if leaving a gun in a vehicle would result in charges being filed.

"When we pass laws that the citizenry does not respect we cheapen the law, we increase disrespect for the law and we increase disrespect for law enforcement," said Assemblyman Bill Nojay (R-Monroe County). "Mr. Speaker, this bill is poorly conceived and like the SAFE Act is poorly drafted."

Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-Erie County) warned that the bill would encourage "snitches" to report violations of guns laws to the police. The "snitches" comment drew rebukes from Nojay and Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau County), a former federal prosecutor, who said the reference to "snitches," street slang for witnesses who cooperate with authorities, was out of line for a public official.

Sponsors said the bill was only intended to keep guns out of the hands of children, suicidal people, and others who might use them impulsively. Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), the sponsor, said it was modeled after local laws in effect in Westchester, Albany, Rochester and other locations.

After the vote, the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence issued a statement from Oksana Naumkin, the mother of Nicholas Naumkin.

"I applaud the State Assembly's vote today passing Nicholas's Law, which will prevent future tragedies such as the one that devastated our family," she said in the statement. "Nothing will bring Nicholas back to us. But with today's vote, we are a step closer to enacting a statewide law that will mean other families will not have to endure our ongoing pain. Now it is the Senate's responsibility to act. We are not going away. We will continue to fight for Nicholas's Law until it is the law of the State of New York."

The group also issued a statement from Paulin, who was grilled by GOP lawmakers for two hours as the bill was debated Tuesday. "Nicholas's Law is reasonable and clear: if your gun is not on or near you, lock it up or put a lock on it," she said. "If you don't, you'll be held accountable with criminal penalties."

The boy's killing, which occurred right before Christmas 2010, and was the first of two child gun deaths in the Saratoga-Glens Falls region in the last five years. In 2012, a 13 year old boy was killed in Fort Edward by a classmate playing with a shotgun. The boy who pulled the trigger was also adjudicated in Family Court.

In Naumkin's death, "his friend was playing with his father's gun when he shot Nicholas," the Assembly bill memo says. "Nicholas died the following day, on December 23, 2010. A middle school student in Saratoga Springs, Nicholas was a talented young man with a passion for acting, drawing and computer animation."

In a Family Court proceeding the following August, the boy admitted firing the gun in his family's Gansevoort home, hitting Naumkin in the head. Both were 12 years old at the time.

The bill repeals an existing 2001 law that addresses firearms safety and expands upon it, including making it a felony when a gun that is not safely stored is used to injure another person.

The bill remains in committee and has not been approved for a vote in the state Senate, where it is sponsored by Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx).

None of the bill sponsors are legislators from Saratoga or Washington counties, where the two boys died, according to Assembly and Senate records.

The 2001 law requires the purchase of a safety lock when buying or transferring a firearm, and that was expanded upon in Cuomo's 2013 SAFE Act that enacted a range of new gun control laws and penalties.

"The SAFE Act does not provide for the safe storage of firearms in homes when and where children are present," the bill memo says. "This legislation would provide for criminal penalties for any person who stores or otherwise leaves a rifle, shotgun, firearm or antique firearm out of his or her immediate possession or control without having first securely locked such rifle, shotgun, firearm or antique firearm in an appropriate safe storage depository or rendered it incapable of being fired by using an appropriate gun locking device."

The memo says firearms killed 997 New Yorkers in 2011, 466 through homicides, or 47 percent of the total. Another 505 were suicides (51 percent), 12 were unintentional and 14 were legal deaths by firearm (each 1 percent of the total).

That same year, 389 children younger than 18 were hospitalized with nonfatal gun injuries, 314 due to an assault and 60 because of accidents.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that 116 children younger than 19 were killed by guns in New York in 2010, the year Nicholas Naumkin died. "93 were homicides, 13 were suicides and 10 were undetermined," the sponsors said.

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