New York lawmakers agreed to pass the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, calling for a stricter assault weapons ban and provisions to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.
“This is a scourge on society,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday night, six days after making gun control a centerpiece of his 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’?”
The measure also calls for restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns. It is expected to pass Tuesday. “This is not about taking anyone’s rights away,” said Sen. Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx Democrat. “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 would reduce that to one feature, including the popular pistol grip. The language specifically targeted the military-style rifle used in the Newtown shootings.
Current owners of those guns will have to register them.
Private sales of assault weapons to someone other than an immediate family would 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 would be restricted to seven bullets, from the current 10, and current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. An owner caught at home with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.
Stores that sell ammunition will have to register with the state, run background checks on buyers of bullets and keep an electronic database of bullet sales.
In another provision, a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally would be required to report it to a mental health director who would have to notify the state. A patient’s gun could be taken from him or her.