A rally against the controversial SAFE Act outside the Capitol last Spring. A recent Siena College poll found 63 percent of New Yorkers support the more stringent gun laws passed last year. However, a majority of upstate New Yorkers remain opposed to the law, claiming it infringes on their rights. Photo by AP.
March 31, 2014Despite strong opposition from gun rights advocates and conservative Republicans, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, an overwhelming number of New York voters seem to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo's controversial SAFE Act, according to a new poll.
Fourteen months after its passage, 63 percent of registered New York state voters say they support the SAFE Act, compared to just 32 percent who oppose it, according to a Siena College poll released March 24.
The SAFE Act was passed last year in the wake of the shocking Newtown, Connecticut shooting that left two dozen children dead. Among other measures, the bill bans high capacity magazines that hold more than seven rounds of ammunition, strengthens background checks for gun sales and outlaws most types of assault weapons.
The legislation is supported by a majority of Democrats and Independents — 77 and 56 percent respectively — but is opposed by 54 percent of Republicans. The bill is opposed by a slim majority of upstate voters, where 52 percent oppose it, 45 percent support it and 3 percent don't know enough about it to answer the poll question.
The new laws have overwhelming support in New York City, 79 percent, and in the surrounding suburbs, where 63 percent are in favor of the more stringent gun laws.
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, one of the state's leading anti-gun groups, lauded the poll results, deeming the bill a common sense law that will help reduce gun violence in the state.
"Over one year after passage of the SAFE Act, New Yorkers from across the state overwhelmingly support this common sense law," said Leah Gunn Barrett, the group's executive director. "NYAGV is committed to ensuring the appropriate enforcement of and education about the SAFE Act which we believe will protect all New Yorkers from gun violence."
Conservative Republicans have previously challenged the law in court and stormed the Capitol for rallies disparaging the law as unconstitutional, claiming it infringes on state residents' Second Amendment right.
Despite the poll results, Astorino, the Westchester county executive and gubernatorial hopeful, has said if elected governor, one of his first actions would be to repeal the law.
"The Safe Act did nothing to make New Yorkers safer. It was ill-conceived, rushed-through legislation that criminalized law enforcement officers and demonized law abiding gun owners," he said. "The Safer Communities program we developed in Westchester, which focuses on mental health, early intervention, and best school security practices, is a far better model for the state."
The sole big party challenger to Cuomo said the recent poll doesn't change his platform.
"If I based my positions on popularity polls, I never would have been elected Westchester County Executive twice. People want leaders in office, not poll-driven politicians," Astorino said.
Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said the small sample size of the poll is not reflective of the entire state's feelings on the polarizing gun laws.
"I don't believe that this is accurate. I think that the numbers are skewed, I don't know where these people came from and I think that it's a real travesty because this is an attempt to skew things in favor of the SAFE Act when the majority of people in upstate New York are against the SAFE Act," he said.
King says Siena's polls always tend to favor the governor and like-minded political agendas.
"We just can't believe the statistics that Siena came out with, and the way to tell is going to be with the election coming up let's see how well the governor does," King said.
The poll surveyed 813 registered New York state voters and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
Second Amendment rights groups have scheduled a rally against the SAFE Act for today on the Capitol lawn.