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Assemblywoman Russell reverses course on Mark's Law

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Assemblywoman Russell reverses course on Mark's Law
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The bill that would add firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders to the state's murder one statue didn't pass the Assembly last year. Now, state Senator Patty Ritchie faces a tough hurdle as she tries again to get it passed in 2013. The lawmaker who sponsored the bill in the Assembly is no longer supporting it. Our Brian Dwyer spoke with Addie Russell about her stance and with Ritchie about what's next.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- As lawmakers get set for a new year in Albany, they'll soon be looking at a familiar bill.

Mark's Law, which would add firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders to the state's murder one statute will be re-introduced by state Senator Patty Ritchie.

It passed the Senate last year, but not the Assembly. Some of the support she did have in the Assembly last year is now gone. Addie Russell, who sponsored the bill last year, no longer supports 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.

Mark's Law is named after Mark Davis, the Cape Vincent EMT who was shot and killed back in 2009 responding to a call.

But Russell says that case and the recent case in Webster would not have been impacted by the law, saying those shooters either don't care about their lives or are too mentally ill to be convicted in accordance. She says the best way to protect responders is through prevention, not just penalty.

"I think we need to look at the type of job we're doing in this state, in this nation to serve those that are mentally ill and really provide the services and protection from themselves," Russell said.

But Marsha Dickinson, Mark Davis' mother, has repeatedly asked what would be the harm in adding them? What would it hurt? She says it would provide justice, even if it applies just once. Russell's response is it takes away from the time and focus needed to address the much larger mental health and gun control issues.

"Just because there isn't a piece of legislation that very narrowly addresses this issue does not mean it's not part of the dialog as we in Albany are addressing the larger issue," she said.

State Senator Patty Ritchie says she's disappointed Russell has changed her mind, but says that won't stop her from moving forward.

"I've already talked to some Assembly members and I'll be looking for another sponsor," Ritchie said. "This continues to be a priority for me and I think it's important."

Last week, Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush brought up a question he had about why the bill wouldn't get through the Assembly, pressure from police unions who didn't want responders on the list. Russell says she has not received any pressure from unions whatsoever.

Russell also says the state needs to look at stiffer penalties for the people who allow guns to get in the hands of people who clearly aren't capable of owning them properly.

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