Governor Signs Strict Gun Control Law
ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday signed the nation's toughest gun control law hours after the Assembly easily passed the measure. The new law, the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, institutes a tougher assault weapons ban and provisions to try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.
Cuomo pushed hard for the bill, which passed the Senate on Jan. 14.
"This is a scourge on society," Cuomo said on Jan. 14, six days after making gun control a centerpiece of his State of the State address. The bipartisan effort was fueled by the Newtown tragedy that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators.
The measure, which passed the Assembly 104-43, also restricts ammunition and the sale of guns.
"This is not about taking anyone's rights away," said Senator Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx Democrat, when the bill passed the Senate. "It's about a safe society. Today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what's right."
Assault weapons were defined by having two "military rifle" features such as folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor or bayonet mount. The new law reduces that to one feature and includes the popular pistol grip.
Private sales of assault weapons to someone other than an immediate family member will be subject to a background check through a dealer. New Yorkers also are barred from buying assault weapons over the Internet, and failing to safely store a weapon could lead to a misdemeanor charge.
Ammunition magazines are restricted to seven bullets, from 10, and current owners of higher-capacity magazines will have a year to sell them out of state. An owner caught at home with eight or more bullets in a magazine will face a misdemeanor charge.
Another provision places requirements on therapists, psychologists, registered nurses and licensed social workers who believe a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally. They are required to report such a threat to a mental health director, who would have to notify the state. Any registered handgunsor registered assault weapons purchased before the bancould be taken from the patient.
The legislation also increases sentences for gun crimes including the shooting of a first responder that Cuomo called the "Webster provision." Last month in the western New York town of Webster, two firefighters were killed after responding to a fire set by the shooter, who eventually killed himself.
The measure passed the Senate 43-18 on the strength of support from Democrats, many of whom previously sponsored bills that were once blocked by Republicans.
The law, previously worked out in closed session, also mandates a police registry of assault weapons, grandfathering in the estimated 1 million assault weapons already in private hands.
It was agreed upon exactly a month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.
"It is well-balanced, it protects the Second Amendment," said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island.
Cuomo said he wanted quick action to avoid a run on assault weapons and ammunition.
Assemblyman Steve Katz, R-Westchester, said legislators were being "bullied." He said the bill is "solely for the governor's egotistical, misguided notion."
Republicans argued the bill wouldn't stop mass shootings or other gun crimes but instead turns law-abiding citizens into potential criminals.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady/Saratoga, said the bill was dangerous because it would give people a "false sense of well-being."
"You are using innocent children killed by a madman for your own political agenda," he said. "You are actually making people less safe."