NY Senate OKs more funds for school security, armed police

ALBANY, N.Y. — Led by Republicans, the New York Senate voted to increase state funding to help schools pay for armed police and security upgrades Monday — but turned back Democratic efforts to advance new restrictions on firearm access.

The Senate’s GOP leadership unveiled the package of more than a dozen bills shortly before putting them up for a vote. They also included measures to mandate two annual active-shooter drills and set aside money for mental health services coordinators in local schools.

Another bill would change penalties to make the criminal discharge of a gun within 1,000 feet of a school or place of worship eligible to be considered a terrorist act.

The measures all now move to the Democratic-led Assembly, which is considered more supportive of restrictions on guns.

“Schools must be safe havens, where students can learn and teachers can teach,” said Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long island. “We must act swiftly and decisively to implement additional measures in schools throughout our state to give students, parents, and teachers the resources and peace of mind that they deserve.”

Specifically, the bills would create state grant programs to make it easier for schools to hire armed police or mental health coordinators and pay for video cameras, secure doors or other improvements.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully to amend Republicans’ first bill to include proposals to strengthen gun background checks, ban bump stocks and create a new court order of protection to bar people considered to be a danger to themselves or others from possessing or buying guns.

Republicans defeated that effort, just as they did last week when Democrats tried to force a vote on their bills. Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, said that while some of the bills put forward by Republicans are worthwhile, they don’t address the fundamental problem of access to semi-automatic weapons. He said others — including the expansion of terrorist acts — are unworkable.

“We have over a dozen bills … that have nothing to do with taking dangerous firearms off our streets,” he said. “What is it about the word gun or firearm that so scares my colleagues?”