ALBANY— New York officials are scrambling to negotiate the first new gun control laws in the nation since the mass shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-led Assembly are pushing again for bans on all assault rifles, high-capacity ammunition magazines and other measures that were dropped in the Republican-controlled Senate.
"If that incident (in Connecticut) isn't impetus enough to change things in the Senate, I don't think anything else will," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said this week.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans said they support a crackdown on illegal guns and increasing sentences for criminals who use guns, more school safety measures, and keeping guns away from people who are a threat to themselves or others.
"If there is a law that could prevent the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, from happening here, we have a responsibility to pursue it," said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif.
A deal could be enacted into law in a rare special session during the holiday week or in an agreement could be part of Cuomo's State of the State speech he's scheduled to deliver on Jan. 9. Cuomo this week said he plans to make gun control proposals part of his annual speech that sets his legislative agenda.
"No one is talking about making guns illegal," Cuomo said Monday. "No one is talking about legitimate hunters and sportspeople. We're talking about illegal guns. We're talking about abuse of guns. We're talking about guns that have no real hunting or sporting purpose. But it's an emotional topic and it is a question of communication. It's a question of degree."
Cuomo owns a shotgun that he has used for hunting, dating back to his days as federal housing secretary under President Bill Clinton. A Cuomo aide said the governor keeps the shotgun locked away with a trigger lock and hasn't shot it since he became governor two years ago.
Cuomo wants to address what he calls "significant loopholes" in New York's gun laws, which are already among the most restrictive in the nation. He suggests banning all large ammunition magazines. They're currently legal if made before 1994.
The Buffalo News first reported the chance of a rare holiday week special session of the state Legislature, an option that has been discussed but appeared unlikely. New York City tabloids have been hammering the issue, calling for bans on assault weapons to honor the 20 children and six adults killed a week ago at the school in Newtown, Conn.
The dynamic in the Senate, however, is changing.
Lacking a clear all-Republican majority after the November elections, Republicans struck a deal with a conservative Brooklyn Democrat to give them a 32-vote majority. But Republicans also formed a bipartisan coalition to run the Senate with five Democrats. Those members of the separate Independent Democratic Conference have strongly supported Cuomo's progressive measures including gun control.
The IDC could side with the traditional Democratic conference from which the IDC broke two years ago to muster the required 32 votes to pass legislation beginning in the new session Jan. 1. That could make new gun control laws inevitable, and could influence the chances of an earlier bipartisan agreement before Jan. 1.
"We stand ready to offer our support," said Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the traditional Democratic conference's new leader elected this week. "The time has come to not only have this conversation, but to act in the best interests of our constituents, and our children. We have a responsibility to all of those who have been impacted by gun violence to come together, begin the healing process and find common sense solutions to this societal plague."