It's been a strange week in the North Country when it comes to a bill that's centered on a Cape Vincent EMT who was shot to death while responding to a call in 2009. First, Assemblywoman Addie Russell, an original sponsor of Mark's Law, said she no longer supported it and wanted to focus on new ways to protect responders. But Friday, she detailed a new bill she wrote that includes it. Our Brian Dwyer sorts it all out.
WATERTOWN, N.Y. – Monday, Addie Russell made it clear: She doesn't think Mark's Law works.
Shooters of first responders have either killed themselves in the process or have been too mentally unstable to be charged under it.
"This is a good time to pause and think about if there are better ways to impact these tragic shootings such as what happened here in our community," Russell said on Monday.
Russell was the original sponsor of the bill in the Assembly last year. It would add first responders to the state's Murder One statute, joining police and court officials. Kill one while they're in the line of duty and it's automatically life without parole.
She said she wasn't going to try to pass it again, and wanted to focus on those better ways that she says are mental health issues and people who give guns to those shooters.
And she did that Friday, introducing a bill that tries to tackle both. But it also has that original bill. In fact, she's calling the bill an enhanced Mark's Law.
"I want to get justice for our first responders. I want to give them the respect that they deserve and to acknowledge the danger they place themselves in every day for us," Russell said on Monday.
So why rededicate herself to the original bill she just days ago no longer wanted to focus on? She says she always wanted it to be a part of a larger discussion and she believes one of those provisions could get it through the Assembly a lot easier.
It would make sure people who let these guns get into the hands the mentally unstable or homicidal criminals face 15 years behind bars.
"That is the game changer. Rational people will take the threat of being prosecuted by 15 years in prison seriously enough to impact their habits," she had said.
And one first responder at Russell's discussion Friday says he's not sure why Mark's Law wasn't enough on its own, but if this is what it takes, so be it.
"I don't see, where's the bad? Where's the downside to adding first responders to that list? I see no downside and it will certainly have the support of the 60,000 EMTs in New York State," said Charles Brenon III, Jeff. Co. Director of EMS.
But Patty Ritchie, who introduced Mark's Law in the Senate, says adding more stuff to the original bill could actually make it harder to pass. In fact, she says there's some new support for the original bill, including from new Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle.