ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York State Assembly passed the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting Tuesday.
The Assembly voted in favor of the bill 104-43. The bill was passed by the Senate 43-18 late Monday. It was immediately was brought to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed it into law.
“I am proud to be a New Yorker today. I am proud to be part of this government. Not just because New York has the first bill, but because New York has the best bill,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This is a complex, multifaceted problem and this is a comprehensive bill that addresses the full panorama and spectrum of issues that come up.
“I am proud to be New Yorker because New York is doing something, because we are fighting back. Because, yes, we’ve had tragedies; yes we’ve had too many innocent people lose their life; yes, it’s unfortunate that it took those tragedies to get us to this point, but let’s at least learn from what has happened,” Cuomo added.
The National Rifle Association quickly responded, issuing the following statement:
“These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime. While lawmakers could have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night.”
Under current state law, assault weapons are defined by having two “military rifle” features spelled out in the law. The proposal reduces that to one feature and include the popular pistol grip.
It also forces gun owners to renew their licenses every five years, stiffens penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime and for bringing a gun on school property.
“This bill is about protecting people, protecting our children, protecting our families,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Tuesday.
“It is well-balanced, it protects the Second Amendment,” said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island. “And there is no confiscation of weapons, which was at one time being considered.”
“Make no mistake about it, everyone. I repeat, make no mistake about it, the number of gun deaths in New York State will decrease because of the bold actions we take today,” Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) said.
Not all in the Assembly agreed that the bill was thoroughly thought through.
“For an issue of this importance, and its impact on our Second Amendment rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the legislation that was passed today lacked sufficient public input and discussion to ensure that we provide meaningful protection for our children, families and communities,” Assemblyman Brian Kolb said. “Stakeholders from across the state – including law enforcement, school safety officials, firearms dealers, metal health professionals, business owners, criminal profilers, law abiding gun owners and the public at large – never had the opportunity to comment or make their voices heard regarding this critical issue.”
“I can’t support this. We are avoiding a lot of issues the way we deal with violence,” Assemblyman Clifford Crouch (R-Binghamton) said.
“Will someone’s rights be diminished? I have grave concerns about the bill,” added Assemblyman Peter Lopez (R-Catskill).
“I’ve heard your members get up on the floor and said ‘we’ve got to redefine the Second Amendment,’ or what I would call now the 1.5 Amendment because you’ve diminished it after this bill passed,” Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco said.
Tedisco said the new law will make innocent gun owners criminals because of the registration requirement.
One provision requires therapists and doctors to tell government authorities if they believe a patient is likely to harm himself or others. That could lead to revoking a patient’s gun permit and seizing the gun.
But mental health experts said the law might interfere with treatment of potentially dangerous people and even discourage them from seeking help.
Mark Olfson, a psychiatry professor at Columbia, said if the law is crudely applied, it could erode the trust patients have in their doctors which is needed for effective care.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation’s leading gun control advocates, said the bill will not satisfy everyone but said it is a move in the right direction.
“New York has been a leader. We have some of the toughest gun laws in the country and this just strengthens them, it fills in loopholes and it expands it as the society’s needs have changed and the dangers have changed to all of us,” Bloomberg told reporters including WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “It makes all New Yorkers safer and they all — from the governor down — deserve real credit for doing it.”
“It is controversial. There are people who are worried about Second Amendment rights, as am I. The Constitution says you have a right to bear arms, we have to protect that. The Supreme Court also says that you can have reasonable restrictions,” Bloomberg added.
EXTRA: Read The Bill Here
Provisions in the sweeping gun control bill include:
- Further restrict assault weapons to define them by a single feature, such as a pistol grip. Current law requires two features.
- Make the unsafe storage of assault weapons a misdemeanor.
- Mandate a police registry of assault weapons.
- Establish a state registry for all private sales, with a background check done through a licensed dealer for a fee, excluding sales to immediate relatives.
- Require a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally to report the
threat to a mental health director who would then have to report serious threats to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. A patient’s gun could be taken from him or her.
- Ban the Internet sale of assault weapons.
- Require stores that sell ammunition to register with the state, run background checks on buyers of bullets and keep an electronic database of bullet sales.
- Restrict ammunition magazines to seven bullets, from the current national standard of 10. Current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. Someone caught with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.
- Require that stolen guns be reported within 24 hours. Otherwise, the owner would face a possible misdemeanor.
- Increase sentences for gun crimes including for taking a gun on school property.
- Increase penalties for shooting first responders, called the “Webster provision.” Two firefighters were killed when shot by a person who set a fire in the western New York town of Webster last month. The crime would be punishable by life in prison without parole.
- Limit the state records law to protect handgun owners from being identified publicly. The provision would allow a handgun permit holder a means to maintain privacy under the Freedom of Information law.
- Require pistol permit holders or those who will be registered as owners of assault rifles to be recertified at least every five years to make sure they are still legally able to own the guns.
Cuomo said he wanted quick action to avoid a run on assault weapons and ammunition as he tries to address what he estimates is about 1 million assault weapons in New York state. Meanwhile, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli froze pension fund investments in commercial fire arms manufacturers. They are valued at more than $2 million.
Republican Sen. Greg Ball said Cuomo pushed the progressive bill to serve a potential presidential bid in 2016.
“We have taken an entire category of firearms that are currently legal that are in the homes of law-abiding, tax paying citizens. — We are now turning those law-abiding citizens into criminals,” he said.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous of Broome County voted against the bill and said it was a tough vote for upstate Republicans.
“I have had thousands of emails and calls,” Libous said. “I have to respect their wishes.” He said many of constituents worry the bill will conflict with the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms while others anguish over shootings like at Newtown and Columbine, Colo.
Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-Warsaw) said there doesn’t seem to be any support for the bill in his district.
“I have had over 430 e-mails and texts since this bill was announced and zero — zero have been in support of any more gun control,” he said Tuesday.
In the gun debate, one concern for New York is its major gun manufacturer upstate.
Remington Arms Co. makes the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that was used in the Connecticut shootings and again on Christmas Eve when the two firefighters were slain in Webster. The two-century-old Remington factory in Ilion in central New York employs 1,000 workers in a Republican Senate district.
Assemblyman Marc Butler, a Republican who represents the area, decried the closed-door meetings by Senate Republicans and the Democratic majority of the Assembly as “politics at its worst.”
The bill would be the first test of the new coalition in control of the Senate, which has long been run by Republicans opposed to gun control measures. The chamber is now in the hands of Republicans and five breakaway Democrats led by Klein, an arrangement expected to result in more progressive legislation.
Also Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden is expected to make recommendations to President Obama to tighten federal regulations.
“If there is a step we can take that saves even one child from what happened in Newtown, we should take that step,” Obama said.
Likely ideas of the Biden plan include expanded mental health background checks, longer prison sentences for gun traffickers and more information on video games.
But gun rights advocates say tighter restrictions are not the answer.
“The people who want to get them to do evil things are not going to be deterred by a ban,” said gun owner Mike Emerson.
A USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday shows 38 percent of Americans support stricter proposals — a 13 percent jump from one year ago.
Obama also wants a ban on assault weapons, but lawmakers do not believe that can pass.
Congressional officials say the president is weighing 19 steps that could be taken through executive action alone. He’s expected to unveil his proposals as early as Wednesday.
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