Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed legislation Thursday to impose a penalty of life in prison without parole for acts of domestic terrorism, including mass shootings.
Cuomo says his bill is the first in the nation to define a mass shooting as a hate crime if the shooter acted against a group of people based on their race, national origin, religion, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.
The governor, in a speech before the New York City Bar Association, says punishment could include a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.
“The penalty should be the same as it is for other terrorism crimes, up to life without parole, because these are hate crimes on steroids,” Cuomo said. “ They are mass hate crimes and they are terrorism. And the punishment should fit the crime, period.”
Cuomo says the measure called the Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act, is in response to recent mass shootings, including at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and synagogues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Poway, California.
“We are living a recurring American nightmare,” the governor said. “There are no words and politicians' expressions offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ are now almost insulting when they should be taking action and passing laws.”
The governor leveled criticism at President Donald Trump, saying, “his government has failed the American people”, and at Republicans in Congress, saying they are “political cowards” and “lackeys” for the gun industry because of their refusal to back gun control measures including a ban on assault weapons. He said the federal government should also enact a domestic terrorism law.
Cuomo’s proposal has the support of the leaders of the legislature, Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea- Stewart- Cousins, who, like Cuomo, are Democrats.
The measure also creates a task force to study mass shootings, and to recommend practices to prevent them, including what kind of security precautions should be taken in locations that might be likely to be targeted.
There are currently no plans to return to the Capitol before January for a special session to vote on the bill.