UPDATE: Cuomo Signs New York Gun Control Law: Will More States Tighten Gun Restrictions?

on January 15 2013 6:13 PM
Guns
The three most common suicide mechanisms for middle-age people are firearms, poisoning and suffocation, according to a CDC report. Reuters

On Tuesday evening, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the nation's first new gun control law since the Dec. 14 shooting spree that left 20 children, six adults and shooter Adam Lanza dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The governor's move, which was confirmed on Cuomo's official website, came about an hour after the New York state Assembly approved it, and a day after the state Senate did the same.

The law toughens existing statewide restrictions on purchasing assault weapons and makes it more difficult for certain mentally ill people to obtain firearms, according to the Associated Press.

After the New York Senate approved the bill Monday night, Cuomo -- who made gun control one of the major points of his State of the State speech last week -- spoke about the need for such legislation in light of the wave of mass shootings that has swept across the United States in recent years.

"This is a scourge on society," Cuomo said Monday, the AP reports. "At what point do you say, 'No more innocent loss of life'?"

The New York Assembly easily passed the bill by 104-43, a day after the state Senate did so by a 43-18 margin, reflecting a sentiment among many New Yorkers that there needs to be an effort to contain the sales of guns to people deemed unfit to own them, and also to limit the sales of guns like assault weapons that have the ability to quickly kill many people, while having very little value for hunting.

"This is not about taking anyone's rights away,"  Sen. Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx Democrat, told the AP. "It's about a safe society. ... Today we are setting the mark for the rest of the country to do what's right."

The new law will redefine assault weapons to include guns that have just one "military feature," such as a muzzle flash, folding stock or bayonet mount; current law describes them as weapons with two "military features," according to the AP. The new law will also add pistol grips to the list of such features and will require that dealers perform background checks on private sales of assault weapons to customers who are not immediate family members, and will ban sales of assault weapons to New York residents over the Internet, the AP reported.

CNN reports that the new law will restrict New Yorkers from buying ammunition magazines with more than seven bullets, reducing the maximum from its current 10.

One other major provision of the new law, which included several others, will require mental health professionals to report patients to the state who act in a manner that suggests that they could be violent in the future, in an effort to stop violence before it begins, CNN reports, adding that it also enables the state to more easily take certain types of guns away from mental patients who exhibit violent behaviors.

The news of New York's approval of a major piece of gun control legislation comes as a welcome development to gun control advocates who have in the weeks since the Newtown massacre ramped up efforts to get laws aimed at limiting the proliferation of dangerous weapons, both nationally and at the state level.

And even some leading state Republicans seem happy with the result.

"It is well-balanced, it protects the Second Amendment," Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos told the AP.

The sentiment is not held by all state Republicans, as some say it is a misguided law that will criminalize law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to prevent future Newtown-style massacres.

"You are using innocent children killed by a mad man for your own political agenda," Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco told the AP. "You are actually making people less safe."

The New York Governor's signing of the gun law comes on the eve of a planned Wednesday presentation by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden that will lay out steps that could be undertaken either via the passage of laws by the U.S. Congress or executive action to help address the problem of gun violence in America.

The White House says the proposals will include such legislative moves as renewing the national assault weapon ban, restricting large ammunition clips and requiring background checks of gun purchasers, as well as nearly 20 executive actions Obama could issue by himself, according to CNN.

At least 10 other states are considering new gun control laws in the wake of the Newtown shooting, which has gained the nation's attention and focused a spotlight on the epidemic of gun violence that has hardly dimmed in the month since the Sandy Hook massacre.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, recently announced a new round of restrictions, including ones requiring gun permit seekers to undergo fingerprinting and take a gun training course, according to an analysis of gun control proposals by National Public Radio published Tuesday.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, another Democrat, also proposed background checks for all people hoping to purchase guns in the state, NPR reported. And other "blue states," from California and Massachusetts to Illinois and Connecticut, are considering such moves, according to a USA Today map that tracks what moves states are considering in regard to gun laws and restrictions.

But the pro-gun-control moves in these mostly Democratic states do not signal a nationwide trend, as NPR reporter Frank James pointed out: 

"While the three aforementioned states and several others are considering new restrictions on guns following the pre-Christmas massacre of grade-schoolers and educators in Connecticut, there isn't much evidence of things on the state level shifting toward greater gun control," James wrote. "The states considering further restrictions are all blue states. In fact, in several red states, the shift is in the exact opposite direction. In Arizona, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming, for instance, legislation has been introduced recently that would loosen gun restrictions or underscore gun owner rights."

For instance, Kansas "Sen.-elect Forrest Knox (R) said he will reintroduce a bill in the session that opened Monday that would ease the ban on carrying concealed weapons in state and municipal buildings," according to USA Today, and "Republican Gov. Rick Perry [in Texas] is not backing any new gun laws, said his deputy press secretary, Lucy Nashed."

So though some of the bluest states in the nation -- many of which already have some of the country's strictest gun-control laws on the books -- may be tightening their gun restrictions, the tide nationwide is rolling both directions. And in the wake of the Newtown shooting, gun laws may be getting looser in many of the redder states.

It remains to be seen what the nation's future will hold in regard to gun control, but it appears that it will continue to be one divided between states, and others that do what they can to reign in the proliferation of dangerous firearms.

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