After the New York state Senate passed the SAFE bill Monday night, January 14th, with a vote of 43-18, observers went into watch-and-wait mode as the sweeping gun legislation was handed to the Assembly for their vote. While some hoped it might come in later Monday night, the Democratic led Assembly scheduled a 10:00 Tuesday morning session to address the momentous and controversial bill.
After five hours of debate, the Assembly passed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s comprehensive package in a vote of 104-43. Some are elated, praising the bill at “a big deal,” while others contend it was a rush job. From The Wall Street Journal:
“This bill tramples on the constitutional rights of our citizens,” said Assemblyman Marc Butler, a Republican from upstate Herkimer county.
Butler was one of several Republican Assembly members who voiced strong disapproval for the bill. He and others worried about the impact of the new law on New York gun manufacturer Remington Arms, based in Ilion, N.Y. The law would render some of Remington’s products illegal, like the AR-15 rifle used in the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
Republican lawmakers said the bill was rushed through by Cuomo so that he could make national headlines.
Regardless of predictable Republican response, the majority felt the time had come, particularly after the tragedy of Sandy Hook, to put some real teeth in gun legislation, passing what some say is the toughest gun control bill in the nation. The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or NY SAFE, includes stricter provisions related to the reporting of mentally ill patients who may pose a threat; to provisions that restrict magazines to seven bullets (it is currently 10), demand background checks (through a dealer) of anyone other than immediate family in a private sale, bar sales of assault weapons over the Internet, make it a misdemeanor to not properly store a weapon, and, most controversially, outlaw a broader array of military-style weapons, changing the definition of an assault weapon:
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. [Source]
At a time when the debate about gun control too often threatens to grind to a halt with little accomplished, it is a monumental shift in attitude to see a state, a governor, a senate and an assembly act quickly and definitively to turn talk into action. There will be much discussion over the passing of this bill, but the reality that a sweeping new gun law was passed in the first month of 2013 hopefully bodes well for further sensible and bipartisan gun legislation in other states.
[UPDATE: An hour after the Assembly passed the NY SAFE bill, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law, Tuesday, January 15, 2013.]