Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NY State Does the Right Thing

Yesterday, in New York State - which already had one of the toughest gun laws in the US - the New York State legislature - an historically dysfunctional body - did something that I hope becomes a model for the other 49 states ... they passed what is being called America's toughest gun laws. What makes it even more admirable is that it passed overwhelmingly in both houses - one controlled by the Republicans and one by the Democrats.

This was not about party lines but, as Governor Cuomo - a gun owner himself - called it, common sense.

From CNN -

New York (CNN) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo beefed up New York's gun-control laws on Tuesday by signing into law a new package of firearm and mental health regulations that mark the nation's first since last month's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. 
Cuomo, a self-described gun owner, said the December 14 tragedy spurred lawmakers to action and called it a "common sense" measure before enacting what are widely seen as America's toughest gun laws. 
"You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and common sense," he said before inking the deal in Albany. 
The laws fortify New York's existing assault weapons ban, limit the number of bullets allowed in magazines and strengthen rules that govern the mentally ill, which includes a requirement to report potentially harmful behavior. 
Both the GOP-controlled Senate and Democrat-dominated Assembly approved the measure by overwhelming margins just one week after Cuomo spelled out the proposals in his annual State of the State address. 
The first-term Democratic governor had called for a tightening of the assault weapons ban, background checks for people who purchase guns privately and more restrictions on high-capacity magazines. 
But the new measures drew ire from the nation's largest gun lobby over the speed with which the bill was passed in the new legislative session. 
The National Rifle Association accused Cuomo and other state lawmakers of orchestrating "a secretive end-run around the legislative and democratic process." 
After two days of voting in the state Legislature, Cuomo signed the deal around 5 p.m. before telling reporters that speed had been essential so as not to create a rush on the gun market. 
"There has been all sorts of reports that even the contemplation of this law caused an increase in (gun) sales," he said. "That would have been the exact opposite of what we were trying to achieve." 
The new laws include a statewide gun registry and a uniform licensing standard, altering the current system in which each county or municipality sets its own standard.
Residents are now restricted to purchasing ammunition magazines that carry seven bullets, rather than 10. 
It remains unclear what effect the measures will have on New York's already stringent approach to gun control. 
"The changes in New York are largely cosmetic," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who described existing regulations as "the toughest gun laws in the United States."
"The one change that arguably will have the greatest impact is the amendment to Kendra's Law, which will permit closer monitoring of the mentally ill." 
That 1999 law grants New York judges the authority to require residents to undergo psychiatric treatment if they meet certain criteria. 
The new measures will extend Kendra's Law through 2017, expand outpatient treatment from six months to a year and require reviews before such treatment is allowed to expire.
New York's mental health professionals will be governed by a new and controversial set of rules that require them to report their patients to the state should those patients exhibit behavior suggesting that they could be harmful to themselves or others. 
"We're opening up an unprecedented window into what goes on in the therapy room," said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. 
"It would effect a major change in the usual presumptions of confidentiality." 
The bill creates mandatory life sentences for anyone who murders certain first responders, a provision that comes after two firefighters were killed in an ambush as they battled a blaze in upstate New York. 
The vote coincides with a series of recommendations put together by Vice President Joe Biden meant to address the nation's gun violence. 
Lawmakers in at least 10 other states are reviewing some form of new gun regulations in the new year.

Additionally, President Obama today issued new gun controls by way of executive orders.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Revisiting Sprague - The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Yesterday was an unusually warm and sunny winter day so I decided to go out to take some photos. My destination was a small area of beach on the Raritan Bay. This spot also happens to be at the end of the block on which my son and his family lived until they moved last summer. It also happens to be one of the neighborhoods that was devastated during Hurricane Sandy a few months ago.

Being right on the beach. much of this wooded area was uprooted or washed away. Much of the fallen and rotted wood has already been removed, but there is still a lot of the damage that you can still see.

This was a recently installed bicycle rack as you walk down to the beach. My grandsons would spend a lot of time playing with it - going in and out of the openings. This is what the sheer power of the storm surge did to it.

While I was taking photos (mostly of the beach and the bay) I had the opportunity to speak to many of the people who live (or lived) in the neighborhood. Some are struggling to get by and rebuild. Some houses are waiting for demolition as they cannot be salvaged. Very indicative of the people of Staten Island - a small town mentality in the greater city - these stars appeared in places within the neighborhood.

My son's house was the one at the end of this row. There used to be a fence around the deck. Doors and windows which had been ripped out during the storm have been replaced. The gardens no longer exist. The surge was so bad that boats had been left in the woods across the street and 2 blocks down the street.

Uprooted trees are common sights right now. Many have already been removed along with the flotsam and jetsam that washed ashore from the bay - and the boats.

We used to bring my grandsons to this playground on a nice day. The day I took these photos might have seen many children playing during an unusually warm day in winter.

This star tells you something about the personality of a community.