As lawmaker after lawmaker spoke about passing the New York SAFE Act so more kids can enjoy life and celebrate birthdays, one man, whose death influenced this act, would have been celebrating his 29th birthday Tuesday. Cape Vincent EMT Mark Davis was killed in 2009 answering an emergency call, leading to the proposal of Mark's Law. YNN's Brian Dwyer, whose reporting brought Mark's Law to light, spoke with one very happy mother Tuesday who, for the first time in years, is celebrating January 15th.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- Birthdays were a big part of Marsha Dickinson's life. She loved celebrating them.
But in 2009, the joy was stolen. Her son, Mark Davis, a Cape Vincent EMT, was shot and killed responding to a call. It happened on January 30th, another day saved for celebration.
"It's been even harder to celebrate my other son's birthday because Mark died on his birthday," Dickinson said.
Since then, it's been a long journey for Dickinson. In late 2010, she found out her son's killer would get a sentence that could see him released in 12 years. In complete disbelief, the idea of Mark's Law was born. The punishment for anyone who kills a first responder on duty should be just like police, life without parole. It would act as a deterrent.
"If just even one person is saved, no matter what we've all done, it was worth it," Dickinson said. "That's the way we all need to think.
In early 2011, Dickinson took her idea to State Senator Patty Ritchie. Ritchie wrote up a full bill. It passed through the Senate easily, but stalled in the Assembly. Even just last week when a supporter has seemingly gave up on it, Dickinson never lost hope.
"Never, not ever," he said. "Mark and I always had this thing that it was never give up. We always live by that. I live by that today. I live by that with him. I live by that without him."
There was even an issue Monday night when Ritchie voted against the Gun Control Act, which contains Mark's Law. Ritchie explained that she fully supported Mark's Law, but couldn't vote in favor of the actual gun control restrictions. It passed the Senate anyway.
"I fully understand," Dickinson said about Patty's no vote. "Patty has gotten the ball rolling on all of this. She believed in us and she believed so strongly when she had basically no support. I don't hold it against her at all. Not at all.”
A journey with its highest note. Tuesday, January 15th, the day Mark Davis would have turned 29, the Assembly passed the Act and Mark's Law became official.
"It's very emotional for me," Dickinson said. "I think we've all done some crying, all the family here. It just makes this worthwhile."
Immediately after the Assembly passed it, Dickinson, who's now living in Florida, drove the 75 miles to her son's grave in Orlando. She framed the page of the act that contains Mark's Law and laid it on his grave. A birthday celebration.
Addie Russell, who drew up a bill last week she called an "enhanced" Mark's Law, featuring several issues in the NY SAFE Act, voted in favor of the bill in the Assembly Tuesday.
Dickinson says she will soon take this issue up with lawmakers in Florida and eventually hopes a version of Mark's Law is passed nationwide.