If the New York State Senate Republican caucus thought they could head off upstate primary challenges with hollow gun control changes, they’re wrong. Want proof? Look at what they did Friday. According to the Democrat & Chronicle, it sure wasn't much:
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, and Cuomo's Director of State Operations Jim Malatras inked a memorandum of understanding Friday preventing the state from spending funds on the creation of the database until both sides agree on a spending plan. Until that happens, ammunition retailers won't be required to perform a background check before making a sale.
In effect, this memo outlined a pause in the development of an already-stalled ammunition sales database, another failed tenet of the Governor Andrew Cuomo's landmark SAFE Act - one of the most aggressive state gun control measures in the 21st Century.
Let's be honest: SAFE Act proponents only conceded on a point they already lost through incompetence - a database they've failed to build. They called it a concession, something shiny to distract upstate activists. It was dullard's shell game.
Sunday, State Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-East Aurora) was one of the first to take a shot at the Memorandum of Understanding on Buffalo's top weekend public affairs show, Hardline on WBEN-AM.
This was nothing more than a horrible public relations ploy to give political cover to the upstate Republican Senators who voted for and continue to support [GOP Senator John] Flanagan from Long Island as their leader. He helped write the SAFE Act. He helped write the SAFE Act. He voted for the SAFE Act. He is for the SAFE Act. Anything he says contrary is a bunch of malarkey. This Memorandum of Understanding is nothing more than toilet paper.
For most, it took a couple of days for the inanity of it all to sink in, but it did. This week, New York State politicians on the right and the left are taking potshots at the deal. The unusual deal, announced as it were a law instead of just a staff-level agreement, was negotiated without Democrat involvement, excluding the Assembly majority entirely. The Working Families Party? They won't stand for it. And how about the Speaker?
"This is an ill-advised end run around the Legislature and the SAFE Act," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement. "I did not participate in this 'agreement'. The law may not be 'suspended' by a Memorandum such as this. I believe the law should be followed and implemented as intended."
The agreement amounts to nothing more than coloring the delays of a failed database as a concession to SAFE Act critics. When they solve lingering technology issues, they'll flip the switch. It’s like wiping the lipstick off a pig. But Republicans need to remember this is Flanagan’s pig – he voted for Cuomo’s SAFE Act. He loves it.
Of course, the bogus memo did nothing to change the SAFE Act. According to Capital New York, that’s why gun rights advocates will move forward with plans to primary six upstate Republican senators who supported Flanagan's election as majority leader - like Senator Cathy Young, Republican of Olean.
"Flanagan and the group of six are in for an eye opener next year. They think we're all provincials here in upstate New York, and they're in for a rude awakening,” [conservative activist real estate developer Carl] Paladino said by phone.
I've talked to Carl; these primaries were never in doubt. He's actively recruiting candidates in all six districts. The main challenge: Voters typically don’t see inside baseball votes like legislative caucus leadership as reason enough to toss elected leaders. And I've said it for years: 2nd Amendment advocates are unreliable voters. It defies logic and fundamentally disappoints me, but it's true - the numbers bear it out across decades. And it makes beating the Group of Six more difficult.
But I have a more fundamental question, one more focused on my concern for the future of New York State Republicans, one Assemblyman DiPietro said best on Hardline: "Who's concocting this horrific, unbelievable strategy at Senate Republican headquarters? They live in La-La-Land."
If this is the best senior Senate Republicans can do, they're dumber than we think.