New York passes stricter gun control legislation

January 16, 2013 Heather Chin
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In the wake of the shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; and Wisconsin — as well as the fatal shooting of two firefighters in Webster, New York — on January 15, New York State passed gun control legislation, the NY SAFE Act, that many are calling the strictest in the nation.

The act – which passed with bipartisan support — is being hailed as landmark legislation because of the significant changes to current law that it entails. These include the requirement that mental health professionals report any patient whom they have reason to believe may hurt themselves or someone else.

Further changes include a stricter definition of assault weapons, an immediate ban on assault weapons, the implementation of a statewide handgun license database and a seven-round limit on ammunition magazines – reduced from the previous limit of 10 bullets per magazine.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the legislation, stating that the new law “will help keep guns away from criminals and others who are already prohibited from purchasing them” while “also strengthen[ing] the state’s tough but sensible restrictions against military-style weapons and high capacity magazines.”

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz also applauded the legislation for “protecting the lives of each and every New Yorker.”

Among Brooklyn lawmakers, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, due in part to the fact that many elected officials were either co-sponsors of the legislation or spoke out on its behalf.

Democratic State Senator Eric Adams, a former cop who now represents East Flatbush and Crown Heights, did his part prior to this legislation, going undercover and purchasing the high-capacity clips used for the assault rifle used in the Newtown massacre.

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, one of the lead sponsors of the new law, spoke in support of the act in a six-hour debate, maintaining that “we need aggressive legislation to keep arms out of the hands of those who may harm,” and that “semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips belong on the battlefield, not on our streets.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron, a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate and a long-standing advocate for closing gaps in the state’s existing gun laws, welcomed the fact that “New York will now have a single-feature model, which defines an assault weapon as having one defining dangerous feature, banning these weapons’ sale and transfer, as well as their possession unless stringent registration requirements are met. And for the first time the state police will be able to specify which weapons are not legal.”

“We know that the scourge of violence hurts our communities every single day,” added Squadron, which is why he also stressed that “our work isn’t done.”

There remains proposed legislation on microstamping – a way of tagging guns and bullets so that used shell casings can be traced to their guns.

“A majority of the members of the State Senate support microstamping, and I urge the Senate leadership to immediately bring it to a vote,” said Squadron.

Councilmember Jumaane Williams of Flatbush and East Flatbush agreed, noting that this “good start in tackling the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our communities,” doesn’t address the fact that a lot of gun violence is committed not with assault weapons but with handguns.

In addition to voting on microstamping legislation, Williams said we need to close “gun show loopholes” and make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Williams also said he hopes the new regulations on mental health professionals don’t discourage anyone from seeking professional help.

Although some members of the party voted in favor of the bill, the New York GOP issued a statement contending that “Cuomo missed the opportunity to get gun policy right” by using a Message of Necessity and rushing the passage of the NY SAFE Act before residents had a chance to examine it.

“Governor Cuomo might get his wish of making New York the most progressive state in the Nation,” the GOP statement read. “But as long as that’s his focus, New York’s real necessities, our unemployment crisis, crippling tax and regulatory regimes and worst-in-the-Nation business climate, will not get the attention they deserve.”

Predictably, the National Rifle Association released a response to the ruling calling it “secretive” and predicting that this measure of gun control will have “no impact on public safety and crime,” and also asserting, “While lawmakers could have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night.”

After the Message of Necessity, the NY SAFE Act was quickly voted on by the Senate and passed with a vote of 43-18, also passing in the Assembly by a vote of 104-43.

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