9:00 am Dec. 5, 20115
It was a Sunday press conference, and it was about gun control. But it wasn't at the office of Chuck Schumer.
On Sunday afternoon, the state's junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, hosted Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and anti-gun advocates at her office on Third Avenue, to announce she was re-introducing the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act.
Schumer made guns a defining issue of his tenure in the House, but, as he's ascended the Senate leadership, and gun control has disappeared from the agenda of the national party, the senior senator has mostly ceded the issue to Gillibrand.
The junior senator, who had some making-up to do with downstate liberals when she was elevated to the Senate from her conservative-leaning House district, first introduced the bill after her appointment in 2009.
"Senator Gillibrand's reintroduction of this bill is one of the reasons she's a personal hero of mine," said Michael Wolkowitz, who sits on the board of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, in his remarks on Sunday. "The senator is at the forefront of so many important issues that are more frequently in the news ... And yet she stands here on a Sunday reintroducing this bill. She continues to show the courage to stand for everything she believes is important."
Which is not to say that much has passed. Since Schumer helped shepherd the Brady Bill to passage in 1993, the National Rifle Association has developed a death-grip on similar bills, with gun-control advocates mostly playing defense against pro-gun measures like the Thune Amendment. Some local Democrats tried to push the issue in the wake of Gabrielle Giffords' shooting earlier this year, but none of those measures have advanced.
"It is really remarkable that in December of 2011, we have to stand here to hear Senator Gillibrand say she's introducing a bill to make gun trafficking illegal," said Schneiderman, who championed several gun-control measures during his time as a liberal state senator representing the Upper West Side. "It's just astonishing."
The re-introduction of the bill comes on the heels of Schneiderman's announcement last week that his office had arrested 10 gun dealers who were caught selling guns to undercover agents who readily admitted they wouldn't pass a background check. The bill would stiffen federal penalties for gun sellers who skirt the background check.
"This is a bill that does not actually affect law-abiding citizens or the Second Amendment," Gillibrand said, when asked why this bill might be more successful than previous efforts. "I think the reason why this has a chance or is the type of legislation that could pass in a bipartisan way, is that it's focused entirely on the criminals."
The last time Gillibrand introduced the bill, it garnered only two co-sponsors—Schumer and New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg—before stalling in committee.