ALBANY—State Senate Democrats just held an outdoor press conference to announce $4 million in the state budget will fund anti-gun violence initiatives, dubbed “Operation SNUG.”
The funds will be made available through the Department of Criminal Justice Services on a request basis, but are not specifically earmarked. Smith, joined by several members of his conference as well as law enforcement officials and community activists, said that the funds will be a “down payment” for programs similar to Chicago’s Project Cease Fire. The idea is to fund violence prevention—everything from after-school programs to the hiring of ex-offenders as “intervention counselors”—rather than sending money to more traditional law enforcement programs.
This is unofficially gun week at the State Capitol. Tuesday, the State Assembly adopted nine bills requiring a five-year renewal of handgun licenses and micro-stamping of bullets for easier identification. Before the afternoon event, State Senator Eric Schneiderman held a press conference on the micro-stamping, which may or may not pass in his chamber. Smith was asked about the measure, but said he has “not canvassed the conference for votes.”
After the event, Smith took questions from reporters on other topics as pro-gun demonstrators shouted requests to speak with him. He did not heed the call, prompting them to shout “more guns less crime” as he walked away. The video below is below.
“We’re outraged that Senator Smith refused to talk to us,” one of the protesters, John Stengel, told me afterward. His belief is that if more people are armed, people will be less likely to commit crimes because there is a good chance he other guy is armed.
Smith spokesman Austin Shafran said afterward, “We’re open to discussions with advocates on all issues, and anyone who would like to speak with the senator can call our office to make an appointment.”