Posted at: 01/15/2013 4:23 PM
Updated at: 01/15/2013 10:30 PM
By: Associated Press
New York's Assembly on Tuesday easily passed the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, calling for a tougher assault weapons ban and provisions to try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed hard for the bill, which passed the Senate on Monday night. He is expected to quickly sign the measure into law.
"This is a scourge on society," Cuomo said Monday night, 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. "At what point do you say, 'No more innocent loss of life'?"
The measure, which passed the Assembly 104-43, also calls for restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns.
"This is not about taking anyone's rights away," said Sen. Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx Democrat, when the bill passed the Senate late Monday night. "It's about a safe society ... today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what's right."
Under current state law, assault weapons are defined by having two "military rifle" features such as folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor or bayonet mount. The proposal reduces that to one feature and includes the popular pistol grip.
Private sales of assault weapons to someone other than an immediate family will be subject to a background check through a dealer. New Yorkers also would be barred from buying assault weapons over the Internet, and failing to safely store a weapon could lead to a misdemeanor charge.
Ammunition magazines will be restricted to seven bullets, from the current 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 would be required to report such a threat to a mental health director, who would have to notify the state. Any registered handguns - or registered assault weapons purchased before the ban - could 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 governor confirmed the proposal, previously worked out in closed session, also mandate 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 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 into potential criminals.
Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco said the bill was dangerous because it would give people a "false sense of well-being."
"You are using innocent children killed by a mad man for own political agenda," he said. "You are actually making people less safe."
Local assemblymen's statements:
Assemblyman Mark Johns (R,C,I-Webster) Statement
(Johns voted AGAINST it):
"As an Assemblyman, the safety and well-being of my constituents and all New Yorkers is my top priority. Recent tragedies like the Christmas Eve shooting of members of the West Webster Fire Department in my hometown have brought this legislation to the forefront. I continue to offer my condolences and sympathies to the Chiapperini and Kaczowka families who suffered from these heinous actions. Actions which go beyond human understanding in their brutality and scope. While the Governor's gun policy legislation has some provisions which I support, I did not support this legislation because I believe it restricts the rights and unfairly imposes mandates on legal, law abiding and responsible gun owners. I will only support legislation which harshly punishes criminals who are convicted of violent crimes and those who commit crimes with illegal guns. I also stand for legislation which prevents people with a history of violence and/or mental illness from acquiring firearms."
State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle, (D-Irondequoit)
(Morelle voted FOR it):
"After the murder of two brave firefighters in Webster and 20 innocent children in Newtown, New Yorkers demanded action on gun safety. Today we responded with what I strongly believe is commonsense legislation that reduces the likelihood of such tragedies by restricting the availability of weapons most able to inflict that kind of carnage. I also believe we can and will accomplish this while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Among my earliest efforts as a member of the Assembly was a call to curb the availability of high-capacity assault rifles, and it is especially gratifying for me to be a part of this renewed fight to reduce gun violence in our state. I applaud Speaker Silver, Governor Cuomo and the leadership of the state Senate for putting New York at the vanguard of the most critical public safety issue confronting us at this time."
Assemblyman Bill Nojay(R, 133rd District)
(Nojay voted AGAINST it):
"I voted against the Cuomo gun legislation because it is poorly drafted, it will not accomplish its intended purposes, and it will create a new criminal class out of law abiding New Yorkers who will understandably refuse to comply with its irresponsible and unreasonable demands. Governor Cuomo's message to law abiding gun owners is, "Move to another state or be arrested because you're not wanted as a free citizen of New York. Instead of working in a careful way with members of the Legislature who understand firearms and the firearms industry, the governor and New York City liberals threw together what is one of the worst pieces of legislation to move through Albany in years, and that's saying something. The governor's war against the Second Amendment is offensive to those of us who understand the role of that Amendment in protecting our rights as citizens. Most offensive is the governor's cynical use of the tragedies in Webster and Newtown to justify this breach of the Constitution. It shows he isn't serious about making schools safer -- this is all about politics. We have had no debate, no hearings, and no expert testimony. If it is a good bill, why does the governor need to ram it through in this fashion? The governor is playing politics. Instead of working with us to develop legislation to protect our children, the governor is cramming this through to begin his campaign for president in 2016."
In a statement, the National Rifle Association said: "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," the NRA said.