New York became the first state in America to respond to last month’s tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut by passing the country’s strongest laws against gun ownership on Tuesday.
The state’s senate, which is controlled by a coalition of Republicans and five breakaway Democrats, voted for the bill by a lopsided vote of 43 – 18 late Monday night.
The Democrat-controlled state assembly then passed the legislation on Tuesday by 104 – 43. It was immediately signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“Cuomo said he wanted quick action to avoid a run on assault weapons and ammunition as he tries to address what he estimates is about 1 million assault weapons in New York state,” reports the local CBS News outlet.
At the same time the bill was making its way through legislative process, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli froze pension fund investments in commercial fire arms manufacturers. Those investments are valued at more than $2 million.
The broad-ranging package also provides new measures that keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Now, mental health professionals will be required to report to local mental health officials when they believe that patients are likely to harm themselves or others. Mental health director who would then have to report serious threats to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.
Law enforcement would then be authorized to confiscate any firearm owned by a dangerous patient; therapists would not be sanctioned for a failure to report such patients if they acted “in good faith.”
“People who have mental health issues should not have guns,” Governor Cuomo told reporters. “They could hurt themselves, they could hurt other people.”
The legislation extends and expands Kendra’s Law, which empowers judges to order mentally ill patients to receive outpatient treatment.
It also requires gun owners to keep weapons inaccessible in homes where a resident has been involuntarily committed, convicted of a crime or is the subject of an order of protection, reports the New York Times.
Other details of the new law, as reported by local television news outlet WSYR, include:
-Further restrict assault weapons to define them by a single feature, such as a pistol grip. Current law requires two features.
-Make the unsafe storage of assault weapons a misdemeanor.
-Mandate a police registry of assault weapons.
-Establish a state registry for all private sales, with a background check done through a licensed dealer for a fee, excluding sales to immediate relatives.
-Ban the Internet sale of assault weapons.
-Require stores that sell ammunition to register with the state, run background checks on buyers of bullets and keep an electronic database of bullet sales.
-Restrict ammunition magazines to seven bullets, from the current national standard of 10. Current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. Someone caught with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.
-Require that stolen guns be reported within 24 hours. Otherwise, the owner would face a possible misdemeanor.
-Increase sentences for gun crimes including for taking a gun on school property.
-Increase penalties for shooting first responders, called the “Webster provision.” Two firefighters were killed when shot by a person who set a fire in the western New York town of Webster last month. The crime would be punishable by life in prison without parole.
-Limit the state records law to protect handgun owners from being identified publicly. The provision would allow a handgun permit holder a means to maintain privacy under the Freedom of Information law.
-Require pistol permit holders or those who will be registered as owners of assault rifles to be recertified at least every five years to make sure they are still legally able to own the guns.