The New York State Assembly passed the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting today.
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.
“This is a scourge on society,” Cuomo said Monday night, six days after making gun control a centerpiece of his progressive agenda in 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.”‘
“This bill is about protecting people, protecting our children, protecting our families,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Tuesday.
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.
“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).
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.
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