The New York state legislature is passing the toughest in the nation gun control laws, laid out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Senate voted late Monday evening, with the Assembly expected to act Tuesday morning.
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The measures close loopholes in the state’s existing assault weapons ban to now include all assault rifles. Owners of the weapons will be allowed to keep their guns, but must register them and can’t sell them to others in New York state. Magazine clips holding more than seven bullets will also be outlawed. Gov. Cuomo, himself the owner of a Remington rifle, says the bills represent “common sense” measures in response to recent gun violence, including the Newtown, Conn., shootings one month ago.
“This is a scourge on society, people have had to live through these tragedies” said Cuomo. “No more innocent loss of life.” And the governor says the new law, once passed, will be effective immediately, to avoid a run on gun stores.
By permitting the rapid vote, the governor also avoids drawing out publicity about the gun measures before the vote, and preventing even more discomfort for some Republicans who co-lead the State Senate, and who have some reservations about the bills.
Senator Tom Libous, of Binghamton, also represents rural sections of the state’s Southern Tier. The number-two Republican in the Senate called it a “tough vote”.
“I have a large portion of my district who believe in second amendment rights, they feel very strongly about this issue,” said Libous. “And I have to respect their wishes.”
Libous voted no on the measure. Other Republican Senators expressed more bitterness. Senator Greg Ball was one of only two GOP members to speak on the Senate floor.
“We haven’t saved any lives tonight, except for one,” Ball said. “The political life of a governor who wants to be President.”
There is one provision in the package that could please Senator Ball. The Hudson Valley senator has been upset over the local newspaper’s publishing of the names and addresses of gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties. The gun control package places restrictions on how that information can be made public in the future.
Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos admits that many of his Republican members don’t like the bills, but he called it a “tremendous victory” that the package includes stiffer penalties for use of illegal guns, something the GOP had fought for.
“On balance, the second amendment is protected,” said Skelos, who says there are also “incredibly enhanced criminal penalties” against illegal guns.
The measure also includes what Governor Cuomo calls the “Webster provision”, making it an A1 felony to kill a first responder with a gun. It’s in response to the Christmas Eve deaths of two firefighters in a Rochester suburb who were killed by a gunman when they responded to reports of a blaze.
The new law also tightens up the involuntary mental health treatment statute known as Kendra’s Law. Mental health professionals will be required to report any patients who they deem might pose a danger to themselves or others. The information would be crosschecked against an expanded gun registration data base, and that person would be prevented from buying a gun. If the patient already own guns, police would have the power to take the guns away.
Workers at the Remington Arms gun factory in Ilion, in the Mohawk Valley, came to the Capitol to lobby against the gun package. They are deeply worried that the new law will result in layoffs at the plant, which makes the Bushmaster automatic weapon used in the Newtown shootings, as well as military guns and hunting rifles. Frank Brown, a plant union leader, says jobs could be lost and the community economically decimated.
“Roll up the streets in the Village of Ilion,” said Brown.
Governor Cuomo, asked about the fate of the Remington factory workers, says it’s unfortunate. But he says other states and the federal government may be limiting assault weapons soon, and the gun companies will have a lot more than New York’s ban to worry about.