Accusing his opponent of protecting criminals who prey on children, Democratic state senate candidate James Gaughran announced last week for the Child Victim’s Act and he proposes legislation to prohibit anyone on the state’s sex offender registry from owning a gun and requiring that convicted sex only be allowed to vote by absentee ballot.
Mr. Gaughran held a press conference September 20 which was attended by Protect by kids founder Gary Greenberg, who announced his organization’s endorsement of Mr. Gaughran in his campaign against Republican State Senator Carlo Marcellino (R-Syosset). Also at the press conference was Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat from Nassau County, who criticized Mr. Marcellino and senate Republicans for blocking the Child Victims Act from coming to a vote. Also on hand was Long Islanders Against Gun Violence founder Rachel Klein, who backed the legislation propose by Mr. Gaughran to prohibit convicted sex offenders from owning guns.
“The fact that the New York State Senate and my opponent, Senator Carlo Marcellino, who is in the leadership, would not even allow the [Child Victim’s Act] to come up for a vote is an absolute disgrace,” Mr. Gaughran said. “This is a bill will allow people who were abused when they were children to go to court and civilly get justice. Why they are not allowing this is beyond me”.
Mr. Gaughran said Senate Republications have said the legislation will cost certain institutions large sums of money in legal expenses. He said that kind of thinking is wrong minded. Mr. Gaughran said that while on the campaign trail he has met victims of child abuse, some who advocate for the Child Victims Act and others who suffered silently but support the legislation. He said they are not looking for a payday, but they are concerned because their abusers are still walking around with access to children and they want them brought to justice.
“We need to get this bill passed and we need to get it passed right away,” Mr. Gaughran said.
Mr. Gaughran said the New York State Assembly has passed the bill overwhelmingly with bipartisan support and Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it clear that he intends to sign the bill if enacted by the legislature, and only the Senate stands in the way.
Mr. Greenberg, who is a survivor of child sexual abuse, said New York State’s stature of limitations related to sex abuse cases are the worst in the country. He explained that enactment of the legislation will extend the statue of limitations for a sexual abuse victim in a criminal case from the age of 23 to 28 and in civil litigation from 23 to 50 years of age. It would also create a one year “look back” window of opportunity for victims to file civil litigation.
Mr. Greenberg said the State Senate leadership- he named Mr. Marcellino and State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport)-have been blocking the Child Victims Act from coming to a vote in the Senate. He said the legislation has repeatedly been passed by the Assembly but stalled in the Senate. This year, he said, advocates worked with Republican Senator Catherine Young to come up with a compromise bill, and the Republican leadership still blocked it from coming to a vote.
According to Mr. Greenberg, Senator Marcellino has refused to even meet with child sex abuse victims. “He throws them out of his office,” he said.
“We need a change,” Mr. Greenberg said. “We need to change the names in the New York State Senate. We have to do this for the victims across the state. So many of them suffer with this every day.”
Mr. Greenberg said that child sex abuse victims suffer from health problems, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. “We have to change that,” he said.
“Carl Marcellino, the Senator here, has turned his back year after year on the victims of child abuse,” he concluded before endorsing Mr. Gaughran.
Assemblyman Lavine said it is a sacred obligation o the government to protect children and that dragging its feet on this legislation empowers sex abusers.
“As long as New York State lags behind so many other states when it comes to protecting our children, what we are doing is unfortunate – enabling those who prey on our children. That is not something we want to do,” he said.
Assemblyman Lavine said that with Mr. Gaughran in the State Senate the logjam will be broken and the law will be changed. “It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“Victims of this horrible abuse carry it with them throughout their lives. That is painfully clear and we either do something about it or we stand idly by,” Assemblyman Lavine said, adding that the Senate has stood idly by, the more we empower those who wish to create more and more victims.”
“It’s time for a change,” Assemblyman Lavine said, adding that he is proud to stand in support of Mr. Gaughran. As for his two new legislative initiatives, Mr. Gaughran said the intention of both is to protect children from being victimized. He Said sex offenders who are on the registry should be restricted from going to polling places because it gives them access to areas where children often are and to restrict them to voting by absentee ballot will help limit that situation.
“ This way we can ensure they are not in schools, not in churches, and not in community buildings where there may be children around on Election Day,” Mr. Gaughran said.
As for the legislation to prohibit anyone on the sex offender registry from owning a gun, Mr. Gaughran said the NRA, Senate Republicans and his opponent, Mr. Marcellino, will be quick to say there are already felons prohibited by law from owning a gun. He explained, though, that there are six misdemeanour crimes that result in being added to the sex offender registry and those sex abusers are not prohibited from owning a gun under current law.
“The fact there are probably a lot of people on the list who have guns is something I think we should be very concerned about,” Mr. Gaughran said.
He said many of the sex offenders on the registry who were convicted of misdemeanours were originally charge with felonies and through plea bargain agreements were convicted of lesser crimes. He said in many cases the charges are subjected to plea deals because parnts don’t want their children to have to testify at trial. He said there are also felons on the registry who get relief from the civil disabilities imposed on convicted felons, and that includes allowing them to buy a gun.
“Keeping guns out of the hand of dangerous criminals and sex offenders should be a no-brainer,” Ms. Klein said. “It’s disgraceful that Carl Marcellino refuses to pass common sense gun legislation that could keep our children and communities safer.”