On a day that started with a moment of silence for the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings of December 14, 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders of both parties took the opportunity, on this first full day of the new session, to come to an agreement in the Senate on a comprehensive package of new gun laws named the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or NY SAFE. Now we’re just waiting on the Assembly vote, likely to come early Tuesday morning, 1.15.
Clearly in response to the shooting, the new law would implement the following:
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.
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. [Emphasis added. Source: NY Times]
The highlighted line is an important distinction, as gun zealots have been, in some cases, apoplectic about the perceived threat of their weapons being confiscated. It’s likely they will be equally as incensed about having to register them (see James Yeager, Alex Jones or Cpl. Josh Boston to view just a few of the more vitriolic responses), but certainly this answers the fear-mongering of the right with the reasonable measures always supported by those calling for “sensible” controls.
Ironically, it was noted that Republicans wanted harsher penalties for illegal guns, but the consensus is the package put together was not only “inevitable” but a “split decision”:
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.” [Source]
That would seem a given regardless of any proposed bill! But the package is not focused exclusively on regulations related to gun ownership; it also takes into account concerns related to gun access by the mentally ill, a factor that came into sharp focus after the Sandy Hook shooting, which was carried out by a mentally disturbed man who lived in a home with guns owned by his mother. According to the NY Times piece:
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.”
As with everything related to gun control or mental health matters, there are continuing voices expressing specific concerns, whether it’s those from the mental health industry worried about confidentiality issues for their mentally ill patients, or legislators concerned that their constituents with “Second Amendment concerns” will feel the bill has been rushed.
In fact, the intention to move forward quickly has been a factor. Factoring in the gun lobbyists for various gun makers who came to Albany to present their protests related to a full ban on assault weapons, as well as the Governor’s desire to preempt the sales rush of gun advocates stockpiling in fear of a ban (as has been reported around the country), Cuomo said he would even waive the mandatory three-day waiting period for new bills if the Legislature would moves quickly to vote.
As the eyes of the country are on New York, waiting to see if that state will be the first with an assault weapons ban as well as the implementation of more stringent laws restricting gun ownership, it is poignant to note this was also the day families of the murdered Sandy Hook children gathered in Newtown to pay tribute to their loves ones and speak out as advocates for a “national dialogue” on gun control. Governor Cuomo made his feelings clear:
“No one hunts with an assault rifle,” Cuomo said. “No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. End the madness.” [Source]
We will update you when the vote comes in.