Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey spar on new gun laws

The gun control debate is front and center in state capitols across the country in response to the high school massacre in Florida. But partisan politics have already put New York and New Jersey on separate paths.

Two weeks after the Parkland shooting, New Jersey is now poised to become one of the first states to pass so-called red flag laws to allow a judge to temporarily take guns away from anyone who appears to pose a threat to society.

"It's about time that we do something about it," Assemblyman John McKeon, a Democrat, said. "Since Sandy Hook, there's been 1,800 individuals who perished in mass shootings."

The controversial legislation authorizes judges to issue gun-violence restraining orders. The measure is one of several proposals, including expanded background checks and limits on gun magazines, ushered through committee in Trenton by Democrats over the objections of many Republicans.

"You don't fix the problem by taking away guns from law-abiding mentally sound people," U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, a Republican, said. "That may feel like progress, but it's not."

Democrats in the New York Senate are also pushing to immediately adopt stricter gun control rules, including closing loopholes on bump stocks, which make high-powered rifles fire faster.

"It's up to us in New York," state Sen. Brad Holyman, a Democrat, said in Albany. "We should spit in the face of the NRA today and ban bump stocks once and for all in this amendment."

But state Republicans blocked that push, for now, and instead focused on efforts to add more safety and armed personnel to potential targets, like schools.

"This is just mind-boggling to me, how we can watch our children die," state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat, said. "And we're sitting here making excuses, trying to divert the public by talking about making locations safer instead of making people safer."

The familiar partisan stalemate has a new twist. President Donald Trump staked out a position favorable to new rules, potentially adding pressure on GOP members at the national and local level.

"It makes it very much more complicated for Republicans because they either have to stay silent, which would not make the NRA very happy and many people who are aligned with the NRA's interests, with their president who is pushing back very strongly against long-held NRA positions," David Birdsell of Baruch College said.

New York Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan issued a statement saying the Republican majority intends to introduce a comprehensive school safety plan expected to provide money to put an armed officer in every school that wants one. Other proposals include panic buttons and more active shooter drills.