New York State is the first jurisdiction to begin passing tougher gun control measures in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School.
The definition of assault weapons is being significantly expanded to include semiautomatic rifles, shotguns and handguns with detachable magazines and one military-style feature. Any New York resident who currently has such a weapon must register it in a state database. Also magazines will be limited to 7 rounds and there will be monitoring of ammunition sales.
The legislation will increase penalties for gun crimes, require background checks for most private gun sales and create a statewide database of gun licenses.
The whole package sounds closer to what we have in Canada in some respects.
There are also provisions to try to keep firearms out of the hands of persons with mental illness.
Also if a first responder is murdered as occurred last month the sentence will be life with no parole possible.
New York Has Gun Deal, With Focus on Mental Ills
By THOMAS KAPLAN and DANNY HAKIM
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers agreed on Monday to a broad package of changes to gun laws that would expand the state’s ban on assault weapons and would include new measures to keep guns away from the mentally ill.
The state Senate, controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a handful of Democrats, approved the legislative package around 11 p.m. by a vote of 43 to 18. The Assembly, controlled by Democrats, has been strongly supportive of gun control. It planned to vote on the measure on Tuesday.
Approval of the legislation would make New York the first state to act in response to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Mr. Cuomo had pressed lawmakers to act quickly in response to Newtown, saying, “the people of this state are crying out for help.” And the Legislature acted with unusual haste: Monday was the first full day of this year’s legislative session.“We don’t need another tragedy to point out the problems in the system,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said at a news conference just before 9 p.m. “Enough people have lost their lives,” he added. “Let’s act.”
The expanded ban on assault weapons would broaden the definition of such weapons, banning semiautomatic pistols and rifles with detachable magazines and one military-style feature, as well as semiautomatic shotguns with one military-style feature. New Yorkers who already own such guns could keep them but would be required to register them with the state.
“The message out there is so clear after Newtown,” said the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan. “To basically eradicate assault weapons from our streets in New York as quickly as possible is something the people of this state want.”
In an acknowledgment that many people have suggested that part of the solution to gun violence is a better government response to mental illness, the legislation includes not only new restrictions on gun ownership, but also efforts to limit access to guns by the mentally ill.
The most significant new proposal would require mental health professionals to report to local mental health officials when they believe that a patient is likely to harm themselves or others. Law enforcement would then be authorized to confiscate any firearm owned by the patient; therapists would not be sanctioned for a failure to report dangerous patients if they acted “in good faith.”
“People who have mental health issues should not have guns,” Mr. Cuomo said. “They could hurt themselves, they could hurt other people.”
But such a requirement “represents a major change in the presumption of confidentiality that has been inherent in mental health treatment,” said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, the director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, who said the Legislature should hold hearings on possible consequences of the proposal.
“The prospect of being reported to the local authorities, even if they do not have weapons, may be enough to discourage patients with suicidal or homicidal thoughts from seeking treatment or from being honest about their impulses,” he said.
The legislation would also expand Kendra’s Law, which empowers judges to order mentally ill patients to receive outpatient treatment.
And it would require gun owners to store their weapons safely if they live with someone barred from possessing a firearm.
The legislative package which Mr. Cuomo said he believed would be “the most comprehensive package in the nation,” would ban any gun magazine that can hold over 7 rounds of ammunition — the current limit is 10 rounds — and require background checks of ammunition buyers and automated alerts to law enforcement of high-volume purchases.
The legislation would also increase penalties for gun crimes, require background checks for most private gun sales and create a statewide database of gun licenses.
Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, the leader of an independent faction of Democrats who have allied with the Republicans to control the Senate, said the measure met the goals of many lawmakers.
“Republicans, it’s very clear, wanted harsher criminal penalties for illegal guns, which is something I agree with,” Mr. Klein added, “but on the other hand we’re also going to ban assault weapons and limit the number of rounds in a magazine. So I think putting those two things together makes it a better bill.”
Among the other elements of the proposed legislation were a so-called Webster provision, named for the shooting deaths of two firefighters in Webster, near Rochester, just before Christmas, that would mandate a life sentence without parole for anyone who murders a first responder.
The package would allow judges to require weapons surrender by anyone who is the subject of an order of protection from a court.
And in response to a controversy that erupted after The Journal News, a daily newspaper, published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland Counties, the legislation would prohibit disclosure of the names on a new statewide gun database, and would allow individuals to exempt their own names and addresses from being disclosed by counties that have such databases.
The proposed package of gun laws posed the first big test of a new power dynamic in Albany. The Assembly remains controlled by Democrats, as it has been for decades, and is strongly supportive of gun control.
The coalition now leading the Senate, which had been controlled by Republicans generally opposed to new gun control measures, also includes Democrats supportive of gun control.
Senate Republicans indicated on Monday that they would not seek to block a vote. The deputy Republican leader in the Senate, Thomas W. Libous of Binghamton, described a new gun control bill as “inevitable.” In an interview on WGDJ-AM, Mr. Libous called the package a “split decision.”
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” he said, adding, “There are a lot of things here that true Second Amendment believers are going to have some issues with.”
Mr. Libous later told reporters he did not know how he would vote on the gun package.
“I have had thousands of e-mails and calls,” he said. “Certainly the emotion of the issue, as to what happened in Connecticut or Columbine or wherever, is something that touches all of us as individuals, but a lot of my constituents feel very strongly about the Second Amendment, and I certainly have to respect their wishes.”
The Legislature was scheduled to be in session this week only on Monday and Tuesday. Mr. Cuomo, eager for a vote on the gun package, said he had waived the three-day waiting period for new legislation that the State Constitution requires, something he has done in the past to allow for speedy votes on controversial legislative agreements.
The minority leader in the Assembly, Brian M. Kolb, a Republican from Canandaigua, objected to the move to expedite the process, saying, “I don’t think we should be rushing things just for the sake of headlines.”
But Mr. Cuomo said, “If there is an issue that fits the definition of necessity, I believe it’s gun violence.”